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Is Knowledge Inherited?                    
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Is Knowledge Inherited?

    The objective of a cognitive mechanism is to facilitate learning . What I mean by this is simply that in any recognition of the environment, there are objects that must be focused upon and manipulated in some way for the species to survive. The behavioral manipulations that are deemed to have survival value are the ones that the species must learn. All conscious manipulations of objects are procured through the cognitive process. But the goal of the cognitive process, a goal which is accomplished through thought, evolution, and natural selection, is to facilitate the procurement of those manipulations that are of survival value and to disenfranchise those manipulations that are not. A constant, species specific, cognitive process of survival value has achieved its ultimate evolutionary goal when it could be said that it is not cognitive any longer but autonomic, not relying on the organism conscious energy for implementation.  Furthermore, it should be pointed out that only those cognitions that are species specific, of survival value, and constant from one generation to the next , have the potential of evolving into autonomic responses whereas all other cognitions involving an adaptability to changing features in objects could not.
    Vision is autonomic. We do not have to learn to see. So are the motor muscle reflexes involved in species locomotion. Communication is not autonomic but it is safe to say that it is somewhere between autonomic and consciously cognitive. Thus, in language, the organism has implemented mechanisms that successfully facilitate learning but that are still not so refined, focused or concentrated in neuronal stimuli so that it can be considered as being autonomic. Furthermore, it is reasonable to argue that language acquisition may never become fully autonomic in that it involves cognitions requiring manipulation of objects whose features are in a constant flux based upon environmental changes. Also, the need to learn language may be our species self-imposed shibboleth having survival value in that it requires us to exhibit a cognitive language trait that might be viewed as manifesting a measure of individual intelligence. Whatever the underlying selection pressure, language cognition may very well have achieved a homeostasis along the middle of the continuum that leads to the autonomic response category.
     In language, learning is facilitated by the useful association of metaphor patterns with sounds so that the associations of referents to sounds and, more specifically words, might be facilitated. The human species’ inherent ability to use the metaphor for this purpose has to be genetically based, otherwise, the ability could not be passed on to succeeding generations.  Similarly, any improvement in the species language use as a result of natural selection has to be of a type that can be imprinted in the genome. Thus, in considering ways how the species language faculty could be improved, we must limit ourselves to only those improvements that can stem from a evolving genetic modification. In this regard, it is generally accepted that specific facts and tidbits of knowledge cannot be passed from one generation to the next via the genome but the propensity to learn or to implement a learning acquisition can.  However, at some point the propensity to learn and what is actually learned overlap so that both can be passed on to future generations by integration into the genome. Where the overlap does occur is somewhat intriguing and is revealed by a full description of what we know our learning acquisitions to be.
      It would appear that the knowledge our species is capable of inheriting and passing down from one generation to the next comes in the form of metaphor imprint or construct or, in other words, our innate propensity to connect conceptual or tangible objects by way of metaphorical relationship, ( to be understood to also include the concept of blending). What is inheritable is not knowledge of the objects themselves which we manipulate in order to survive, but, the relationship or configuration of the objects. Thus, a direct connection between brain and mind might be viewed as the genome controlled neuronal networks' adaptibility to map actual object configuration in the environment that in the mind is conveyed as a metaphorical predisposition or a predisposed construct mapping to meaning or awareness.  Here the proof is not found in the brain but in the mind since the metaphorical predisposition, involving mapping of objects, is a visible product of the mind. This is particularly evident in the way we connect meanings to sounds. We don't really have to think about how we position our tongues in our oral cavity in producing sound. We instinctively know how our oral configurations relate to the meanings of the sounds we produce. Furthermore, when we backtrack and actually examine the actual oral configurations we produce, we discern a pattern based upon metaphor that connects, in a real sense, the oral configuration metaphor domain of sound production to the semantic target values of phoneme, morpheme, and word target values. Its as though at one time in our history our oral cavities were concomitantly used as sound and sign devices but that through the inheritance of knowledge via metaphor construct, we no longer have to consciously think about the sign aspects of our sound producing apparatus as they have become second nature or, at least, semi-autonomic. The metaphor imprint that OMC is based upon has become hard wired or semi-hard wired due to selection-survival pressures over time which represent inherited knowledge carried in our genomes from one generation to the next. Thus, our language faculty and, indeed, our metaphysical reality could be said to be largely an inherited one which basis its foundation in the neuroanatomical structure that connects the metaphor construct of the mind with the delimiting genome requirement of inheritance.
     In this regard, I depart with George Lakoff's view of the embodied mind as the exclusive purveyor of our perception and self-awareness in the environment.  If , for instance, we agree that our minds are continuing evolving entities, then there must be an interaction between mind and the environment.  A completely embodied mind could not change, could not adapt and could not evolve to become something better , enhancing the species survivability.  An embodied mind could not adjust, or adapt to a new environment that it might be forced to engage due to cataclysmic events, either social or environmental. Furthermore, if we assume that there is a subclass of knowledge that can be passed from one generation to the next via the genome, which I  have proposed there is ,  and which appears evident in the architecture of our metaphor constructs found in the mind, then, clearly, the mind is not embodied but interacts with the environment and must be considered as having a degree of dynamism affected by environmental inputs.
       Thus, in these terms, it might be more accurate to refer to the brain as, also, being the embodiment of the mind or, put another way, the brain/mind as being ,also, the embodiment of the environment.   It is the mind that interacts with the environment and, thus, can be viewed as being potentially changed by the environment.  Once changed, however, the change would, also, result in a corresponding change in the brain. When environment is the cause of a change in the mind, you merely would have a brain/mind paradigm in reverse.  However, this reversal of the brain/mind paradigm is precisely equivalent to saying the mind is disembodied as it is a view that accounts for the mind being affected by the environment without preceding changes in the brain serving as the causal event. The corresponding change in the brain occurs after the change in the mind—environmental induced mind change serving as the causal event.

                                                             ---Asa M. Stepak
Copyright 2002

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