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Friday, July 17, 2009

Darwinism and pop culture: Infant grasping reflex

A correspondent posed me this interesting question about the infant grasping reflex:
Incidentally, what do the ID and the Evolution-is-limited-in-scope (Behe, et all) do with data like this:

Basically, it makes zero sense that infants have grasping capability since their mothers don't have, and never had, fur.

I replied, as follows:
Interesting question, xxxx.

When my first child was very young, she had a habit of grasping my hair while feeding. My hair was long at that time.

It seemed to please and comfort her.

Unfortunately, it also led to multi strands of long hair twisted over and over inside her little fingers. So I got my hair cut, and have kept it short ever since. [after which she grasped my collar or ID tab chain or whatever]

It is true that most human babies, who are born comparatively helpless, and remain so for a long time, do not have the strength to cling in the way other primates do.

However, grasping has many uses for a human infant - it is the principle way the infant contacts reality (unfortunately by attempting to put things in its mouth), that being the only sense that is even moderately well developed. However, I suppose the infant begins where it is.

Thus, I am hardly surprised that a grasping reflex would continue to the present day - even though the rather fat and uncoordinated human infant could not literally use it to hang on to mother.

However, I also suspect that it has been a long time since any such skill as hanging on to mother was needed. The idea of wrapping the infant in a skin or some such thing, to carry it around handsfree, is not very difficult to conceive.


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