Posted by: Linda Proud | February 22, 2011

Does training lead to genetic modification?

Sometimes you get a thought that comes up like a bubble in champagne and you don’t know if it’s genuine insight or if everyone’s known this forever and you’re just dim. (The latter option is a pretty safe bet). But this was the thought as I was meditating this morning and Florence gave me a couple of licks on the hand (because she’d finished meditating and just wanted to say ‘I love you’ or ‘Mmmm, you’re salty this morning’).

After some kitten play, Poppi begs Florence for clemency

I suddenly realised that the cat, having been domesticated way back in ancient Egypt, has remained domesticated. It’s not the case that we have to train each little kitten not to eat or maul us (well, often a little instruction is required in this area). They are born tame. So what does that mean? Did the original domestication affect their genes? For all cats around the world?

I understand that if a cat – or dog, or goose – is returned to the wild, i.e. shut out of the house, they become feral quite quickly.

Am I up a gum tree here? Are all my evolutionary biologist friends howling with mirth at my stupidity? Is Dr Rupert Sheldrake, even as I write, drafting a response about morphic resonance? I can hear someone whispering, OK, she might mention God soon, so let’s shut her down quietly.

But really, what happens with training? Is it for one embodiment only, or for succeeding generations? Is it for one individual only, or does it affect the species? And can it work the other way? That is, if we don’t train our human young, will they become feral very quickly?

Just a bunch of questions really, following a couple of licks from Florence. Any answers will be gratefully received.

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