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So..

posted by awelborn

why do you think the mouth is a baby’s primary sensory organ?

I spend a lot of time thinking about that, which makes sense considering I spend a lot of time scouring the floor for small object and dried-out, rock hard toast crumbs.

As I observe babies, I’m always trying to figure out, not just the how’s of their development, but the why’s…which are usually a whacky and probably unacceptable combination of theology and evolutionary theory.

For example, I decided a long time ago that the reason human infants aren’t born so ready to rock and roll as other mammals is because God wants us to develop our abilities in relationship. He wants our eyes to strengthen and focus as we gaze upon and study other human faces. He wants us to learn to communicate in a give and take of listening and responding. He wants us to be taught, carefully and with patience, and He wants those who teach us to learn about sacrifice and patience.

From the beginning, then, we know, not only that we are "I," but that we are "us," as well.

But this oral thing has me stumped, because, it seems so unsafe, on the face of it. The only thing I can figure is that it ensures the baby will get some kind of food even if it’s neglected, as it shoves everything into its mouth. But that still doesn’t seem to compensate for the danger factor.

Any ideas?



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Maureen

posted July 31, 2005 at 11:13 pm


A good strong immune system is being built. Tastebuds tend to reject most poisonous things. Besides, even apes and monkeys watch their kiddies pretty carefully to keep them from putting anything bad into their mouths.



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Ian

posted August 1, 2005 at 12:15 am


Amy,
It’s a mammal thing.



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Radactrice

posted August 1, 2005 at 1:07 am


If human babies aren’t born ready to rock and roll, but must develop through relationships because God wants all the things you articulate, what about pandas and kangaroos whose babies are even less developed than human infants and require even more intense relationship interaction with their mothers?



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Troll

posted August 1, 2005 at 2:01 am


You still check the floor? We gave that up after the second child, if I remember correctly.
Dried out chunks of toast soften up quickly in the mouth.



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Gia

posted August 1, 2005 at 3:00 am


Long ago, before the shots, polio was attributed to ultra clean floors.



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Gia

posted August 1, 2005 at 3:02 am


Long ago, before the shots, polio was attributed to ultra clean floors.



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Troll

posted August 1, 2005 at 4:50 am


One more time.



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Maureen

posted August 1, 2005 at 5:57 am


Some people think allergies come from things being too clean (so the immune system attacks itself instead). Don’t know that that’s true, though.



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Annalucia

posted August 1, 2005 at 7:07 am


My brother-in-law Marty says the baby’s mouth is its “third hand” – another bit of equipment used for in-depth exploration of the world around them. Taste is one of the five senses, after all, and you can put it to good use even if you’re not hungry. It can lead to some pretty horrifying linkups — I once found my second son – then about 15 months old I guess – in front of the cat-litter box, and never mind what he was putting in his mouth. FWIW he’s as healthy as a horse.



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PM

posted August 1, 2005 at 8:11 am


Dr. Leon Kass says that the biological reason human babies are born relatively dependent is that the human cranium is so enormous proportionate to the body mass that the child must expelled when it has a chance of passing the birth canal, which leaves the rest of the body developmentally immature. Kass suggests — with due caution — that the “curse” of Eve at Genesis 3:16 (“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children”) might embody a folkloric recognition of the same truth: the other animals give birth without pain; the human being, after gorging itself on the tree of knowledge, is condemned to suffer in ways other beasts are not. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s consonant with Humani generis, but it’s an intriguing connection.



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bearing

posted August 1, 2005 at 8:16 am


Bear in mind that in a “natural” environment the hazards of, say, choking would be reduced. There are no such things as coins or marbles—slippery little trachea-plugging spheres and discs that they are—in the wild. Nor are there sliced-up apple chunks. Few foods (grapes are the only example I can think of, and wild ones, of course, are tiny) are actually choking hazards when presented whole, unprocessed, uncut.
Most rocks of the right size, that is, are rough and textured and unlikely to be choked on if a baby decides to roll it around in his mouth.
Healthy babies that are allowed to stick the normal sorts of things (not marbles) in their mouths develop a pretty good gag reflex. Remember, gagging isn’t choking. A baby who gags on a rock, stick, or leaf isn’t in any danger, even if it *looks* scary. That’s just part of the oral exploratory process…
And poison isn’t likely to be a problem either, as in the wild most poisonous substances are terribly bitter.
The point is only that the serious hazards you associate with babies sticking stuff in their mouths are mainly created by our modern life, to which evolution has not had a chance to catch up.



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SueFox

posted August 1, 2005 at 8:32 am


“For example, I decided a long time ago that the reason human infants aren’t born so ready to rock and roll as other mammals is because God wants us to develop our abilities in relationship. He wants our eyes to strengthen and focus as we gaze upon and study other human faces. He wants us to learn to communicate in a give and take of listening and responding. He wants us to be taught, carefully and with patience, and He wants those who teach us to learn about sacrifice and patience.”
Amy — that’s very cool. I wish I could come with an equally amazing observation on the baby’s mouth as sensory organ. You’ll probably be the one who offers it. All I know is that it is the reason my garbage can is on my kitchen counter and my bathroom doors are SHUT. I have a toddler.



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dcs

posted August 1, 2005 at 8:34 am


The point is only that the serious hazards you associate with babies sticking stuff in their mouths are mainly created by our modern life, to which evolution has not had a chance to catch up.
Of course, that’s assuming that one believes in evolution silliness. ;-)
My daughter never put anything that wasn’t food in her mouth. Then my son was born and he put everything in his mouth.



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James Englert

posted August 1, 2005 at 9:10 am


An off the cuff theory. The key is that the mouth is the place where both eating and speaking take place. The mouth is known early on as a source of intense pleasure, and a way of knowing the world. Some of the pleasure and activity happens with other people — nursing, being fed, learning that the mouth communicates, making noises, etc. And as for the dangers of putting things in the mouth, that is part of learning too. The texture of a nickel in the mouth is tactically very interesting but choking registers as not very pleaurable. As life gets more complex in the ways that you mention, the mouth keeps up. Eventually eating and communicating become two of the most rewarding and human, and still pleasurable, things that we do. Throughout our lives we must discriminate and make judgments about what and how we eat and speak. And all this prepares us for the act of receiving the Logos at the Lord’s table.



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Ed the Roman

posted August 1, 2005 at 10:25 am


to which evolution has not had a chance to catch up.
It never will. Not enough parents are going to let babies die for that behavior to be a significant reproductive penalty.
I refer to this behavior as being the “live weasel” stage, since that’s what they would do with a live weasel if they could catch one.



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Ed the Roman

posted August 1, 2005 at 10:26 am


And I’m not sure that we can assume that preparation for the Eucharist was one of our design criteria: the Fall was known, but not directly willed.



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James Englert

posted August 1, 2005 at 10:53 am


I wouldn’t suggest that the Eucharist fits into evolution as part of any design, but rather that the Eucharist is happily suited to our make-up.



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Nance

posted August 1, 2005 at 1:23 pm


Let me second the comments above. I’m amazed that, at child number FIVE, you’re still worried about dried-up toast crumbs.



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Joseph D'hippolito

posted August 1, 2005 at 1:23 pm


Since hunger is the most basic human need that must be fulfilled at that age, perhaps the sense of taste is more developed at that stage of development than other senses. Perhaps the basic way an infant deals with the world is with what (and who) can feed it.



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Der Tommissar

posted August 1, 2005 at 4:44 pm


And I’m not sure that we can assume that preparation for the Eucharist was one of our design criteria: the Fall was known, but not directly willed.
Nor does it follow that the Eucharist would not have been instituted in a world without the Fall.



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pha

posted August 1, 2005 at 5:20 pm


Few foods (grapes are the only example I can think of, and wild ones, of course, are tiny) are actually choking hazards when presented whole, unprocessed, uncut.
Muscadines & scuppernongs, garlic & shallots, small tomatoes, berries, nuts, mushrooms… I can think of lots of small foods baby could choke on without help.
Most rocks of the right size, that is, are rough and textured
If you don’t live on a river or sea/lake coast, like many humans throughout history have sought to do, perhaps.



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amt

posted August 1, 2005 at 7:25 pm


“And all this prepares us for the act of receiving the Logos at the Lord’s table.”
So, the Legos prepare us for the Logos?



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Random Heathen

posted August 2, 2005 at 4:02 pm


“For example, I decided a long time ago that the reason human infants aren’t born so ready to rock and roll as other mammals is because God wants us to develop our abilities in relationship.”
A more logical reason is that sentient beings anywhere in the universe are likely to give birth to weak infants.
A guppy mother will eat her young when frightened This makes sense. If there is some danger of her offspring being consumed by a predator she has a better chance of staying in the gene pool if she recycles the energy of her young, rather than to allow another creature to use it.
Sentient females (and males), however, identify with their offspring on a personal level. And the most sentient have the means at their disposal (blankets, fires in early times, incubators and respirators these days) to protect and nurture weak offspring. Therefore natural selection no longer weeds out all but the hardiest specimens.
Human babies are weak because they can afford to be. We love them. No god required.



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Jonathan

posted August 2, 2005 at 8:38 pm


You gave up your entire argument, Random Heathen, when you used the word “sentient”.



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bearing

posted August 3, 2005 at 7:37 am


Pha:
>Muscadines & scuppernongs, garlic & shallots, >small tomatoes, berries, nuts, mushrooms… I >can think of lots of small foods baby could >choke on without help.
Yeah, but would a baby young enough to choke on one dig up a head of garlic, separate it into cloves, peel the cloves, and then choke on one? Or crack a walnut to get what’s inside?
Edible tomatoes are cultivated; we didn’t co-evolve with them, nor did God design them to co-exist with us.
And I dispute that most berries are chokeable foods. Especially wild ones, which are universally smaller than the cultivated varieties. Honestly, I think choking is an overrated risk. Again: choking and gagging are different. If a kid gags on something, parents are always saying “he’s choking!” but they are two different things.
I’ll grant you mushrooms, though I don’t think that choking is the first thing I’d worry about w.r.t. wild mushrooms!
And I agree with the posters who are astonished that Amy is still worried about dried toast after 5 children. :-)
No, the things that I consider choking hazards are either (a) membrane like, such as burst latex balloons or wads of plastic wrap; (b) spherical or short-cylindrical and smooth, like marbles and pieces of hot dogs. Most of the time, they’re manufactured items. Very few of them are found outside, IME. Just because most people get worried if a baby eats dirt or chews on sticks doesn’t mean I have to be. :-)



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