Prenatal Influence?

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DavidLeon
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Prenatal Influence?

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Post by DavidLeon »

Does the Bible promote the idea of prenatal influence or as it is sometimes called, maternal impressions?

Lets look at Genesis 30:37-43. Jacob wanted to leave his father in law Laban's service but Laban wanted him to stay and accept wages. Jacob introduces the notion of him to continue feeding and tending the stock if Laban will only set apart the speckled and spotted animals and pay him any black or spotted and speckled sheep thereafter born. Laban agreed to this.

Laban set apart those goats and put them in charge of his sons, three days distance from Jacob. The rest was left to Jacob to tend to. Here is what happened next.

Jacob took fresh boughs of poplar, almond, and plane and peeled white streaks in them exposing the white of the boughs. He laid the peeled sticks in front of the flocks, in the runnels of the watering troughs where the flocks drank and they bred when they came to drink. As they did so in front of the sticks - Jacob assumed they brought forth young that were striped, speckled and spotted. Jacob kept these separate. He also laid sticks in the runnels only when the stronger animals came to breed, leaving the weaker animals to breed without the sticks.

He may have done this due to the unscientific principal of prenatal influence. There is, in fact, no nerve connection between the mother and unborn young which would support the maternal impressions theory that Jacob may have incorporated but the question is, did the Bible support such an unscientific theory?

The answer is no. Why? The law of Lycurgus decreed that Spartan women should look upon the statues of Castor and Pollux so that their offspring would be imparted with strength and beauty. Hippocrates taught that strong emotions experienced by the pregnant woman could give rise to deformities in the child and Aristotle believed that many women brought forth children with harelip after seeing a hare and other deformities were due to "the imagination of the mother, who has cast her eyes and mind upon some ill-shaped creature." Egypt's sacred bull of Memphis with one or two eagle shaped figures on its back and a crescent on its forehead had to be killed when it was 25 years old but before doing so the priests had to supply a similarly marked successor. They surrounded their cows by appropriately shaped and colored objects.

There is no question of the ancient belief in prenatal influence, but as mentioned earlier, the real question is does the Bible agree? Remember that just because Jacob thought there was something to it doesn't mean that the Bible concurs. In fact, there is the answer to the question. The
Bible doesn't.

In the next chapter Jacob tells his wives, Laban's daughters Leah and Rachel, why he prospered. He doesn't give the credit to his prenatal influence scheme, but rather to God. "In this way God has taken the stock from your father and given it to me. When the stock was breeding, I raised my eyes in a dream and saw that the he-goats that leaped on the she-goats were striped, speckled, and mottled. The angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob!' 'Yes,' said I. And he said, 'Raise your eyes, look! all the he-goats that leap on the she-goats are striped, speckled, and mottled.'" - Genesis 31:9-12

It is obvious that the hybrids were uniformly colored themselves but carried in their germ cells the hereditary factors for spotting and speckling. Laws of heredity as discovered by Gregor Mendel in the 19th century.

Both Jacob and Laban acknowledged Jehovah rather than prenatal influence as the deciding factor, so the Bible doesn't support the notion of prenatal influence and the Bible critics - the atheists - have it wrong again. (Genesis 30:27-30; 31:5, 7, 9, 16)

Isn't it a biological truth that hybrids are stronger than uncrossed breeds? Like Jacob mentioned. So his would have been stronger while Laban's
weaker? Jacob may have set out thinking that prenatal influence was the way to go but realized in the end that Jehovah God was in charge, rather than silly superstition.
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Difflugia
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Re: Prenatal Influence?

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Post by Difflugia »

DavidLeon wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:35 am
Does the Bible promote the idea of prenatal influence or as it is sometimes called, maternal impressions?

Lets look at Genesis 30:37-43.

There is no question of the ancient belief in prenatal influence, but as mentioned earlier, the real question is does the Bible agree? Remember that just because Jacob thought there was something to it doesn't mean that the Bible concurs. In fact, there is the answer to the question. The Bible doesn't.

In the next chapter Jacob tells his wives, Laban's daughters Leah and Rachel, why he prospered. He doesn't give the credit to his prenatal influence scheme, but rather to God.
You're reading this exactly backwards. The narrator affirms that Jacob is growing wealthy by manipulating events using his "knowledge" of the influence you've described, but then is lying to his wives (who are still Laban's daughters, as you pointed out). The overall moral of the story is something akin to "you can't cheat a cheater." Laban cheated Jacob on the wife thing, but Jacob is also a cheater and gets his own back by turning the situation to his own advantage. The exact verses you mentioned bear out that the outcome was dependent on Jacob's artifice rather than God's intervention or some genetic happenstance.
And Jacob took him rods of fresh poplar, and of the almond and of the plane-tree; and peeled white streaks in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had peeled over against the flocks in the gutters in the watering-troughs where the flocks came to drink; and they conceived when they came to drink. And the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth ringstreaked, speckled, and spotted. And Jacob separated the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstreaked and all the black in the flock of Laban: and he put his own droves apart, and put them not unto Laban’s flock. And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger of the flock did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the flock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods; but when the flock were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. And the man increased exceedingly, and had large flocks, and maid-servants and men-servants, and camels and asses.
This is presented as a related and dependent sequence of events. When weak animals were mating, he took away the sticks and when strong ones mated, he put them back. This caused the offspring of weak animals to have no spots, but the offspring of strong animals had them. The narrator tells us that this caused Jacob to become wealthy.

If you're tempted to argue that verses 42 and 43 are somehow independent (i.e. that Jacob's wealth had nothing to do with his stick regimen), then follow the narrative back to Genesis 1 in a more literal translation (I quoted the ASV; the KJV is also a good choice). With the exception of quotations, the entire sequence is connected with the equivalent of "and" attached to every verb. The translators sometimes replaced these with "then" or "so" or something for variety, but they're all the same in Hebrew. Whenever there's a break in causality, the Hebrew contextually marks that, usually with "וַיְהִ֕י", "and it came to pass." To treat verses 42 and 43 as independent of each other is counter to the way the rest of Genesis is written.
DavidLeon wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:35 am
"In this way God has taken the stock from your father and given it to me. When the stock was breeding, I raised my eyes in a dream and saw that the he-goats that leaped on the she-goats were striped, speckled, and mottled. The angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob!' 'Yes,' said I. And he said, 'Raise your eyes, look! all the he-goats that leap on the she-goats are striped, speckled, and mottled.'" - Genesis 31:9-12
"Your dad says I cheated him, but I totally didn't! God just favored me with better sheep and an angel even told me so in a dream!"
DavidLeon wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:35 am
It is obvious that the hybrids were uniformly colored themselves but carried in their germ cells the hereditary factors for spotting and speckling. Laws of heredity as discovered by Gregor Mendel in the 19th century.
The story doesn't even imply that. First, there are no "hybrids." That's something you're reading into the text. Second, the narrator explicitly connects the spotted goats with Jacob's stick regimen in 30:37-43.
DavidLeon wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:35 am
Both Jacob and Laban acknowledged Jehovah rather than prenatal influence as the deciding factor, so the Bible doesn't support the notion of prenatal influence and the Bible critics - the atheists - have it wrong again. (Genesis 30:27-30; 31:5, 7, 9, 16)
None of the verses you've referenced support that. Laban believes that he has created an uncheatable situation that can only be influenced by God (Genesis 30:27-30). Jacob finds a clever way to manipulate the animals and gets caught out by Laban's sons. Then he lies to his wives about cheating their father (31:5, 7, 9) and they believe him (31:16). Conspicuously absent from your list is any verse that quotes the narrator as saying that the outcome was because of God's favor of Jacob over Laban or of Laban acknowledging after the fact that the difference was because of God. Laban's sons knew the score, though (31:1), and that's why Laban was angry.
DavidLeon wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:35 am
Isn't it a biological truth that hybrids are stronger than uncrossed breeds? Like Jacob mentioned. So his would have been stronger while Laban's weaker?
Not exactly, but we're not talking about hybrids in any case. Genetic diversity is important, but that's not what the story is about, either, and Jacob certainly didn't say anything like that. The herd wasn't diverse until after Jacob's trick with the sticks.

After Jacob agreed that he could have spotted goats and black sheep as his wages, Laban took all of the spotted goats and black sheep and gave them to his sons. Presumably, spotted goats are occasionally born to solid parents the way that black sheep are occasionally born in white herds (the origin of the "black sheep" idiom), but would thereafter breed true. Jacob was agreeing that his wages would be these occasional animals, so Laban was removing those that were already part of the herd (an alternate understanding is that Laban was once again trying to cheat Jacob by removing sheep he had already agreed would be Jacob's, but I don't think that's necessary). Jacob craftily manipulated the otherwise random process with the stick thing, though, so that he got more sheep than Laban expected him to (whether it was Laban's intention to cheat or not). Additionally, Jacob's sheep were all of the strongest ones. Jacob was cheating Laban by keeping to the word, but manipulating the intent of their agreement (i.e. that he would care for Laban's flock to the best of his ability and receive the sports as compensation). If this were a modern tale, Jacob would be in breach of his "fiduciary duty" because he was enriching himself at the expense of his employer, even if his actions were all otherwise legal.
DavidLeon wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:35 am
Jacob may have set out thinking that prenatal influence was the way to go but realized in the end that Jehovah God was in charge, rather than silly superstition.
That interpretation isn't impossible, but neither is it supported by the text. In fact, I think it says the opposite. Laban was trusting that Jacob would be compensated in proportion to the health of Laban's flock by random (or divinely appointed) sports, since a larger and healthier flock would mean better wages for Jacob. Instead, Jacob manipulated the process so that he became rich while Laban's wealth was reduced.

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Re: Prenatal Influence?

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Post by brunumb »

DavidLeon wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:35 am
It is obvious that the hybrids were uniformly colored themselves but carried in their germ cells the hereditary factors for spotting and speckling. Laws of heredity as discovered by Gregor Mendel in the 19th century.
Hybrids are the offspring of different species. The different coats do not mean that different species of goats are involved. If you have ever seen a litter of cats or dogs you will see that different colours occur and that is because of the different genes carried within the particular species involved. Likewise, there may always be a runt in the litter independent of the fur colour simply because of the combination of genes that ended up in that particular individual.
Christianty: 2000 years of making it up as you go along.

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