Skip to main content

Tabula Rasa: A Scriptural Refutation [Pt.3]

Tying Everything Together

The last section of this study focused on Biblical semiotics. What is semiotics? One source defines it this way – 

The theory and study of signs and symbols, especially as elements of language or other systems of communication, and comprising semantics, syntactics, and pragmatics.(Source)

In Scripture we see that there are many different symbolic codes, and that these symbolic codes are hierarchically related. Animals and humans have the capacity to employ symbolic codes to communicate with one another and God. However, humans have the capacity to construct new symbolic codes that help facilitate the transmission of meaning from person to person. In the case of infants, we see that their cries communicate a multitude of requests to their mother and father, as well as other caretakers. Infants, in other words, communicate meaning via the only symbolic code they can manipulate with a large degree of variation – the noises they make with their mouths.

Previous scientific theories held that infant cries were merely reflexive noises, or that they were unstructured and primitive attempts by infants to get someone, in particular the child’s mother, to satisfy their needs. These theories, however, have been challenged by recent studies which have led to the conclusion that infant crying is not random but rooted in the child’s prenatal intake of verbal/linguistic data. One writer explains this in some more detail – 

From their very first days, newborns' cries already bear the mark of the language their parents speak, reveals a new study published online in Current Biology. The findings suggest that infants begin picking up elements of what will be their first language in the womb, and certainly long before their first babble or coo.


Human fetuses are able to memorize sounds from the external world by the last trimester of pregnancy, with a particular sensitivity to melody contour in both music and language, earlier studies showed. Newborns prefer their mother's voice over other voices and perceive the emotional content of messages conveyed via intonation contours in maternal speech (a.k.a. "motherese"). Their perceptual preference for the surrounding language and their ability to distinguish between different languages and pitch changes are based primarily on melody.

Although prenatal exposure to native language was known to influence newborns' perception, scientists had thought that the surrounding language affected sound production much later, the researchers said. It now appears that isn't so.


The new data show an extremely early impact of native language, the researchers say.

(Source, emphasis added)

While we already have established an infallible source for our belief that the infant’s mind is not a blank slate, we can also point to studies such as those mentioned above. Infant intellection is implied not merely by the production of symbolic cries built on the infant’s prenatal intake of verbal/linguistic data. Rather, it is firstly implied by the infant’s ability to interpret his mother’s verbal/linguistic data as communicating to him. The child’s ability to hear his mother’s voice, interpret it as communicating to him, and then construct his own symbolic verbal/non-linguistic response tells us that he is capable of communicating prior to acquiring language.

Ironically, however, scientists make the same mistake that others do and claim that the ability of infants to interpret verbal/linguistic data as a symbolic code communicating to them is dependent on their bodily development. The reality of the situation is this, however – God can and does speak to whoever he wills, whenever he wills, and by whatever means he wills to use. Infants may not be able to hear their mothers voices prior to their twelfth week in the womb (as the aforementioned scientists have noted), but God is not limited by the physical constraints placed on infants and their mothers. He can communicate with infants, if he so wills, and do so in a manner they can understand.

The point of the matter here is that if infants interpret data, then their minds are not blank. And if their minds are not blank, the blank slate doctrine is, once again, shown to be utter nonsense. As Christians, we must reject the tabula rasa doctrine. All men are conceived with knowledge, even as our first father Adam was born with the knowledge requisite to differentiate between metaphorical and literal uses of words like “face” and “fruitful.” Those who deny that all men possess innate knowledge, from the moment of their conception, do not do so on any rational or biblical grounds.