What Can the Child Inherit from the Mother ?
What we know of prenatal development makes all this attempt made by a mother to mold the character of her unborn child by studying poetry,art, or mathematics during pregnancy seem utterly impossible. How could such extremely complex influences pass from the mother to the child? There is no connection between their nervous systems. Any chemical change in the mother‘s blood will affect the child for better or worse. But we can‘t see how a liking for mathematics or poetic genius can be dissolved in blood and produce a similar liking or genius in the child.
In our discussion of instincts we saw that there was reason to believe that whatever we inherit must be of some very simple sort rather than any complicated or very definite kind of behavior. It is certain that no one inherits knowledge of mathematics. It may be, however, that children inherit more or less of a rather general ability that we may call intelligence. If very intelligent children become deeply interested in mathematics, they will probably make a success of that study.
The same factors, in other circumstance, might be organized about some other center of interest. The rich emotional equipment might find expression in poetry. The capable fingers might develop skill in surgery. It is not the knowledge of music that is inherited, then nor even the love of it, but a certain bodily structure that makes it comparatively easy to acquire musical knowledge and skill. Whether that ability shall be directed toward music or some other undertaking may be decided entirely by forces in the environment in which a child grows up.