Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Myth of Myths

Interesting article in Scientific American about myths. I am not sure how long that link will work, but I found it originally in the Three Quarks Daily newsletter. Here is the gist:

Folklorists, anthropologists, ethnologists and linguists have long puzzled over why complex mythical stories that surface in cultures widely separated in space and time are strikingly similar. In recent years a promising scientific approach to comparative mythology has emerged in which researchers apply conceptual tools that biologists use to decipher the evolution of living species. In the hands of those who analyze myths, the method, known as phylogenetic analysis, consists of connecting successive versions of a mythical story and constructing a family tree that traces the evolution of the myth over time.

My point is not the use of the word "scientific" above, although it sounds like window-dressing. It is rather that a simpler explanation never occurs to people: these parallel developments may indicate that humanity itself is one organism. Such would offer another possibility to explore by way of understanding "the striking similarity" of cultural ideas "widely separated in space and time." This perspective would suggest that the myth people cling to is of an individuality and separation, which may not be based on much evidence.

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