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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Minding the man

An article about research on animal minds, such as the intelligence of gorillas.

What they fail to account for is the question, what is the human mind?  Without a stable answer to that question, the researchers can only flail about discussing the cunning of beasts. What exactly can "anthropomorphic" mean, in no one can identify what distinguishes man?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Isaac Asimov when you need him

And to  open our celebration of Nobel Prize announcement week, we quote a quote we just found this morning--

There is a quote attributed to the scientist and author Isaac Asimov

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny...’
That edge of dawning mystery--- that is what Jan Cox pointed to. His goal was finding this point, and (contra modern science) staying there as long as possible.