Friday, November 07, 2014

Can we really talk to the animals? And is Fred Flintstone a prophet? - Denyse O'Leary

Two installments of my continuing series on the human mind. Did it - could it have - arisen purely by natural forces?

 Science-Fictions-square.gif Can we talk? Language as the business end of consciousness:
... On the other hand, there are no "primitive" languages, in the way that we can speak of "primitive" technology (knapped stone vs. high grade steel). It is possible to translate the Bible into any language, despite its ancient origin and the complexity of its tangled multi-kingdom histories and abstruse theological arguments.
Yet there is something natural about language -- natural to humans, that is. It is has proven very difficult to get a foothold for a simple made-up language like Esperanto because, as a missionary who spent his life translating the Bible into dying languages pointed out to me, Esperanto was devised purely for convenience. It is no one's "heart language."
Some say the world looks different to speakers of different languages; others ridicule the idea. It's hard to say. The people who use a language will tend to put their own stamp on the ideas it conveys. The world may indeed look different to them, but that's not the word stock or the grammar so much as what they habitually use these tools to mean.
Yet one hears little of these subtle questions when one turns to naturalist accounts of language. More.
Science-Fictions-square.gif The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote -- and shop, and tip at restaurants
Ever since Darwin's The Descent of Man, in which he proposed the theory of sexual selection (how some are selected to pass on their traits), his followers have extended his thoughts to encompass just about all aspects of human nature.
First there was social Darwinism, which fell into disfavor after World War II because its theories justified colonialism, exploitation of labor, and eugenics. These policies were developed much earlier and for reasons unrelated to Darwinian theory, but the theory was easily co-opted to justify them. Later, in the 1970s, sociobiology blossomed.
Sociobiologists, using insect colonies as their model, explained human behavior that seemed a puzzle -- such as kindness to strangers -- as originating in the way that our genes get passed on because genes are shared, in large part, with relatives. Sociobiology became controversial, however, when it attracted allegations of racism.
But soon after, a much broader movement burst on the scene -- evolutionary psychology (evo psych). Almost all human ideas can be explained, we are told, as the functional products of natural selection in our remote ancestors.
We may not know why we do things, but the evolutionary psychologist does. He knows, by the methods of science, the "truth" about shopping, voting, or tipping at restaurants. More.
Note: The Science Fictions – human evolution series is here.The cosmology series is here, and the origin of life series here. O’Leary for News

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Another assumption-challenging, mind-popping post, Denyse! Thank you.~~+~~

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