RE: Why Europe is so Contrary

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Sun 08 Dec 2002 - 15:44:02 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "Re: evolution"

    >At 06:48 PM 7/12/02 -0800, Grant wrote:
    > >Jeremy,
    > >
    > >I'm having trouble seeing where what you said had anything to do with
    >what I
    > >said. I was talking about the fact that we seem genetically inclined to
    > >search for beginings and endings in life as well as in narative. You
    > >to be talking about societies adapting to their environment. What is the
    > >connection? I was positing that the genetic inclination is what guides
    > >to structure our naratives the way we do. You seemed to be saying that
    > >narrative structure is what causes us to search for beginnings and
    > >
    > >What this has to do with societies adjusting to their environment escapes
    > >me.
    > >
    > >Confused,
    > >
    > >Grant
    > >>
    >This is a mixture of fact and theory Grant. Emergent Homo Sapien (wise man)
    >was unique among his contemporary primates in that the female of the
    >species did not die soon after menopause. I hypothesise that these females
    >became an asset to their communities by processing food and minding the
    >young. Young primates are naturally curious and members of our line are no
    >different. Kids can drive you crazy with questions and it is normal to give
    >some sort of answer. The wise grandmothers would have explained what they
    >could about the natural world and invented stories to explain the
    >existential queries. IMO this explains why cultural narratives explain
    >existential issues in ways that parallel the cultural circumstance of the
    >I don't think that we are genetically inclined to search for beginnings and
    >endings in life as well as in narrative, or that the genetic inclination is
    >what guides us to structure our narratives the way we do; my theory is
    >entirely memetic. Neither am I saying that the narrative structure is what
    >causes us to search for beginnings and endings.
    >All I'm saying is that some societies placed themselves as a part of nature
    >and some societies thought of themselves as above nature; this is evident
    >from their mythscapes. The societies which lived in harmony with nature
    >evolved into sustainable societies and those that didn't didn't. It is only
    >my memeset which holds sustainability to be evidence of a culture's
    >evolutionary success.
    >I hope this explanation has assuaged your confusion Grant.
    It does, partially. There is still a structure within us that guides how we create our map of the world and it also influences how we structure our sentences and narratives. What we do with it is influenced by culture. But symbols are still totally arbitrary and anything can stand for anything else. Why does each culture always seem to come up with the same narrative structure as every other. One light in the bell tower can mean that the British are coming by land and two of them can mean that they are coming by sea. The Chinese and Japanese hold up the thumb to represent "one" when counting, while we hold up the index finger. These, however, are just individual symbols and not a part of the symbolic system we call narrative.

    The words we utter are laid out in a pattern that involves only a few of the sounds of which we are capable and those sounds are strung together in much the same way in every language. Every new way we find to communicate mirrors this underlying structure, from the whistling language of the jungles of South America to the dots and dashes of the Morse code. They are all a way of encoding spoken language into a different form but retain the same basic format. I can't believe that every culture reinvents the same wheel. I suspect that structure comes from before culture.


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