Zeitgeist

Discussions unearthing human history including cultural anthropology, linguistics, etc.

Zeitgeist

Postby wolfhnd on July 19th, 2012, 12:03 pm 

Zeitgeist http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/ the movie has to be one of the worst films I have ever watched :-) If you want to know why read this

http://conspiracies.skepticproject.com/ ... zeitgeist/

The idea that there are shared patterns between diverse cultures is however a legimitate observation. My personal explanation for the phenomenon would be that it is linked to a common genetic heritage. I'm interested in what other people think?
wolfhnd
 


Re: Zeitgeist

Postby Alan Masterman on July 29th, 2012, 9:20 am 

I think there are so many implications in this question - which is indeed a valid one - that it is difficult to know where to begin!

For example, a system of religious belief seems to be part of the Zeitgeist of every culture in every time. Did this arise independently in different cultures, as an inevitable result of genetic factors? Or did religious ideas develop in the human mind right at the earliest moment, when humans first became barely distinguishable from the apes, and perhaps numbered only a few dozen individuals, so that universal religious belief became a simple matter of cultural inheritance?

Of course there is a sense in which everything is ultimately a matter of genetics. It seems reasonable to believe that an amoeba does not have religious beliefs, whereas the less well-educated humans usually do, and in a sense this is clearly due to our different genotypes. But on the other hand, there is evidence that those of the apes which are genotypically most similar to ourselves - eg the chimpanzees and the bonobos - are not the closest to us in general intelligence and creative thinking ability. This implies that phenotype may not be easily predictable from genotype - that there may be something analogous to the butterfly effect, whereby an apparently insignificant change in genotype might have huge phenotypical (and thus cultural) consequences.

It's really the old mind-body problem, isn't it? In modern dress.
Alan Masterman
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Re: Zeitgeist

Postby Ursa Minimus on July 30th, 2012, 9:15 am 

wolfhnd wrote:Zeitgeist http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/ the movie has to be one of the worst films I have ever watched :-) If you want to know why read this

http://conspiracies.skepticproject.com/ ... zeitgeist/

The idea that there are shared patterns between diverse cultures is however a legimitate observation. My personal explanation for the phenomenon would be that it is linked to a common genetic heritage. I'm interested in what other people think?


What do you mean by "shared patterns"? Care to provide a few examples?

People have been seeking biological reasons for cultural patterns for a very long time. All cultures have families (but the family structures are sometimes wildly different, not to mention the norms and values about what a "good" family should be and act like). All cultures have authority structures (which vary wildly). Humans smile (but some see a smile as something we do with our mouths and some that we smile with our eyes). Heck, growing up with one language can make it so that the person cannot distinguish the differences in spoken sound that other language speakers hear clearly. If hearing is all about biology, we should all hear the same thing, right? But we don't, our culturally based language deafens us to some things.

For most everything, I think the genetic argument fails at explaining social patterns. There is too much variation between cultures. There is too much variation within cultures for that matter. Look at how the US culture (especially the young) views gay people today. Our genes have not changed in 40 years, but our culture has, seemingly on it's way to a complete 180. Genes are pretty much a constant over these kinds of time frames, so how do they explain variation?

What I would say is that our biology produces our drives. Food, sex, etc. Universal drives. But the environment can produce different structures to fulfill those drives. A culture that develops on the plains versus the seaside versus a desert versus high mountains pushes people to different solutions to those drives over time. Solutions that each culture tends to view as "natural".

And don't forget that in addition to the physical environment, the social environment also affects those structures. Are there neighbors, or is the culture isolated? Is there a lot of trade between cultures, or very little? Regular conflicts, or none? Historically, this has driven cultural change, both in constructive and destructive ways.

So for something to be genetic in cause, it must be truly universal. We need to eat, so all societies have ways of producing and allocating food. From what I see, the variation is pretty large though, so I would put the majority of cause for the PATTERNS not on the genetics, but on other factors.
Ursa Minimus
 



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