Wednesday, 27 May 2015
The Evolution of Language, From Animals to Analogy
Language is a communication tool that relies very heavily on analogy. In fact, according to Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander, authors of Surfaces and Essences: Analogy As the Fuel and Fire of Thinking (2013), analogy plays a fundamental role in the very way we think.
Hofstadter now admits that when he wrote his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which is full of daring analogies and became something of a cult in the 1980s, he had not really explored all the implications of analogy as a way of transferring knowledge from one field to another. Today, however, he regards analogy as central to all human experience. (more…)
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Preserving Our Bodies and Minds from the Ills of Civilization
For several hundreds of thousands of years, human beings lived and evolved in small groups of hunter-gatherers whose environment was the natural world. It is only for the past 10,000 years or so that we have lived first in villages, and then in cities. Today, a large proportion of us live in megalopolises and work in factories or offices where we have little contact with nature. And what is worse, our contacts with one another are becoming more and more virtual, and our emotional bonds weaker and weaker.
Thus, over what is a very short timespan from an evolutionary standpoint, the human body and the human brain, shaped by a natural environment very different from our own, have had to adapt to a very radical change in environment. And, it would seem, the further our urban way of life departs from the ways of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the more our physical and mental health suffers.
That is the argument made by John Ratey, co-author of the book Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization, in an interview by Ginger Campbell in the last episode of his podcast Books and Ideas. (more…)