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Author Topic:   Were the ancients in on something we are not?
The Matt
Member (Idle past 5628 days)
Posts: 99
From: U.K.
Joined: 06-07-2007


Message 1 of 10 (488777)
11-17-2008 12:42 PM


Why is an idea or a practice assigned greater validity if it is thought to originate from a traditional culture?
quote:
It was autumn, and the Indians on the remote reservation asked their new Chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild.
Since he was an Indian Chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets and, when he looked at the sky, he couldn't tell what the weather was going to be. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect wood to be prepared.
But also, being a practical leader, he decided to seek advice from experts.
He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?"
"It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed," the meteorologist at the weather service responded.
So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood in order to be prepared.
A week later he called the National Weather Service again. "Is it still going to be a cold winter?" he asked.
"Yes," the man at the National Weather Service again replied, "it's going to be a very cold winter. The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find.
Two weeks later he called the National Weather Service again. "Are you absolutely sure that this winter is going to be very cold?" he asked for a third time.
"Absolutely," the weatherman replied. "In fact, it's going to be one of the coldest winters ever!"
"How can you be so sure?" the Chief asked.
The weatherman replied, "The Indians are gathering wood like crazy."
Apologies for the lame joke but (a) I like it and (b) it illustrates the point nicely. There seems to be this underlying assumption that traditional cultures, present or past, possess some kind of understanding of the world that we do not. For example:
- The Mayan calendar, 2012 apocalypse thing. The belief that the end of the world is nigh (or some great change is approaching) appears to stem from little else other than the ending of this cycle of the calendar, as if the Mayans had some mystical understanding of something forthcoming that we lack. My calendar runs out at the end of this year, and that certainly wouldn’t be interpreted by many as a sign of The End so is it just the fact that it is the Mayans that gives credibility to the idea in the eyes of some?
- Various traditional remedies, practiced ”since ancient times’. This seems to be the selling point for many of them. To hell with clinical trials, the fact that it has been in use for a long time and comes from China seems to be enough to convince some that it must be better than anything devised by modern doctors.
These are no doubt not the only examples of such thinking. I do not wish to discuss the specifics of the Mayan prophecy or of the claims of traditional medicine. What I would like is to know your thoughts on the subject in general. Do you think people tend to more readily accept something that is ”traditional’ or belonging to an ancient culture simply because it is ”traditional’? If so, why is this?
I am not sure about the forum for this. Faith and belief, perhaps?

Replies to this message:
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AdminNosy
Administrator
Posts: 4754
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Joined: 11-11-2003


Message 2 of 10 (488780)
11-17-2008 1:11 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
FliesOnly
Member (Idle past 4231 days)
Posts: 797
From: Michigan
Joined: 12-01-2003


Message 3 of 10 (488906)
11-19-2008 10:32 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by The Matt
11-17-2008 12:42 PM


The Matt writes:
Do you think people tend to more readily accept something that is ”traditional’ or belonging to an ancient culture simply because it is ”traditional’?
One needs to look no further than evangelical Christian's (and other religious groups as well...but here, in this Country (U.S.), I think it's more problematic with these evangelicals than with any of the other groups).
The Matt writes:
If so, why is this?
I don't know...you'll have to ask them that question.
But if I had to hazard a guess, I would assume it's something along the lines that it provides them with some level of comfort. They don't like the idea that we (humans) have no more purpose than any other living thing on this planet, or that we were not the "goal" of creation. They don't like the idea that we just "are" and that we are the result of evolutionary processes, not some divine creation set here to rule upon all other organisms.
It gives them their much desired "special purpose" (thank you Navin R Johnson )
Edited by FliesOnly, : To add my "reasons"
Edited by FliesOnly, : to fix a typo

This message is a reply to:
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Woodsy
Member (Idle past 3460 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 4 of 10 (488914)
11-19-2008 12:33 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by The Matt
11-17-2008 12:42 PM


I suppose the answer is that most people are simply intellectually lazy. It is so much easier to accept what some ancient sage/tradition/book says than it is to actually think for oneself or to scurry around and find real information.
When combined with the popular distaste for science, which likely also comes from laziness, you get the current enthusiasm for old guff.
It doesn't help that there are all kinds of hucksters such as "alternative medicine" gurus, pastors etc making a good living spreading the guff.

This message is a reply to:
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Jazzns
Member (Idle past 3997 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


Message 5 of 10 (488918)
11-19-2008 2:14 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by The Matt
11-17-2008 12:42 PM


All tied together...
An interesting thing to note about the general list of things that you mention is the how tendency for a person to believe in the authority for one of those things bleeds into belief in almost any kind of woo.
This seems to even hold true when those beliefs contradict. Look at how many creationists also have a belief in homeopathy and other alt-med paradigms even if they were founded in religious beliefs other than their own. I sort of get confused when I hear about other Christians who disparage modern medicine for chiropractic, acupuncture, or naturopathy rooted in druidic or native beliefs. Aren't they supposed to reject other religions?
Really it all boils down to ignorance. If they can't even identify the contradiction in their own wacky belief, how can anyone expect they to identify the wackiness to begin with?

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. --Thomas Jefferson

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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straightree
Member (Idle past 4837 days)
Posts: 57
From: Near Olot, Spain
Joined: 09-26-2008


Message 6 of 10 (489108)
11-23-2008 1:42 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by The Matt
11-17-2008 12:42 PM


Value of traditional culture
Traditional culture has been gained through many years of trial and error process. To think that any such experience has more or less value than knowledge gained through scientific methods, I think is missing the point. The fact that we are using now a very potent method, that enables us to progress quickly, is not reason to dismiss the progress made the hard way.
I will only use an example, related to the use of certain plants as remedies. A country women, a farmer, showed me a plant, that I later identified as Chelidonium Majus, and told me that it was very good for ward treatment. As I had a very prominent one, I rubbed the yellow latex-like fluid comming out of the cutted stem, on it. I repeated the procedure three or for days, and shortly after, one day, I realized the ward had desappeared. (Eventually, in Europe, this tradition comes from the Greek and Roman cultures).
Edited by straightree, : No reason given.

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straightree
Member (Idle past 4837 days)
Posts: 57
From: Near Olot, Spain
Joined: 09-26-2008


Message 7 of 10 (489110)
11-23-2008 3:13 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by The Matt
11-17-2008 12:42 PM


Weahter forcasting
Weather forcasting may serve us well to consider how traditional knowledge is in fact complementary to scientific one. I am engaged in an activity, agriculture, that is strongly dependent on weather, so, weather forecasting is of prime relevance to us. Traditionally, farmers had identified a correlation between certain "signs" and the occurrence of particular metheors. If, for instance, there were clouds, of such and such shapes, on top of a certain mountain in the morning, then most certainly rain would follow in the evening.
Nowadays, every farmer looks the weather forecast on TV, or the Internet. Never the less, weather forecasting not being yet an exact science, some times the old "signs" are very usefull.
I can recall one such very recent experience. In our area we grow alfalfa, and cut it to produce hay. After cutting, it is left on the field to be dryed by sun, but if it rains, the hay is ruined. So, we cut when there is a reasonable expectation for at least three days with no rain. Last summer, I had cut the alfalfa, and it was on the field, then a more expeienced neighbor came to me and said, look this night we have had no damping dew, this is a sign that this afternoon we may have rain. So we proceeded to collect the hay, just in time to avoid the rain, that came.
Also I have to say that climatic change, is destroing much of this traditional knowledge, and the useful "signs" are fewer and fewer. But this is not a good sign for us.

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Coragyps
Member (Idle past 820 days)
Posts: 5553
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 8 of 10 (489114)
11-23-2008 5:36 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by The Matt
11-17-2008 12:42 PM


One of the most bizarre things about this tendency is there in the Mayan calendar example. This "2012" bologna is spouted quite a bit by Christian "end-timers" - as if a Mesoamerican religion somehow supported their myth. If you were to pull up other similarities between Mayan and Hebrew myth (other than, perhaps, support for the Floode), the same folks would throw a fit!

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bluescat48
Member (Idle past 4276 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


Message 9 of 10 (489136)
11-23-2008 8:08 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Jazzns
11-19-2008 2:14 PM


Re: All tied together...
Really it all boils down to ignorance. If they can't even identify the contradiction in their own wacky belief, how can anyone expect they to identify the wackiness to begin with?
I agree. That is a very logical explanation.

There is no better love between 2 people than mutual respect for each other WT Young, 2002
Who gave anyone the authority to call me an authority on anything. WT Young, 1969

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Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2416 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 10 of 10 (489218)
11-25-2008 8:52 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by The Matt
11-17-2008 12:42 PM


Great story (LOL!) -- thanks for that.
There would, presumably, be an "evolutionary" justification for the preference that favors traditional methods for fixing certain problems or predicting certain conditions: the more often a given method of healing or observation can be "tested" -- no matter how loosely or informally -- and not found to be clearly wrong, the more credibility it acquires for continued use, regardless of our inability to prove its correctness through rigorously controlled experiments, or to explain its validity through a plausible chain of causation. We need only consider the case of aspirin to see how the initial discovery and adoption of a "folk remedy" can far predate an understanding of why it works, and using it without understanding it is not a bad thing.
In a nutshell, methods that actually fail tend not to survive -- in the worst case, their practitioners and proponents die off having produced fewer or no offspring, but more generally and more importantly, other observers are never convinced to adopt such methods, or learn to actively avoid them.
Regarding the point made by your story, it's not unreasonable to infer that you can learn something very useful by observing the behavior of a particular group, given that the group has survived centuries or millennia in conditions where the behavior of interest could make the difference between surviving and dying off. The fact that you don't know the causes, evidence or reasoning that underly the behavior does not by itself undermine the potential value of the behavior.

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
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