Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins.

Or why are there similar origin stories across the world?

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Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins.

#1  Postby Animavore » Oct 03, 2016 4:44 pm

The Greek version of a familiar myth starts with Artemis, goddess of the hunt and fierce protectress of innocent young women. Artemis demands that Callisto, “the most beautiful,” and her other handmaidens take a vow of chastity. Zeus tricks Callisto into giving up her virginity, and she gives birth to a son, Arcas. Zeus’ jealous wife, Hera, turns Callisto into a bear and banishes her to the mountains. Meanwhile Arcas grows up to become a hunter and one day happens on a bear that greets him with outstretched arms. Not recognizing his mother, he takes aim with his spear, but Zeus comes to the rescue. He transforms Callisto into the constellation Ursa Major, or “great bear,” and places Arcas nearby as Ursa Minor, the “little bear.”

As the Iroquois of the northeastern U.S. tell it, three hunters pursue a bear; the blood of the wounded animal colors the leaves of the autumnal forest. The bear then climbs a mountain and leaps into the sky. The hunters and the animal become the constellation Ursa Major. Among the Chukchi, a Siberian people, the constellation Orion is a hunter who pursues a reindeer, Cassiopeia. Among the Finno-Ugric tribes of Siberia, the pursued animal is an elk and takes the form of Ursa Major.
Although the animals and the constellations may differ, the basic structure of the story does not. These sagas all belong to a family of myths known as the Cosmic Hunt that spread far and wide in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas among people who lived more than 15,000 years ago. Every version of the Cosmic Hunt shares a core story line—a man or an animal pursues or kills one or more animals, and the creatures are changed into constellations.

Folklorists, anthropologists, ethnologists and linguists have long puzzled over why complex mythical stories that surface in cultures widely separated in space and time are strikingly similar. In recent years a promising scientific approach to comparative mythology has emerged in which researchers apply conceptual tools that biologists use to decipher the evolution of living species. In the hands of those who analyze myths, the method, known as phylogenetic analysis, consists of connecting successive versions of a mythical story and constructing a family tree that traces the evolution of the myth over time.


Continued - this is a lengthy article. http://www.scientificamerican.com/artic ... _ARTC_FEAT
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Re: Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins.

#2  Postby tuco » Oct 03, 2016 4:54 pm

I am not sure, well the way I understand it I am pretty sure it does not, it explains the why. Why they are strikingly similar. It provides robust evidence they indeed are tho.

In the past, comparative mythology scholars relied heavily on intuition and manual processing of information, which limited both the breadth and granular detail of the work they could do.


Very cool nevertheless, was puzzled by it for some time myself.
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Re: Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins.

#3  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 04, 2016 3:58 pm

Biologically modern humans are considered by quite a few serious researchers to have originated in a small region of eastern or southern Africa within the last hundred thousand years or so. Perhaps among the characteristics that identified them as such were spoken languages capable of bearing (no pun intended) the weight of mythological tales. If you accept that single source guess about the origins of modern H. sapiens, then you might not have to believe the stories originated in widely-scattered locales independently, but instead were carried wherever humans traveled after that, only metamorphosing in relatively minor details.

Other folks (like the above) prefer to believe the stories have organic, but independent, wellsprings in widely-scattered human societies. The first hypothesis flatters our ability to identify molecular clocks and trace the human genome back to a small group, which has some potential for scientific moxie. The second hypothesis simply flatters one additional myth that humans would like to tell about human storytelling, and doesn't have much scientific moxie at all.

No, we can't make definitive arguments, since the date of such 'primordial' spoken language is not something we can pin down, because there aren't any fossils of spoken language. But those who want to wibble about "tracing society's myths to primordial origins" have at least to give an indication that they know of alternate hypotheses.

Don't read Scientific American to learn anything about science that you can't get a much more thorough and fair version of elsewhere. SA is science journalism, 'edutainment', and does not contain reports of original research. It contains reportage on original research, and isn't normally very thorough, in favor of producing click bait for a certain sort of reader. These days, stuff you can read for free is often worth only every penny you'd be willing to pay for it.
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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins.

#4  Postby Animavore » Oct 04, 2016 4:49 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:Other folks (like the above) prefer to believe the stories have organic, but independent, wellsprings in widely-scattered human societies.


What do you mean by that? The article supports the first hypothesis. And they use phylogenetics to trace the stories back to the Paleolithic era.

Cito di Pense wrote:No, we can't make definitive arguments, since the date of such 'primordial' spoken language is not something we can pin down, because there aren't any fossils of spoken language. But those who want to wibble about "tracing society's myths to primordial origins" have at least to give an indication that they know of alternate hypotheses.


Language doesn't fossilise, but the author also used rock art, which can be dated.

Cito di Pense wrote:Don't read Scientific American to learn anything about science that you can't get a much more thorough and fair version of elsewhere. SA is science journalism, 'edutainment', and does not contain reports of original research. It contains reportage on original research, and isn't normally very thorough, in favor of producing click bait for a certain sort of reader. These days, stuff you can read for free is often worth only every penny you'd be willing to pay for it.


While this may be the case in many instances, this article is written by the scientist who led the study, and not by a journalist.
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Re: Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins.

#5  Postby tuco » Oct 04, 2016 7:44 pm

The way I see it there are basically two approaches when it comes to said explanation: a) word of mouth and b) human nature. Then there is a mix of the two.
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Re: Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins.

#6  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 04, 2016 7:58 pm

tuco wrote:The way I see it there are basically two approaches when it comes to said explanation: a) word of mouth and b) human nature. Then there is a mix of the two.


Does 'human nature' actually explain anything? Everything humans do comes out of human nature. Thus, it explains nothing.

The molecular clock is not merely 'word of mouth'. Some anthropologists are actually interested in finding out how it works.
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Re: Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins.

#7  Postby tuco » Oct 04, 2016 8:05 pm

It does, at least psychology, economy, sociology and other lets say soft sciences work with such assumption. Its not that complex really and I would even say its trivial. Humans are limited, perhaps even determined, by their biology in what they can come up with, myths included.

We could even run experiment. Grow number of human offspring in isolation, place them on deserted island or something and observe what they will come up with. My guess is that they would come up with about same stuff as the rest of us. Not sure how to account for environmental factors tho.
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Re: Scientists Trace Society’s Myths to Primordial Origins.

#8  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 04, 2016 8:13 pm

Animavore wrote:
Language doesn't fossilise, but the author also used rock art, which can be dated.


That's a kind of writing, isn't it? Even if it isn't 'writing', it's an inscription, and you have to interpret it. There is the danger of modern people interpreting ancient inscriptions to suit their own agendas. But I guess I already said that, didn't I?

I know that people try to treat that kind of stuff as evidence of particular ideas, but it's just evidence that somebody scribbled on a wall, unless you really know how to get inside the head of somebody who lived forty thousand (or whatever) years ago. The pretense that people can get inside the heads of ancient scribblers is written all over the Historical Jesus threads.

Did you want to go back to the drawing board of 'human nature to do that'? One thing is not too much of a stretch, and it is that the desire to make representations of stuff we experience is as old as those paintings. You can say that's what myths are, too, but you don't get to dress it up in the hoo-hah agenda of "humankind's common spiritual journey". What we experience, we experience with our eyes and ears and so on, and yes, people embellish that. We could call it 'storytelling', but experience is all that people have to embellish into stories. Did you want to make a fancy shirt out of 'storytelling'?
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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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