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Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World - Comments

alabasterocean's Avatar Comment 1 by alabasterocean

Nice summary of the US in the Highlight part

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 16:11:00 UTC | #435894

kantastisk's Avatar Comment 2 by kantastisk

so industrialisation is a world view now? how about modern medicine? is that simply another 'view' among alternatives? should I hesitate to impose on people my peculiar western values of living past the age of forty?

or what about the equal moral status of the handicapped, women, gays? are they all something which happen to appear as modern societies progress? 'views among alternatives'? gimme a break!

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 16:47:00 UTC | #435908

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 3 by Don_Quix

I really don't quite grok what this guy is babbling about.

I do, however, find his comments about what Martian anthropologists would think of us amusing in light of the fact that I am currently re-reading Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land. I doubt many aliens would be concerned with, or capable of understanding in any meaningful way, our varied and trivial social practices.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 17:52:00 UTC | #435936

Rob Schneider's Avatar Comment 4 by Rob Schneider

Kantastisk: On some levels I agree with you, but on one particular level I disagree. What are both you and Wade Davis doing? Setting out criteria for measuring "success" of a society.

I think it is QUITE his point that the different metrics established are a worldview. So, while you rightfully include
1. Increasing lifespan
2. Increasing tolerance
3. Increasing technology.

... you neglect to include in your definition of success...

1. NOT acting in ways that poison resources for others.
2. NOT acting in ways that potentially bring about the demise of all humans (if you buy into the worst-case global warming scenario).
3. NOT consuming more than your proportionate amount of the world's resources.
4. NOT achieving your position in the world through practicing extractive empire.
5. NOT achieving the benefits of modernity for a minority while explicitly and implicitly excluding the majority of the world.

The question lies in how can we bring the two views together, so that we get the benefits of modernity without having to accept its failings and excesses.

And if you are of the persuasion that won't admit that there are some failings and excesses in modern societies, then please don't bother railing back at me for being too liberal.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 18:08:00 UTC | #435942

Thomas Byrne's Avatar Comment 5 by Thomas Byrne

What would aliens think, if they came long after we're gone, and in their archaeological digs they find loads of little metal crosses depicting what appears to be a human nailed to a cross?
Wouldn't they logically assume, without surviving books or other evidence, that this was some widespread sacrificial practice and we were complete barbarians? (that's if they don't assume its a sexual practice).

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 18:35:00 UTC | #435952

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 6 by Dhamma

Maybe they've already seen us and realized we were not peaceful business partners and left? Or perhaps they're planning to build that damn superhighway and we're in its path :D

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 19:02:00 UTC | #435963

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 7 by Colwyn Abernathy

Dhamma,

Or perhaps they're planning to build that damn superhighway and we're in its path :D


Good heavens, mankind! It's only FOUR light years away, you know. I'm sorry, but if you can't be bothered to file a complaint that's your own lookout. ;)

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 19:06:00 UTC | #435965

Kmita's Avatar Comment 8 by Kmita

"What would aliens think, if they came long after we're gone, and in their archaeological digs they find loads of little metal crosses depicting what appears to be a human nailed to a cross?"

I think it might be more embarrassing if they found our stash of sex toys.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 19:15:00 UTC | #435970

ANTIcarrot's Avatar Comment 9 by ANTIcarrot

>so industrialisation is a world view now?

Alternatively, his comments could refer to abrahanic society, specifically the christianity dominated societies of Europe and America.

(After watching the long video)

While does he spend so little time on what the woman get up to? If only the blokes get to have fun then I'd say that, yes, we are fantastically more advanced than them! And not because of our technology. Do we really want to admire a people who think that *prayer* is the proper way to take care of the planet - even at the best of times? Or those who get so overexcited that they start cutting themselves for religious reasons? Am I the only one to listen to the discriptions of young boys taken away from their families and kept in an all male enviroment and think it sounds like a catholic priest's wet dream?

The video makes me want to punch Wade Davis in the face. Has the man never heard of evolution? Does he not realise that it can apply socially? And that sometimes it *is* a good thing, and that sometimes the death of old practices (again the catholic church springs to mind for many reasons) is to be aplauded?

I get the impression that he would really enjoy the film Avatar. Something the Navi seem to share with many of the people he talks about is a fundimental lack of interest or curiosity in anything outside of their culture. And that is not something I can approve of or admire.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 19:34:00 UTC | #435978

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 10 by crookedshoes

Kmita,
You know where my stash of sex toys is? Dammit, what are you omniscient? Can I reasonably expect to re-hide them, or will you know the new location? Shit. Curse you.
And what are you insinuating calling them "our" sex toys. Have we met? No? You are also omnipresent? Now what do I do?

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 19:53:00 UTC | #435985

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 11 by Alovrin

Wade Davis has an undeniable affection for the subjects of his studies, the people and their ways of living in their environment.
Which they have developed over the millennia and preserved using oral traditions and some of those "worldviews" are quite ingenious.
And he highlights that most of the misunderstandings between indigenous and western culture are on the western side of the ledger. And most of the mistakes were made during the period of colonisation. I guess we already knew that.
That said, he never really explained why they matter other than to point out how bizarre, dislocated (the story of the "Sacred Headwaters" illustrates this) and resource ravenous western culture has become in comparison.
And yeah if we all took to a cave and meditated, we would save a lot of resources. Or if we had to rely on just the resources we could walk to we would probably be a lot more frugal and conscious of depleting that resource.
(Note to self a shitknife can only be made where it is bloody freezing.)

The best segments to try and fathom the thrust of his argument to me were; Thought on Copenhagen & Need for Action.
Interesting info about various cultural practices, most of us will never get to, and sounds as if he had fun doing it....Lucky Bastard.
And he is right these buggers are tough and more likely to survive global warming than all those flabby western city dwellers, but we already knew that.
Liked the ForaTV labelling of segments.

Not sure about all this "different worldviews" malarky tho' could easily be applied to anything, even christianity, and that blows chunks.

Wed, 27 Jan 2010 23:48:00 UTC | #436104

Veronique's Avatar Comment 12 by Veronique

If the species that rises to the top of an ecosystem and ends up polluting its own habitat to the extent that Homo sapiens has and is continuing to do, the only possible result is extinction of the most species. Maybe it has happened before throughout the universe.

Maybe it is what happens when the top species gets to the point of controlling its habitat but not understanding the long term effects of its actions. Maybe it is what happens when brains grow very quickly but don’t quite make it into maturity before the self destruction occurs.

Maybe that’s why we never hear from any other civilisation out there. Maybe all top species self destruct as we appear to be doing and there’s a long hiatus while habitats repair and prepare for the process to slowly pull itself up by its bootstraps and start again. Never ending but very long cycles and different habitats. Who knows. I don’t. No one does.

We are a wildly imaginative and creative species as Davis says. I agree with him. We are also very short sighted due to our own limited life span. And we can’t quite keep our individual desires in check for a common good. Not yet anyway. I don’t think we will make it, but then I am an old chook with a bleak outlook.

Fora TV is a great resource. Use it. Damn we’re good. Wish it could continue.
V

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 00:11:00 UTC | #436110

kantastisk's Avatar Comment 13 by kantastisk

@BeyondBelief

"1. NOT acting in ways that poison resources for others.
2. NOT acting in ways that potentially bring about the demise of all humans
(if you buy into the worst-case global warming scenario).
3. NOT consuming more than your proportionate amount of the world's resources.
4. NOT achieving your position in the world through practicing extractive empire.
5. NOT achieving the benefits of modernity for a minority while explicitly and implicitly excluding the majority of the world."

That all sounds very nice, but I think you're confusing modern and 'ancient' values. Strategies for how to act towards the population of the entire world is something that's not very relevant if all you've got is a house and a farm.

If your culture is less less technologically developed then you wont bring about the end of the world regardles of what you do - very well... But that does *not* in some abstract way make you wiser. It doesn't mean that if your culture gained the ability to manipulate the planet you would do better than those who already have it. After all - all of the world's population used to be tribesmen in forests and deserts with 'ancient' values.

The Earth houses many fantastic and interesting cultures, but Davis who has spent his life traveling is so deeply in love with them he seems to have forgotten why he's even able to go: because of things like medicine, planes, modern economies, and societies that allow him to accumulate the enormous amount of wealth required. These are all products of industrialized society. It's no accident that he's coming to them and not the other way around.

I'm not at all saying there's nothing wrong with western culture. Ancient cultures can probably teach you about a lot of things. Much like my grand dad can teach me about saving, you know?

By the way Ricard has some great insights on this in The God Delusion. He speaks of it in connection with some peculiar American cultural minority who gain the cultural 'protection' of society to keep their children out of school - I forget their name, maybe you remember?

"The question lies in how can we bring the two views together, so that we get the benefits of modernity without having to accept its failings and excesses."

Ah, a nice middle ground. Again - it sounds nice, but I think it's a bit easy.

"And if you are of the persuasion that won't admit that there are some failings and excesses in modern societies, then please don't bother railing back at me for being too liberal."

I wouldn't care much to discuss with that type either, but I still think you're being a little defensive. Safe-guarding against response probably doesn't work anyway.

ps: how do you properly quote in these comments?

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 06:01:00 UTC | #436200

andersemil's Avatar Comment 14 by andersemil

Ancient wisdom is foobar... Memes are like genes, they are perfectly shaped for the environment and period they ruled in, but they are unlikely to be fruitful in a different environment or period.

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 10:04:00 UTC | #436240

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 15 by Reckless Monkey

Tim Flannery before he wrote The Weather Makers wrote an extremely good book "The Future Eaters" on how the environment you live in ultimately forces you to change your culture to fit in with what is possible. He talks about the spread of people through Australia, New Zealand and Polynesia. He points out that most of the people gained this wisdom through reaching crisis point, collapse and then re-building a sustainable existence with their particular environment. The West hasn't stopped spreading yet we still appear to be in the same mode of thinking. If we think we're so much more than animals then I suppose the real test is can we actually use a our big brains and culture to stop crapping in our nests before the collapse or not? Seems unlikely to me at the moment. Happy to be proved wrong though.

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 12:47:00 UTC | #436281

Alovrin's Avatar Comment 16 by Alovrin

Ah all the pessimists (or is that realists) are hanging out away from the crowd frothing about veils. So nice.
Anyhoo Mr Davis mentioned something is passing about myths/metaphor. These tribal "worldviews" (it scares me so I put scare quotes around it) are more like myths that supply some kind of sustainance/guidance to the communities around them. A central myth, if you will, that binds the people together. And that in contrast Western Culture has lost or is losing this central myth, so it is fragmenting, becoming a monster out of control or something.

Well Duh!

He doesnt go into it very deeply, just sort of throws it in there, so I dont know if he has a solution of is just making an observation. Well the central myth the west got lumbered with was a crock of shit, in fact it probably enabled the very rapaciousness that now threatens the planet.
"Your sins have been paid for Sonnyboy so do your worse" is kind of a get out if jail free card.
Perhaps the devil is behind christainity, Mwahahaha.
So it probably a good thing we ditch it and fast. And if we need myths to bind us, provide some rallying call we could just write a new one, but with some basis in fact .. ....scientific fact.

Here I'll start you off...
We could call it the Age of Practice, well when all those sages were strolling about letting us know we were one step about the animals because we had been blessed with consciousness, the Age of Enlightenment. Peace and love thy neighbour, do unto others etc. Well its just been all high sounding words, pretty costumes and hero worship. Now we have to awaken and put all those high sounding ideals into Practice.
Ya know disband armies, stop all wars, try and feed and house all 7 billion of us, within the confines our planet places on us.

Cant see it happening tho'
There ya go back to being a pessimist. Ahhh.

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 20:11:00 UTC | #436411

PERSON's Avatar Comment 17 by PERSON

15. Comment #455751 by andersemil on January 28, 2010 at 10:04 am

Extending the analogy a bit, the fact that most animals are not well adapted to urban and industrial areas does not mean that we cannot learn about the nature of the world from their DNA. I think a case can be made that something similar can be done with memeplexes. All cultures are syntheses, even if they do go through periods of "purification".

(typically conformity with the interests of some small group or other, perhaps conveniently summarised by the views of the nature of group purity of a particular individual. e.g. Wahabism, the reformation, US conservative identity politics and at least some of the old testament prophets. Desire for purification often comes out of failure and is convenient as both a scapegoat and a tool for the small, powerful groups which tend to benefit from authoritarianism)

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 20:40:00 UTC | #436418