Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Losing Religion to the Amazonian Piraha Tribe


Linguistics professor Daniel Everett explains the idea of "xibipiio," a way of life he encountered while studying the language of the Amazonian Piraha tribe. Everett, a former Christian missionary, was challenged to rethink his faith after learning the Piraha's concept of experiential liminality.
Complete video at FORA.tv
Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle (Vintage Departures)

24 comments:

  1. This is a great...so simple a concept, but profound in its implication.

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  2. The thinking theistDecember 1, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    <span>Profound!????!!? My father or friends have never seen Charles Darwin write his book but that does not change weather or not he did. You believe in Dinosaurs but you have never seen them- you found fossils... the principles are false and I understand why he is no longer a christian missionary.</span>

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  3. it is profound in that there are differing levels of certainty that something is - based on where the information came from - and the fact that this principle is codified in language. This idea is similar to what the ancient creators of sanskrit had in mind. Language that requires as little interpretation or contex as possinble. Reconising that some ideas are more valid/solid than others is a good thing. Being able to say I don't know is a good thing.

    <span><span> "My father or friends have never seen Charles Darwin write his book but that does not change weather or not he did. You believe in Dinosaurs but you have never seen them- you found fossils"</span></span>

    you belive the above because there is no reason not to - and it fits in your conception of the world.

    Now the same is not true of relgion - because religion is not updatable, and relgion asks you to do things - it asks you to surrender you judgement, and value it above all else.

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  4. They probably just got really pissed off with the 'if a tree falls in a forest and noone is around to hear it does it make a sound' question. 

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  5. No you numbnuts - it's profound that the need to give the provenance of your information is built into their language and you're not able to escape from the obligation to provide it.  It's not that you can't say "Charles Darwin wrote this book" it's that you have to state the fact that you think this because of history books not because you saw it yourself.

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  6. As a rationalist and a linguist I highly recommend his book "Don't sleep there are snakes". Lots more insights into our culture through learning about one so different. 

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  7. <span>Your bet. Will check out the library tomorrow. A fascinating, mind-expanding, entertaining presentation by this guy with an impact that resembled my firt encounter with quantum physics. It's exhilarating--and just a little weird--when you're sideswiped by previously unimagined concepts. Catching only the 4:36 clip here would have been a travesty.</span>
    <span>Also changed my daydreams. Wanna next life as a linguist AND physicist.</span><span></span>

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  8. <span><span>Your bet. Will check out the library tomorrow. A fascinating, mind-expanding, entertaining presentation by this guy with an impact that resembled my first encounter with quantum physics. It's exhilarating--and just a little weird--when you're sideswiped by previously unimagined concepts. Catching only the 4:36 clip here would have been a travesty.</span>  
    <span>Also changed my daydreams. Wanna next life as a linguist AND physicist.</span><span></span></span>

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  9. The thinking theistDecember 2, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    <span>Hello Steven, thank you for the nice name you are giving me, I feel so welcommed here. The point is, it is not JUST about language, but about what that language led him to do- no longer being a chrisian. Why is it profound that the need to give a provonance of your information is built into your language, if it leads to an unnecessary conclusion. He says in the video, that some of the multiple sufixes they have say: I saw , deduced or heard that John was going fishing and this he says is how you get your evidence. He calls them the ultimate empiricists. If you can accept that you heard John went fishing, then why not other kinds of evidence even if you were not there? I think you mean "novel" not profound. Whether or not you point to where the information comes from, it can still be a lie and wheter or not you put a sufix to mention it, language should always be used to convey truth, not false hood. I can say I say, I heard, I think... then I get to investigating if it is so.  </span>

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  10. The thinking theistDecember 2, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    <span>Could you explain what you mean by updatable? If you mean that it is constant, then it is like everything else in this world that is true. Mathmaticians do what they do based on priciples discovered a long time ago, because if they were true then they are true now.</span>
    <span></span>
    <span>The surrenduring jugement comment is an easy one if you dont want to take some time with it. You assume that the God question is done with so the idea of YOUR judgement is ultimate. If they arrest a serial killer, a lot of the things they will do to him and for him will have very little to do with HIS judgement, because we think his judgement should not be trusted and there is a superior "judging power". </span>
    <span>Same thing with value it above all else. Well if something has value above all else (my 1000$ bill is more valuable than my 20$ bill- that is a fact) what you have a problem with is that it is inconceivable that this priciple applies to God, because you dont believe God exists.</span>

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  11. The thinking theistDecember 2, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    <span>Not really. The answer is: the same sound it would make if there were an ear to hear it. Do bacteria not exist untill they are put under a microscope? </span>
    <span>By the waY, did you know that that question is a Zen Buddhist question?</span>

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  12. It's a question. There is no need to add Zen Buddhist before that.

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  13. It's a question. There is no need to add Zen Buddhist before that.

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  14. It's a question. There is no need to add Zen Buddhist before that.

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  15. Browser and/or website error

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  16. Depends on your definition of a sound. If it's the technical definition of the process of noise creation then you would be right. If sound is defined as the perception of noise by a human ear then you would be wrong. I suppose in light of that your bacteria question is a false analogy.

    Anyhoops, it was just a joke.

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  17. You seem to think someone said "if you didn't see it, you can't justify belief". There is a suffix to denote that you claim to know something via "deduction". That would be the case for dinosaurs. Not quite sure how you indicate knowledge of authorship of a book. I suppose it would be deduction. It's hard to really know how the tribe would say such a thing, given that we are only given a rather basic primer on the language.

    BTW, what principles are false?

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  18. Don't expect to feel welcome on the Internet. There's lots of angry, vitriolic people on the Internet, atheist or not. You suggest you ignore those kinds of posts, if it upsets you. They really aren't interested in a dialogue, just arguing and venting.

    Studying this language led the researcher to realize he honestly had no good evidence for his beliefs. So he changed his beliefs accordingly. That's an admirable thing to do, whether you are an atheist becoming a Christian or the other way around. If the man's reasons to no longer be a Christian were flawed and you can explain how, he would turn right back into a Christian again, so long as he is continuing to put honesty first.

    The point of the suffixes isn't to say that you KNOW he went fishing because you heard it. It is to say, I believe he went fishing because I trust that what I heard was true. It empowers the listener with the opportunity to ask more about who the speaker heard it from, and whether the person is trustworthy, or any other means of investigating whether or not the belief is justified. The whole point of the suffixes is that it allows you to doubt any claim you hear and independently investigate it.

    Yes, in English you can say "I heard/saw/deduced that X happened" if you choose to provide your sources. Or, you can omit that information, and force the listener to speculate how you claim to know something. It's totally optional. In this language you MUST say that you saw/heard/deduced. Otherwise you can't conjugate the verb, and without verbs you can't make sentences.

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  19. Don't expect to feel welcome on the Internet. There's lots of angry, vitriolic people on the Internet, atheist or not. I suggest you ignore those kinds of posts, if it upsets you. They really aren't interested in a dialogue, just arguing and venting. 
     
    Studying this language led the researcher to realize he honestly had no good evidence for his beliefs. So he changed his beliefs accordingly. That's an admirable thing to do, whether you are an atheist becoming a Christian or the other way around. If the man's reasons to no longer be a Christian were flawed and you can explain how, he would turn right back into a Christian again, so long as he is continuing to put honesty first. 
     
    The point of the suffixes isn't to say that you KNOW he went fishing because you heard it. It is to say, I believe he went fishing because I trust that what I heard was true. It empowers the listener with the opportunity to ask more about who the speaker heard it from, and whether the person is trustworthy, or any other means of investigating whether or not the belief is justified. The whole point of the suffixes is that it allows you to doubt any claim you hear and independently investigate it. 
     
    Yes, in English you can say "I heard/saw/deduced that X happened" if you choose to provide your sources. Or, you can omit that information, and force the listener to speculate how you claim to know something. It's totally optional. In this language you MUST say that you saw/heard/deduced. Otherwise you can't conjugate the verb, and without verbs you can't make sentences.

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  20. You still don't get it.It's not about the listener trusting the speaker.  It's about the speaker having the means to keep himself honest.  It's one thing to accidentally lie by omitting that you are making conjecture.  It's something else to be speaking a language that forces this type of thing to be a conscious act.  You can't accidentally lie when you have to make the conscious decision to claim to witness something you didn't, as opposed to a language in which you accidentally imply it by omission.

    And no, I won't apologise for correctly recognizing you as a spewer of bullshit.

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