The maturity of fiction awareness

Mesopotamian religious imagery

In an ongoing series, I'm covering topics that catch my interest as I read Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.  One topic that Harari returns to often is the idea of imagined worlds.  Homo sapiens acquired the ability to create imagined worlds in what he called "the cognitive revolution".  Most anthropologists see … Continue reading The maturity of fiction awareness

Communication and hypothetical thinking

Keith Frankish has an interesting article at Psyche pondering what ability separates modern humanity from archaic humans (such as homo erectus).  His vote is hypothetical thinking.  From the article: The ability I mean is that of hypothetical thinking – the ability to detach one’s mind from the here and now, and consciously think about other … Continue reading Communication and hypothetical thinking

Neanderthals and the beginnings of us

The Smithsonian has an interesting article up on what we currently know about Neanderthals.  The article details some of the internecine battles that always seems to be a part of the paleoanthropology field, in this case focusing on the capabilities of Neanderthals, whether they had art, religion, and other qualities of modern humans. Our view … Continue reading Neanderthals and the beginnings of us

Big societies came before big gods

Some years ago I reviewed a book by Ara Norenzayan called Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict.  Norenzayan's thesis was that it was a belief in big gods, specifically cosmic gods that cared about human morality, that enabled the creation of large scale human societies. In small societies, reputation serves as an effective … Continue reading Big societies came before big gods

First Peoples and Neanderthals

This weekend, I finished off the last of the 'First Peoples' PBS miniseries on prehistoric humans.  If  you've watched other documentaries on human prehistory and found them interesting, then you'll want to watch this one to get the latest findings.  It was fascinating.  (A lot of people have mentioned 'Becoming Human' to me, which I've … Continue reading First Peoples and Neanderthals

First Peoples documentary series to air on PBS starting Wednesday

I've posted before on prehistorical societies, and the fact that, for virtually all of human history, including the history of our particular sub-species: Homo sapiens, we lived in nomadic hunter gatherer tribes.  The evidence points to anatomically modern humans first appearing in Africa over 200,000 years ago, and that much of what we consider normal human society: … Continue reading First Peoples documentary series to air on PBS starting Wednesday

Religion, the Axial Age, and theoretic culture

I recently read the late Robert Bellah's 'Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age.'  Although the title of the book seems to narrow it to just religion, in ancient societies, religion was just about everything, so the book ended up being about the development of cultures, which isn't too surprising given … Continue reading Religion, the Axial Age, and theoretic culture

Confucianism and the definition of religion

I've noted before that defining religion is difficult.  Simple definitions (such as belief in gods) tend to either exclude some religions (such as Buddhism), or include things that most people don't consider to be a religion (such as constitutional law or science).  Definitions that get the scope about right tend to be hopelessly vague or unwieldy. … Continue reading Confucianism and the definition of religion