Saturday, May 31, 2008

A restructuring of how we consider discovery is needed

David Harrison speaks about “When Languages Die”
from by Kambiz Kamrani
About 9 months ago, I shared some news of language extinction and the conservation efforts of K. David Harrison and David Anderson.

Harrison suggests that while curating a language is critical to the conservation, understanding the folk taxonomy, a.k.a. the folksonomy, is also imperative. He brings up examples of different single word terms to refer to different reindeer in some Siberian languages. When translated, these single words unravel into elaborate, information packed phrases. He uses that to explain how often times there is a lot of local knowledge hidden lesser spoken language, that can span millennia. Harrison advocates that other researchers entertain the possibility that languages are an untapped resource for knowledge.

But to do that, a restructuring of how we consider discovery is needed. We, as academics, are largely stuck in this colonial paradigm of how discovery is approached. Many zoologists, botanists, even anthropologists and archaeologists discover new things without absorbing native knowledge. It is an awfully imperial way of looking about it, if Western culture doesn’t know about it the rest of the world never know about it! But who’s to say local peoples didn’t know about a certain plant or animal for ages prior to the “Western discovery”? We need people to acknowledge the vast body of knowledge out there, locked in indigenous, endangered languages.

Harrison wraps up his talk emphasizing how language is an infinite system, and I couldn’t agree with him more. He’s put particular consideration on local knowledge, but there is also a lot of knowledge that can be extracted from language — such as human migrations, which will have gaping holes if languages are allowed to erode at the rates they are now.

Friday, May 30, 2008

How can we know if non-human primates do or do not imagine or pretend

Michael Tomasello on How Humans Are Unique
from by Kambiz Kamrani
Michael Tomasello, a well known comparative psychologist, has a column in today’s New York Times where he writes on, “How Are Humans Unique?

Tomasello argues that only humans pretend. According to him humans imagine, and this ability has allowed us to build institutions. These adaptations, Tomasello writes, set us apart from apes, thereby allowing us to build modern civilization.

I believe I have seen and experienced non-human imagination in gorillas and also chimps. I, by no means have the accolades that Tomasello has, nor the experiences he has in analyzing psychological research but I think it is really hard to definitively say that only humans can imagine and pretend. To do that we’d really have to get ino their minds. I just don’t understand how we can know if non-human primates do or do not imagine.

If you’re interested in this topic, we have in the past, had some short discussions on what traits have made humans unique. such as this one summarizing Marc Hauser’s postulates. I also think you’ll enjoy this 60 second audio summarizing the discussion, made by Christie Nicholson, of Scientific American — which she draws a tangent to social networking sites, something I commented about last September.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scientists find two contradictory trends of change in the average global temperatures

Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore Monday, May 5, 2008

The Mother and Sri Aurobindo on change in the global weather patterns

In the past decade we have been witness to dramatic upheaval in the weather patterns and climatic changes caused by “global warming”. We have had our share of Tsunamis, earthquakes, torrential rains, sweltering heat, forest fires, droughts, blizzards and what not. Recently in tropical Singapore there was a downpour of hail- or pieces of ice falling! The bizarre and weird weather is unpredictable and violent at times. The external forces causing this are changes in the solar radiation, and greenhouse gases and rising carbon-di-oxide levels to name a few. What are the other forces behind this?

More than seventy years ago Sri Aurobindo gave five indications to recognise the coming of the New world.

The third indication is of relevance here

“The vital is trying to lay hold on the physical as it never did before. It is always the sign that whenever the higher Truth is coming down, it throws up the hostile vital world on the surface, and you will see all sorts of abnormal vital manifestations such as an increase in the number of people who go mad, earth quakes etc “ (Beyond the Human Species - Georges Van Vrekhem)

Sraddalu Ranade observes, when asked what the first signs of change in Matter would be, The Mother pointed to two indications that the Supermind is working in Matter: change in human body and change in global weather patterns.

“Mother indicated that weather all over the world would become more temperate and the extremes of both heat and cold would become less intense, in practice the changes have been towards violent and unpredictable fluctuations of precisely such extremes all over the world. One may view this as a transitional period before the fluctuations even out into a steady average.It is interesting to observe that scientists find two contradictory trends of change in the average global temperatures: seen from satellites measuring changes in the upper atmosphere, the Earth seems to be cooling down, and seen from the ground, the Earth seems to be heating up. So is there global warming or global cooling? For the moment nobody is very sure about the answer: it depends on how you look at the data

Sraddhalu further observes that there is dramatic change in the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface, changes which have begun after the Supramental Manifestation. This explains the violent and extreme weather patterns all over the earth and the inner reason behind it. Nothing seems normal or fixed anymore, dramatic changes and upheavals all over the world and in the consciousness of people makes us aware of the Supramental Force working and tearing apart the “old and dying world”.

The Mother predicted on 14th March 1970

The change has been accomplished. The physical is able to receive the higher Light, the Truth, the true Consciousness. It is in the year 2000 that it will take a clear turn.

References: Service Letter- 30.1.2004 (Founder Editor: M.P. Pandit), Beyond the Human Species –Georges Van Vrekhem, Paragon House, St. Paul, Minnesota
Posted by Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore at 10:56 PM