The Evil Banana
1) Place five gorillas in a cage.
2) Suspend a banana in the cage above a ladder.
3) When any gorilla attempts to use the ladder, wet all five gorillas with a firehose.
4)When gorillas no longer attempt to use the ladder, replace one gorilla.
5)Note that when the new gorilla attempts to use the ladder, the other gorillas will beat him up. The firehose is taken away.
6)Repeat step 4 until all original gorillas have been replaced.
7)Note that at this point, no gorillas use the ladder and none of them knows why.
There are two possible morals to this story:
1)Many people will prevent you from getting a perfectly good banana even though nobody knows why and it is now perfectly safe to get the banana.
2)Many people will prevent you from getting a perfectly good banana for a very good reason, although nobody knows what that reason is.
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
I wonder how many times humanity has independently discovered spongiform encephalopathy, figured out how to prevent it, codified that knowledge, and then decided to write off the whole thing as superstitious nonsense, only to discover it yet again...
I highly doubt that they ever discovered it before. It is natural for herbavores to eat the bones of other animals, good source of minerals. Additionally there were lots of things that drove people crazy, most notably poor nutrition, but all were interpreted as spirits.
Emerson White wrote:there were lots of things that drove people crazy, most notably poor nutrition, but all were interpreted as spirits.
Most cultures have a taboo against cannibalism. Some cultures describe all insanity in terms of spirits, but in some cases a culture will use the spirit world to conceptualize an association between cannibalism and a particular form of madness.
Take modern Western mythology, for example: we tell stories about the cannibalism of blood associated with light sensitivity and sociopathy (mediated by the action of spirits), and separately, stories about cannibalism of brains, associated with cognitive impairment, loss of coordination, and dysphoria. People don't take zombies and vampires seriously, but they do serve a mythic function for our culture.
People have known about kuru for a long time, and I think a culture that encounters it might take quite a while to figure out how to deal with it. I wonder if our taboos can trace their cultural heritage to pre-historic exposure of our forbears to this disease, is all.
Many taboos do trace back to good reasons not to do things (evil banana?) but many are just superstitious, the if the ancients had access to true knowledge with some akashic (sp?) antenna then they certainly would have lived differently, preferably they wouldn't have driven so many species to extinction.
Knowledge from whatever source is easily and frequently corrupted by removal of the context that makes it true: look how many scientifically-proven facts are re-framed to become half-truth or outright falsehood by advertisers, marketers, even well-intentioned journalists.
I entirely agree that quite a few superstitions have been pushed far beyond any context that might have made them useful. But I think it's rare that a behavior would arise, and then spread through much of a culture, without some initial utility for the people that adopt the behavior. Driving a jeep makes sense if a surplus is left over from WWII, but not so much if you buy one new intending to commute 40 miles each way during the Iraq war.
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
But I think it's rare that a behavior would arise, and then spread through much of a culture, without some initial utility for the people that adopt the behavior.
I'm not sure I agree, some behaviors take advantage of our feeble minds for their own ends, take for instance the action of checking the horoscope, this is something that doesn't fit in any context as useful.
Emerson White wrote:the action of checking the horoscope...doesn't fit in any context as useful.
Really? I could see a real benefit in a system that makes about 3/4 of the population off-limits for romance by any particular person, even (perhaps especially) if assignment to groups is completely arbitrary. I'm thinking in terms of the work of Robert Axelrod on complex systems.
But the people I've met who believe in horoscopes tend to get enough. And horoscope systems seem to have developed in relatively dense settlements, with much better social connections than suburban, digital society tends to offer today.
I'm not sure much of the benefit is to the individual, but if you're a Scorpio and decide any Saggitarius would be a bad match, you can focus your attention on (not that I know anything about this or believe in it, so I might get this wrong) a Pisces instead. You would approach that inchoate relationship with confidence that the two of you are compatible on some deep level, and work to discover that compatibility and to overcome any incompatibility, where otherwise you might behave like a donkey between two (or many) stacks of hay.
On a broader scale, people tend to be most comfortable with what is most familiar. Imposing arbitrary barriers to mating patterns would help boost the population's diversity, especially if that same system promoted the idea that people of one type do better with people of a very different type. I think just one such benefit would be enough to carry an otherwise maladaptive behavior to long-lasting success.
I was thinking of Axelrod's simulations of repeated prisoners' dilemma games, among a population of agents with randomly-assigned group identification and initially random responses to other agents' identification. It doesn't apply directly, except that the mere introduction of a completely arbitrary group identification, and the possibility to respond to that identification, meant a drastic and qualitative difference in the way the game was played.
Astrology is, in large part, a personality system. Regardless of its accuracy, it helps people become more aware of and sensitive to differences in personalities, in interests, in focuses, in approaches, etc. "I'm a Taurus." or "You remind me of a Capricorn when you do that." is quite similar to the modern day "I'm an INFP" and "You remind me of an ESFJ when you do that".
Another useful context is to help someone expand their thinking outside of the box. Maybe their having a problem and aren't sure how to approach it, nor do they have ideas on how to solve it. They read their horoscope. It offers an idea of what they might be able to do, or how they might look at the problem in a different light than before. This alters the perception of the problem, which then offers new possible solutions to come to mind.
Another useful context is for those who plant by the moon and or constellations. We know that the moon's nearness to earth alters some of earth's systems. We also know that the light of the moon influences leaf vs root growth (when the moon is dark, more growth into the roots, but when the moon is light, more growth above ground).
Previously, the constellation + moon + sun cycles were used as a calendar. A baby is born, we have no paper calendars, etc. How will we know that the child is of age for whatever typical cultural event? Well, we use knowledge of the cycles and can then determine that when the sun is in [constellation], or has been through it [number] times, then this girl child will reach menstruation stage and thus the beginnings of womanhood. Or this man child will be of age to join a certain tribal society, etc. Much like how we use birthdates and ages to determine drinking age, driving age, drafting age, and adulthood. (Again, though, this calendar usage can be applied to knowing how much longer until planting weather can be expected.)
So yeah, there are plenty of useful contexts for checking horoscopes. This doesn't mean that all contexts for it are useful. Nor does it mean that we don't currently use other systems for similar contexts...or even a similar system just a different perceived cause.
Emerson White wrote:
That isn't nearly all of what horoscopes do, but I am unfamiliar with what you are talking about, could you explain to me what the advantage of lonely sexually frustrated people is?
They are easily manipulated by advertising
HEY---------IS THAT A BANANA IN YOUR POCKET-----------OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME
All right, then. Yes, it is an evil banana in my pocket. Somebody had to say it.
I was frankly dismayed by the lack of double-entendre surrounding a topic like "the evil banana." Certainly with a topic name like that, it had the potential to go into the gutter pronto y profundo.
He discusses the evil banana experiment.
This mentality seems to be driving the lack of revision to building codes, food labeling and drug policy.
There was a video where a real eye clinic was the setting and the following experiment occurred:
1) There were 10 people who started off sitting in the waiting room, 9 of which were placed there for the experiment so they would be considered the controlled variable. 1 person was a real patient who was unaware of the experiment, the random variable.
2) A noise would come on once every few minutes, and the 9 people in the room all stood up briefly and then sat down. The 1 random variable person also began to stand up eventually.
3) They removed the original 9 controlled variable people via being called to "see the doctor", so it was just a process of slowly removing all the controlled variables and bringing in other real patients(random variables) 1 at a time to view the behaviour.
4) Just like the banana experiment, the people who didn't know what was going on would stand up when the noise came on - based purely on what they observed others doing. It should be noted that most didn't stand up right away, but after observing it a few times.
5) Eventually all 10 random variable people were standing up when the noise came on, and none of them knew the reason why they were doing those actions when the noise came on.
The interesting thing in this experiment is there is no physical punishment for not conforming, as it was all mental stress and likely associated with peer-pressure or some internal fear of being ostracized. (herd-mentality)
The eye clinic and the banana experiment have different motives, but they can be boiled down to a failure in macro-rationalization and awareness, because of an override of some ancient tribal-like(?) mechanism we still hold onto on a subconscious level.
I'm very curious about what happens with the 2nd real patient that enters the office, and if that is always the result if the scenario is repeated. For example if someone asked "why are we doing this?" and the answer was "I am not sure", would every individual still conform and stand-up anyways? I personally can't see that happening. If that is the case that there are "free-thinkers", you could then potentially derive a theory about individuals evolving to override the seemingly innate decision to side with herd-mentality as a way to increase efficiency(time or energy usage) which may increase potential for survival. Though I'm going well-passed what I have knowledge about by coming up with such a hypothesis, but it's really fascinating to think about.