Re: OT: Doubting Thomas: was "Introducing Myself"
|From:||Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, February 17, 2005, 22:01|
Sally Caves <scaves@...> writes:
> Also, I'd be curious to know your answer to my question: "what fixed notions
> do we have about human tribal behavior, or human language and cognition that
> we don't want unsettled?"
Well, it's probably a boring answer: I just don't know until something
is unsettled that I absolutely cannot accept to be unsettled. I
*think* that I am very tolerant towards claims that anything I thought
was true, is in fact false, if there is good reason to believe so and
to adjust the model. This does not mean that I believe in surprising
new facts immediately, it just means that once convinced, I think I
can accept a lot.
Just to give an example about the unbelievability I feel in the Pirahã
stories: I find it extremely hard to see how a human being even from
the strangest place on earth can possibly fail to learn to add 1+1
predictably. The claim about not counting is strong: the total lack
of numbers even for the most simple ones: 1,2,3. Thus adults could
not learn to add 1+1 although trying to learn that for months. This
seems just too basic to me: you have *one* apple, get another *one*,
then I *think* it must be possible to learn in eight months for any
healthy human that the result will be *two* apples. I mean
conceptually, even if the native language lacks words for numbers.
Failing to learn this is something I find extremely hard to believe.
I quote: 'After eight months of daily efforts, without ever needing to
call the Pirahãs to come to class (all meetings were started by them
with much enthusiasm), the people concluded that they could not learn
this material and classes were abandoned. Not one Pirahã learned to
count to ten in eight months. None had learned to add 3+1 or even 1+1
(if regularly reponding '2' to the latter is evidence of learning --
only occasionally would some get the answer right. This seemed random
to us, as indeed similar experiences were shown to be random in
Gordon's research, see below)'
That's just weird, isn't it.