Sunday, 10 May 2015

Can you be sure that others have not come before you and destroyed the pristine state of the native myth? Can you be sure that the natives are not humoring you or pulling your leg? Bronislaw Malinowski thought he had discovered a people in the Trobriant Islands who had not worked out the connection between sexual intercourse and childbirth. When asked how children were conceived, they supplied him with an elaborate mythic structure prominently featuring celestial intervention. Amazed, Malinowski objected that was not how it was done at all, and supplied them instead with the version so popular in the West today – including a nine-month gestation period. “Impossible,” replied the Melanesians. “Do you not see that woman over there with her six-month-old child? Her husband has been on an extended voyage to another island for two years.” Is it more likely that the Melanesians were ignorant of the begetting of children or that they were gently chiding Malinowski? If some peculiar-looking stranger came into my town and asked ME where babies came from, I’d certainly be tempted to tell him about storks and cabbages. Prescientific people are people. Individually they are as clever as we are. - Carl Sagan

Quote of the day: Can you be sure that others have not come before you and destroyed the pristine state of the native myth? Can you be sure that the natives are not humoring you or pulling your leg? Bronislaw Malinowski thought he had discovered a people in the Trobriant Islands who had not worked out the connection between sexual intercourse and childbirth. When asked how children were conceived, they supplied him with an elaborate mythic structure prominently featuring celestial intervention. Amazed, Malinowski objected that was not how it was done at all, and supplied them instead with the version so popular in the West today – including a nine-month gestation period. "Impossible," replied the Melanesians. "Do you not see that woman over there with her six-month-old child? Her husband has been on an extended voyage to another island for two years." Is it more likely that the Melanesians were ignorant of the begetting of children or that they were gently chiding Malinowski? If some peculiar-looking stranger came into my town and asked ME where babies came from, I'd certainly be tempted to tell him about storks and cabbages. Prescientific people are people. Individually they are as clever as we are. - Carl Sagan

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