Evolutionary Revolution or Revolutionary Evolution?

The Cognitive Revolution, simply put, was the beginning of new ways of thinking and communicating, 70,000 to 30,000 years ago (Harari, p. 21). Harari, along with evolutionary psychologists and archeologists, argued that this Revolution allowed for humans to talk about other humans, to other humans, or “gossip”. Another theory suggested that this Revolution allowed humans to communicate with each other about the world, to warn of danger or where to find food. One theory that was not mentioned in this reading but that I think is applicable and interesting to this topic is how communication led to better ways of teaching- the best way to sharpen a spear, telling stories, etc. Telling stories led to the next argument that Harari made in relation to how Sapiens were able to “transmit information about things that do not exist at all… …Legends, myths, gods and religions appeared for the first time” (Harari, p. 24). This was essential to the development of imagined realities and imagined orders. The Agricultural Revolution is thought to have started 9,500-8,500 B.C., with the farming of the wheat plant and domestication of the goat. Harari argued that while the Agricultural Revolution did indeed increase the total amount of food, it did not in fact create better diets or leisure time (Harari, p. 79). Instead, this Revolution affected human civilization by creating the idea that food sources were stable, which increased the amount of offspring women had. Further, farming was a day in and day out occupation that forced Sapiens to make permanent camps.

Harari argues that imagined orders are “the only way large numbers of humans can cooperate effectively” (Harari, p. 110). This, I believe, in relation to what I said about teaching earlier, is a human trait. It was evolved in part due to our species walking upright, and women surviving if they gave birth prematurely. Harari talks about how no other species is born as helpless as a human child, and for the years up to our sexual maturity we are at the disposal of the society around us to shape and teach us how to think and interpret emotions (Harari, p. 10). If looking at this question from an evolutionary standpoint, I would agree that imagined orders were necessary to maintain the survival and growth of our species. What would we do with ourselves for the first 13-15 years of our life with no “imagined” order of how to learn about the world around us?

4 thoughts on “Evolutionary Revolution or Revolutionary Evolution?”

  1. Dear Emelyn,
    I think you have a very compelling argument, which I completely agree with. I did not even think about what Sapiens would do with the first 13-15 years of their lives if we had no imagined order to learn about the world around us. That was a very strong point that I missed when I read the pages, but it was very insightful.

  2. I like that you brought up how communication allowed us to teach each other effectively. It is such a good point that people learn best from each other through communication. Your question about what would we do with ourselves for the first fourteen year of our life if it wasn’t spent learning culture was really interesting to me. I was raised with a military family so i moved too much to go to public school. In order to maintain my education I was home-schooled. I didn’t learn much about other people (except from books) until both my parents retired from the military and I went to public school for my freshman year. I think it doesn’t really matter where you grow up because everywhere has a pecking order that you have to fall in line under.

  3. I think your argument that communicating allows humans to better teach each other was incredibly compelling. It does seem true that humans learn best through communicating with each other and it makes me wonder how we learned before we were able to communicate with each other in the way we do now. Your later point about how we heavily rely on our imagined orders was something that I also missed when reading the chapters, but it also makes me wonder where we would be if we didn’t have those or what would happen if we suddenly stopped believing in those orders. I think your analysis of these chapters was very astute and that the questions and points you brought up were amazing.

  4. A very well written and insightful blog. You brought up some good points and developed some of your own. A very interesting side of the debate I did not pay much attention to when I did the reading. I very much enjoyed when you talked about how humans learn from each other, I believe this allows for a faster growth as well.

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