Comment On This: Wade Davis

Though we frequently speak of the potential of the brain, in practice our mental capacity seems to be limited. Every human mind has the same latent capabilities, but for some reasons that have always intrigued anthropologists different peoples develop it in different ways, and the distinctions, in effect, amount to the unconscious cultural choices. There is a small isolated group of seminomadic Indians in the northwest Amazon whose technology was so rudimentary that until quite recently they used stone axes. Yet these same people posses a knowledge of the tropical forest that puts almost any biologist to shame. As children they learn to recognize such complex phenomena as floral pollination and fruit dispersal, to understand and accurately predict animal behavior, to anticipate fruiting cycles of hundreds of forest trees. As adults, their awareness is refined to an uncanny degree; at forty paces, for example, their hunters can smell animal urine and distinguish on the basis of scent alone which of dozens of possible species left it. Such sensitivity is not an innate attribute of these people, any more than technological prowess is something inevitably and uniquely ours. Both are consequences of adaptive choices that resulted in the development of highly specialized but different mental skill, at the obvious expense of others. Within a culture, change also means choice. In our society, for example, we now think nothing of driving at high speeds down expressways, a task that involves countless rapid, unconscious sensory responses and decisions which, to say the least, would have intimidated our great-grandfathers. Yet in acquiring such dexterity, we have forfeited other skills like the ability to see Venus, to smell animals, to hear the weather change.

Wade Davis- The Serpent and the Rainbow

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3 Comments on “Comment On This: Wade Davis”

  1. Taylor
    May 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    I wish I was a seminomadic Indian

    • curtisrrogers
      May 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

      quite possibly the best comment ever. You would be a great semi-nomadic Indian buddy.

  2. FAKETravisWhalen
    May 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    I read that entire quote having mistakingly though the author was Wade Boggs. It was more than a little confusing.

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