Sunday, November 09, 2008


Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena.

In my mind this is a form of insanity in the modern world and a total denial of all the knowledge that homo sapiens have acquired in the past 30,000 or so years. I can accept that poets and writers use the concept for the entertainment of their reader, but the reader, except for a rare few, rarely goes away believing that rocks can think a believer.

I say rarely, because I just received my current AARP Magazine where I found this letter to the magazine.

Sinking Ship

I was on the National Geographic Endeavour, one of the two ships that steamed to the rescue of the sinking M.S. Explorer [“Mayday in the Antarctic”]. Our captain remarked that the Explorer, nearing its final voyage, may have chosen to remain in those waters, and selected that moment, when its passengers could be rescued, to end its historic life. To those of us who witnesses this event, this actually seemed possible.  John Curtis, Heath Texas

This one stopped me in my tracks because it is pure Cro-Magnon insanity:

  • That the captain of a scientific research vessel, someone that should have both knowledge of and respect for science rather than some strange mysticism, ascribed multiple human traits to an object.
    • He said that the ship made an intellectual choice to sink rather than complete its voyage.
    • He implied that the ship felt compassion towards its passengers and made a deliberate choice to sink where they could be saved.
  • That someone, anyone, that heard those remarks would go away believing this strange mysticism, and repeat it and their belief in it, especially in a magazine that prides itself on providing their members with the facts and rational thinking they need to understand and deal with our modern society.
  • That the editors of AARP Magazine, from the hundreds of letters they receive from their readers, many of them probably filled with facts and rational thinking, selected that letter to print and promulgate this strange mysticism.

To me, a science oriented atheist, this is how religion got started. Humans, unable to understand the world around them, used anthropomorphic concepts to explain their world. Gradually they expanded their explanation to mysticism and gods of many kinds.  Then when some humans realized that they could profit from the Cro-Magnon beliefs of their fellow humans, priests were born and modern humans have been plagued ever since.

Perhaps, for the Cro-Magnons still among us, the captain of the National Geographic Endeavour just became a priest of a new religion, Mr. Curtis his first apostle, and the letter to AARP will become their first epistle.

I really don’t mean to denigrate the Cro-Magnons of thousands of years ago, just those among us that have never evolved any further.


Beth Quist said...

I got a chuckle out of this! :-) Thanks.

Recovery Roxx said...

I couldn't agree with you more. It is this sort of sentiment that keeps humans complacent in the status quo of ignorance. We need more people to think for themselves instead of blindly following the "mysticisms" of religion. That captain may have said, "it was God's will" - what a bunch of malarkey.

Snowbrush said...

"In my mind this is a form of insanity"

I think it an unavoidable part of the human experience. I can see criticizing some of the extremes, but are you yourself free of it? Do you not feel disloyal when you see you old car? Do you not imagine that your house misses you when you are away? Do you never talk to a philodendron? If you are utterly and completely rational to the very core of your being, I don't think I would want to trade places with you.

The Crater Lake Hermit said...

SB, I have no desire to trade places with anyone on earth. I may desire to have some of their good health or their wealth or whatever, but there is no way I want their beliefs, morals, passions, families, relationships and especially I do not want their problems.

And yes, I have none of those anthropomorphic reactions you describe. But I do know that carbon dioxide is good for plants, so I exhale on them when I remember to.

Yes, to me, all that you and others describe is pure insanity and I work very hard to avoid that.

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