Maybe it’s Biology Maybe it’s Myth

In the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari the topic of the cognitive revolution is discussed. This allowed for greater cooperation through language and gossip at first. This allowed groups of up to 150 to form and work together. The next advancement Harari talks about is the “imagined order” these are the collective myths and rules that we live under. One of these is where Harari is talking about his biological lens  examination of the declaration of independence “their response is likely to be, ‘ we know that people are not equal biologically! But if we believe that we are all equal in essence, it will enable us to create a stable and prosperous society.’ … this is exactly what I mean by ‘imagined order’. We believe in a particular order not because it is objectively true, but because believing in it enables us to cooperate effectively and forge a better society.”(p. 110)  These collective “Imagined order” are forms for government, religion, and social norms that we all agree are true. This leads into the question are “imagined orders” a prerequisite for science.  In my opinion “imagined orders” are a prerequisite for science. This is because almost all but the most recent scientific fields have their roots in ancient myths and dogma. Take for example chemistry, it started out as alchemy which had no objective natural truth to it. This does not mean that science remained an  imagined order.  Science now is based on universal natural laws that are true no matter the context they are in. Science in many fields now lies on a foundation of truth rather than imagined orders of yesteryear.

In my opinion some of what Harari holds as imagined orders might just be a biological quark of humans.  This mainly being the formation of societies larger that 150 people. This is because large societies have developed independently many times across all cultures.  This seems to be an innate thing that humans eventually do and might have more  to do with how we are wired than the stories we tell.

One thought on “Maybe it’s Biology Maybe it’s Myth

  1. I agree with you that science requires an imagined order before hand. Like all other imagined orders, science contains a big group of people that collectively believe in the same thing. The difficult part about discerning whether science is still apart of an imagined order is picking apart whether the myths that people believe before the road to science are completely gone/proved false. Science is a field where we come across something that we believe true or something that we believe will be true when we test it; from there experimentation results in answers that either answer truth to the previous ‘myths’ believed or discover something completely new. Of all the possible imagined orders, this is the most confusing to me personally as I feel as if part of the time science is an imagined order and at others times it is not. I agree with you that the ‘truths’ contained in science today are widely accepted and proven to be true, but it is also interesting to think in terms of cooperation and collective thinking; do we know that these things are true for certain or because many others believe them to be true too?


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