CARTA: The Role of Myth in Anthropogeny

The human penchant for storytelling is universal, early-developing, and profoundly culture-shaping. Stories (folk tales, narratives and myths) influence the costs of social transactions and organize societies at every scale of human interaction. Story as a mode of communication is also unprecedented in the animal kingdom: although we are compelled to tell stories about other animals, they are not likewise compelled to tell stories about us (or anything else, for that matter). Even scientists who attempt to objectively understand human origins are destined to craft those explanations as stories, often with narrative and/or mythic overtones. From the domestication of fire to the emergence of cooperative hunting to the evolutionary origins of human cognition, our understanding of the human journey is deeply influenced by stories embedded in our cultural histories. Even our ability to manage urgent human problems such as global health and climate change are affected by the stories and myths humans choose to tell. This symposium explores several stories about how the evolution of story-telling shaped, and continues to shape, the human epoch.

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