Re: Why the West has 'won'

Mark Crosby (
Tue, 9 Sep 1997 10:43:23 -0700 (PDT)

Back at the beginning of August, Sarah Marr asked:
<Has anybody read any well though out, cogently argued and
evidentially supported theories as to why technology, commerce,
exploration, science, etc. developed in the West (and East) whilst the
African sub-continent remained isolated and communites there relied on
gatherer-hunter activities and basic agriculture?>

There were some nice cites, including Jared Diamond. The following
doesn't directly address your query, but might still be of interest.

I just stumbled on the site of Dr John Robert Skoyles at

Skoyles is a ‘retired’ neuroscientist who also dabbles in cultural
anthropology. His site contains excerpts from several of his books
and essays. He writes, for example, about "Literacy and the Greek
revolution" and "Hunter-gatherers of the alphabet".

At the end of his paper on the the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis he
concludes: "Here therefore we have direct evidence that language
moulds cognition. Two groups of otherwise identical and normal
children have been raised in linguistic environments which differ in
one specific domain, and found to show a specific cognitive

He also has some theories about neural plasticity, symbolism and
culture that may be of interest:

"Most brains lack the required buffers in which to train upon
themselves such associations. But the human brain has them in our
massive prefrontal cortices, one of whose main functions is working
memory (Fuster, 1989; Goldman-Rakic, 1994). These contain active
on-line buffers that can maintain the activations of different
networks in temporal conjunction, and so help train them to interact,
thus in effect, neurally reprogramming them to acquire the
representational associations needed for symbols."

wa.exe?A2=ind9709&L=psyche-b&O=T&P=328 )

In other words, differences in technological development between
cultures may be partially due to the language that is used to relate
to the world.

Mark Crosby

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