Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $4.61 shipping
When They Severed Earth from Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth Paperback – September 25, 2006
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
"The authors provide not only a compelling and highly readable collection of mythic interpretations but also a framework through which to decode those stories and uncover seismic, geological, astrological, or other natural events that preceded written history. . . . When They Severed Earth from Sky provides an intellectually challenging and parsimonious new framework. It not only sheds light on the planet's natural history but also offers alluring insights about human cognition."--Abigail A. Baird, Science
"In their highly engaging, thoroughly researched analysis of the meaning of myths, When They Severed Earth from Sky, [the authors] build a strong case that historical facts can be extracted from the mists of our mythic past. . . . I think the Barbers are on to something here. Any student of myths ignores this important work at his or her peril."--Michael Shermer, American Scientist
"The Barbers take us back some 100,000 years to the beginning of storytelling. . . . When They Severed Earth from Sky is timely and engaging."--Books in Canada
From the Inside Flap
"A fascinating read. This book points the way to how truths can be found even in myths."--Michael S. Gazzaniga, author of "The Mind's Past"
"Rarely have I read a book so avidly and with such pleasure. The Barbers have captured the vital signs of the mythmaking process, in a revolutionary study. This is a novel and convincing way to look at mythology."--Adrienne Mayor, author of "The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times"
"I read this idiosyncratic and engaging work in its entirety in just two sittings, finding it nearly impossible to put down. The Barbers give intriguing explanations of how and why we construct and transmit myths and how we may unpack these 'off-the-wal'' stories to reveal essential information about such natural phenomena as volcanic eruptions."--Joshua T. Katz, Princeton University
"This book offers a comprehensive account of why myths are the way they are. Drawing in part on cognitive science and on historical evidence as to real events, it presents a broad and informative selection of the myths themselves, raising questions and suggesting answers that cognitive scientists will find interesting."--Michael C. Corballis, author of "From Hand to Mouth"
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Loved this book so much that I bought a Kindle version in addition to the paper version. And I have lost count of the number of times I recommended it. No one was disappointed!
The core thrust of the theoretical analysis is stated in the authors' "myth principles." While there are many "sub-principles" that are elaborated upon in depth, I will just list the main ones I found to be central:
1. Memory Crunch
2. Silence Principle
3. Socialization Antidote
4. Rationalization Syndrome
5. Analogy Principle
6. Willfulness Principle
7. Multiple-Aspects Principle
8. Compressive/ Conflationary Principles
9. Principle of Metaphoric Reality
10. Principle of Attraction
11. Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
12. Restructuring Principle
13. Vividness Principle
(Note--this is not how the authors list these principles. I have abridged and somewhat re-ordered their list.)
As my main interest in this subject comes from the area of cognitive science of religion, I was naturally drawn to the "Willfulness Principle" in that this deals with how the concept of agency is utilized by human beings in their construction of gods and supernatural explanations. The principle, simply defined is this: a force or an event observed is often assumed to having been done by "somebody" (scientific explanations in antiquity being undeveloped) so when an event--such a volcanic eruption is witnessed--the principles of myth-making are not satisfied unless there is a "who" named.
Indeed, stories without agents are not as engaging to human beings. The Barbers weave this principle (along with of course the other elements of their rich framework) to explicate many of the myths that still are with us today. While I won't name the details, their explanations for the parallels seen in flood-myths is the most satisfying that I have ever read. Reading that section in the book induced one of those "Ahah!" moments. Their treatment of the Promethean legend was also extraordinarily thought-provoking and convincing. The last chapter concerning dragon myths was equally absorbing and original (although I found it to be the least convincing argument in the book).
The only possible weakness that I found in the book is its somewhat superficial treatment of the cognitive sciences. While this may be a plus for the general reader unaccustomed to the field, I would have liked to see a much more in-depth treatment.
Overall, the book is a must read for anyone interested in mythology and religion. Even if you are not interested in the cognitive aspects, there are enough novel insights from narrative theory, archaeology, and mythology to provide an absorbing read.
This is a book about how humans interpret events and dreams and wishes, and about how the authors, in their turn, interpret -- or deconstruct -- if you will how the interpretation takes place. Very interesting book and highly recommended for those interested in mythology.
This book examines the same phenomenon across diverse cultures and time periods. Peeling back layers of time and distance, the authors search for, and reveal, the kernels of truth behind the legends. And what a wonderful journey they share! Full of asides (frustratingly tossed away without comment at times) and journeys that turn back upon themselves, this is a book you will savor and linger over.
Many of the thoughts will cause you to turn back pages to reconnect the dots yourself as they walk you through the processes of their evaulation. This will enjoy a fond place on your bookshelf among the favorites you treasure.
Incidentally, Ms. Barber's other works ("Women's Work" and "The Mummies of Urumchi") both share the same chatty style and interesting asides. Check them out. You'll see what I mean.