Pascal Boyer

There is no such thing as sexual intercourse

I happen to know the secret of academic success. So far I have never divulged it because, well, charity begins at home. But it looks like the field of cognition and culture might be in need of a shot in the arm, so to speak. So I agreed to part with the secret, against a small compensation negoti...

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Cognition under the high brow

  High Culture: Da Vinci's Last Supper (as seen in The Da Vinci Code). We cognitive anthropologists deal with “culture” in the broad sense of distributed mental representations widespread in a social group (and many of us don’t really believe that the terms ...

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Death, where is thy sting ?

I don’t believe any one of you would like to live in a room with a murdered man in the cupboard, however well preserved chemically – even with a sunflower growing out of the top of his head. - John Ruskin Recently, Dan Sperber alerted us to ancedotal observations of grieving in ...

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Institutions again – What is a primitive society?

That is the rather provocative question that Richard Posner asked in a 1980 article that I only recently discovered - and I think should be on the reading list of a decent cognitive anthropology course, as the issues are certainly relevant to understanding the cognitive underpinnings of instituti...

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How I found glaring errors in Einstein’s calculations

Call me radical, call me a maverick. Rather than slavishly swallowing the scientific orthodoxy from establishment textbooks, I decided to go back to the original papers. I have identified several embarassing errors of mathematics and physical reasoning in Einstein’s original 1905 paper on the ...

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What is an institution, that people may participate in it?

In a recent post, Christophe Heintz told us about “institutions that make us smart”. The posting was of great interest by itself, and got us thinking about institutions - our field still has its work cut out if we want to make sense of institutions. We have all sorts of interesting ...

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Paleolithic art: awesome — but not religious

This would seem to be the conclusion from Dale Guthrie’s massive The Nature of Paleolithic Art, perhaps the most comprehensive and rigorous study to date of cave paintings and other Stone Age artefacts. Guthrie’s no-nonsense, scientifically rigorous study shatters our most cherished and ...

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