[extropy-chat] Numberless Tribe Proves the Unthinkable

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Fri Aug 20 04:43:14 UTC 2004

Numberless Tribe Proves the Unthinkable
Unable to count, group without precise number system shows how
language limits thought

This is an interesting defense of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. However,
it seems flawed to me.

What the study in the article shows is that people who have never
invented basic mathematics (discovered?), wont be able to perform
basic mathematical procedures, and also wont have language to describe
these procedures. So it would follow to me that these people could
probably learn basic maths (if they cared to, which they probably
don't), and would co-opt foreign words to describe new concepts, or
make some up, or a bit of both.

However, the article proclaims that, because these guys don't have
basic math or the language for it, that the lack of language causes
the inability to use basic math.

Isn't this a clear cut case of conflating correlation with causation?

Note that the original (weak) statement of Sapir-Whorf is pretty much
self evident and I'm not arguing with that. But the article implies
that this supports *strong* SWH, which is something else entirely!


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