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Author Topic: New world peoples literally couldn't see the European ships?
Drainfluid
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by The Rubber Chicken:
quote:
What are the origins of this story?
(snip) None of the people that Columbus first encountered—the Arawaks—had any descendants survive into recent times."

The human mind is designed to be able to cope with new things it has never seen before. It is specifically that evolutionary adaptation that has allowed us to occupy every possible ecological system and spread across the globe. If these people were missing that evolutionary trait, it is not surprising they are extinct (yes, there is a bit of humour in this statement, please don't flame me).

I also don't think it can be equated with navigating in unfamiliar environments. These are two completely different skills. Naviagtion is a "nice to have" which is not present in everyone equally, whereas identifying possible life threatening animals/objects is definitely not optional.

I think these people could clearly see the ships, but they probably did not know what they were or that they were human-related.

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BeachLife
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Drainfluid:
....I think these people could clearly see the ships, but they probably did not know what they were or that they were human-related.

I think that's well put. It probably took some study to figure things out. And I doubt even then they would understood some of the workings unless these were explained to them.

I have had a couple of instances in my life where I saw something that I had trouble processing. But, I didn't go blind to it, instead it took my mind some time to proces exactly what I was seeing. One case in particular that I can vividly recall; I was driving out of a state park in Indian after dark in a rainstorm. There was a man on a horse with a big billowing gray rain poncho on. I distinctly recall my initial reaction and confusion in the moment it took for my mind to process it into what it was.

I would guess that it's possible that something similar happened when the natives first saw a sailing ship. But this is something that ony takes moments to resolve and it's not blindness so much as confusion.

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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Jack Dragon, On Being a Dragon
Confessions of a Dragon's scribe
Diary of my Heart Surgery

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ringotaku
I Saw Three Shipments


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I don't understand how my car works. I can still see it.

This whole thing reeks of someone misinterpreting a phrase like "They didn't see it as a ship" as "They didn't see it". Half-thinkers are ruining human culture.

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Just when you think you have all the answers, I change the questions.

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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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quote:
Originally posted by ringotaku:
I don't understand how my car works. I can still see it.

This whole thing reeks of someone misinterpreting a phrase like "They didn't see it as a ship" as "They didn't see it". Half-thinkers are ruining human culture.

I can't tell, though, if you are getting my point. (I'm a "three quarters thinker," just a little better than a half thinker...)

I can "see" an automobile engine, but I don't perceive it the way a trained mechanic does. To me, it's just, y'know, a big cluster of thingies.

Someone untrained in surgery will just see "a bunch of guts."

Someone untrained in nautical rigging will just see "a tangle of ropes."

I remember the first time I ever toured a Navy Destroyer. I got lost. ("Marcus? He got lost in his own museum.") I'll bet that the experienced sailors reading this will laugh at the idea, as a Destroyer is actually a pretty small ship.

As Sherlock Holmes pointed out, seeing is not the same as perceiving.

I *think* that everyone here is in agreement with this, especially as I am taking care to disavow the strongest interpretation of the OP, which I think is just dumb. But I don't want the weak interpretation to be thrown out, as I think it is important to our understanding of the way the human mind processes visual data.

Silas

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Elwood
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I think the most natural tendency when encountering something one does not understand not to ignore it, but to continue studying and gazing at it until it makes some kind of sense. My mind notoriously plays tricks on me--too often for comfort, really. Recently, I "saw" an octopus in the office parking lot that turned out to be a cat. I didn't ignore it, I kept looking at it until the shape made more sense. I "saw" a person in an impossible positon on a highway that turned out to be a roadsign. In neither instance could I miss what was right in front of me or take my eyes off of it until I had a better idea of what I was looking at.

My guess is that something similar happened to the natives. They would have seen the boats but their minds may have interpreted them as something more familiar, but impossible. The next natural step is to look again and again until it becomes clear what it is.

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"If I didn't see it and didn't know it was a real news report, I wouldn't believe it. I mean, how nutty can you get?"-Pat Robertson Oct 26, 2006.

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Biggles
I Saw Three Shipments


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Three of us.. if you are agreed that native peoples (who had experience with big sea going canoe's that had sails & rudders) would have had no problems coming to terms with the early ships of European explorers.

I tried finding some pictures online of some of the big ocean going waka's (canoe) Maori people would have had at the time, but can't find the exact thing - but I know some of the biggest waka carrying 80+ men & having multiple sales may have been longer, faster & just as capable of long distance voyages than a carrack.

http://transitofvenus.auckland.ac.nz/wakavoyaging/imggal/waka_pg8.html

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forcadragons
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Perhaps they thought it was Somebody Else's Problem?

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Little Pink Pill
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I saw a special on language a while back where a snake was introduced into a group of monkeys that had never seen one before. They were befuddled and alarmed, but they immediately registered these emotions, and were instantly very much intent and focused on the new creature among them. They even started screaming a new "word" for the snake--well, at least one that the researchers had never heard them use before.

They most certainly did not comprehend what they were seeing as a "snake," but they were able to categorize it to some extent and recognize that it had the potential to be a predator. I would assume the natives peoples encountering European ships, clothing, weapons, etc, were at least that capable, and as the monkeys were quick to key in on a change in their familiar environment, so would a coastal tribe be quick to notice a change in the shape of their horizon.

This whole discussion reminds me of the thread about fetuses in the womb, and whether or not they are able to "feel" pain if they cannot recognize it as such. In both cases, I find the suggestion that there is no experience without comprehension rather absurd.

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The technical term is narcissism. You can't believe everything is your fault unless you also believe you're all powerful.--House

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musicgeek
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Little Pink Pill:
I saw a special on language a while back where a snake was introduced into a group of monkeys that had never seen one before. They were befuddled and alarmed, but they immediately registered these emotions, and were instantly very much intent and focused on the new creature among them. They even started screaming a new "word" for the snake--well, at least one that the researchers had never heard them use before.

This surprised the reasearchers, who had not forseen the outcome. Said an anonymous spokesperson, "The previous week, we had introduced both a badger and a mushroom, and the monkeys simply bounced up and down..."

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[God said] "I'll just sit back in the shade while everyone gets laid; that's what I call intelligent design." - Chris Smither, "Origin of the Species"

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Delta-V
Xboxing Day


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quote:
Originally posted by Biggles:
Three of us.. if you are agreed that native peoples (who had experience with big sea going canoe's that had sails & rudders) would have had no problems coming to terms with the early ships of European explorers.

Motion seconded...all in favor? Aye!

This arguement seems to hinge on the poor primative natives being unable to understand superior Western technology, and frankly, it smells slightly of racism. The Caribbean natives, like almost all island cultures, were experienced sailors. Columbus' ships were not large (the Santa Maria, the largest, was only 75 feet long), and weren't much longer than the largest native canoes. From what I can find out, the native canoes had a single foremast and triangular sail, but were capable of voyages of hundreds of miles. Other than the presence of the two extra masts and the higher decks, Columbus' ships were not all that different - it's not like Columbus pulled up in the USS Nimitz. There's no reason the natives would have been unable to see these tall, oddly-rigged ships.

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"My neighbor asked why anyone would need a car that can go 190 mph. If the answer isn't obvious, and explaination won't help." - Csabe Csere

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WildaBeast
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
quote:
Originally posted by ringotaku:
I don't understand how my car works. I can still see it.

This whole thing reeks of someone misinterpreting a phrase like "They didn't see it as a ship" as "They didn't see it". Half-thinkers are ruining human culture.

I can't tell, though, if you are getting my point. (I'm a "three quarters thinker," just a little better than a half thinker...)

I can "see" an automobile engine, but I don't perceive it the way a trained mechanic does. To me, it's just, y'know, a big cluster of thingies.

Someone untrained in surgery will just see "a bunch of guts."

Someone untrained in nautical rigging will just see "a tangle of ropes."

In addition, someone who is familiar with small boats, but has never seen a big ship before, might corretly interpret that it is a type of boat, but might not be able to correctly judge its size and distance, especially while looking out accross the ocean with no other frame of reference. He wouldn't be able to tell if it was a small boat closeby, or a bit one farther away.

I once experienced something like that. I could see an airplane shaped sillouette in the sky, but without any other details I had no idea whether it was a small plane flying at a relitively low altitude, or a big commercial jet higher up.

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"Unseasonable is an odd word to begin with. It sounds like it's describing something that it's impossible to sprinkle pepper on." -- Nonny

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Deansinger
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by forcadragons:
Perhaps they thought it was Somebody Else's Problem?

Nice Douglas Adams reference. I suppose it might work as an SEP field, but the first encounters were with island peoples. and I just can't imagine that they wouldn';t recognize aboat, even if it was bigger than their boats.

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It doesn't matter if you're wrong.. Be Wrong Loud!

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Pondicherry Pi
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by musicgeek:
quote:
Originally posted by Little Pink Pill:
I saw a special on language a while back where a snake was introduced into a group of monkeys that had never seen one before. They were befuddled and alarmed, but they immediately registered these emotions, and were instantly very much intent and focused on the new creature among them. They even started screaming a new "word" for the snake--well, at least one that the researchers had never heard them use before.

This surprised the reasearchers, who had not forseen the outcome. Said an anonymous spokesperson, "The previous week, we had introduced both a badger and a mushroom, and the monkeys simply bounced up and down..."
YOMANK, I do believe. [Smile]

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If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

What the NFBSK is Glurge? Or, a link to Snopes Lingo

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