Swine Flu & Pareidolia

house_character_pig-roof13Chinese characters are often composed of abstractly stylized pictograms.  For instance, the word “Home” in Chinese is “Jia1” (click the link to see 43 other words with this sound–the number one means that sound is made with the first tone.).  Jia1 is called “ie” in Japanese.   The character is composed of two simpler symbols: Roof & Pig.

I made this picture to illustrate the the composition of the character for “home”.  Now I performed a retro-pareidolia to find pictures to match the Chinese characters, but trust me, the character for pig is a stylized version of a much more pig-like simple pictogram in ancient Chinese.

Atheists love talking about pareidolia as if the phenomena is a cognitive defect.  But I contend that seeing familiarity amidst noise is a useful memory trick and thus a desirable cognitive skill (although if is too frequently misused).  After all, it is pareidolia that let humans see mythic figures in the sky to help them memorize the stars to use for navigation and calendars.

Anyway, back to my story:  In ancient China, and still in rural china, families raise their animals below or near their house.  Thus a building with animals is typically a home.  And we know that many human viruses jump to us from places where animals live close to humans — as in China.

swineOr, indeed, I guess you don’t have to live with the animals to be affected by them.  Chinese people would not kiss a pig.  But Americans with all their public displays of affectionate behavior could be the culprit too (smile).  I am not trying to add to the Swine flu mania — and I trust it remains an exaggerated threat used by everyone from religious groups to governments to better themselves.   But all the talk of the flu reminded me about how the Chinese character for “Home” is a good mnemonic for flu vectors and this a good springboard to speak of pareidolia.  So there you go!  Hope someone enjoyed it.

Egyptian Government Actions

When disaster occurs, it is classic human behavior to rid yourself of outliers–we seek scapegoats.  History is replete with examples.  So it is not surprising that the Egypt government would use the Swine Flu issue to single out Christian pig farmers.  But we do know that human-animal close contact is a source of virus mutation and transmission of pandemic organisms.  And indeed, many successful public health improvements have been aimed at correcting certain cultural norms that allow encourage these close.  And pigs are one of the major vectors of the flu virus.  But though they may not be the major cause in this strain, Egypt’s action, though obviously dramatic and persecutory, is mildly understandable.


Filed under Conscilience, Events, Health, Linquistics, News, Philosophy & Religion, Science

4 responses to “Swine Flu & Pareidolia

  1. brucehood

    Interesting ideas. I think that this fits very much with sympathetic magical reasoning that ‘like affects like’ and was the basis for many herbal remedies. This was know as the law of correspondences and thought to reflect a divine order of design.
    Thanks Bruce — I updated the post !

  2. pinnythewu

    I think the “pig-roof” symbol was actually created by a woman. For her, the home was a place where she cleaned up after a piggish husband and her children.
    But dispite that small mistake, a very good post, very interesting.

  3. laughing uproariously !!! Well done pinny !

Please share your opinions!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s