Sumary of How disease has stimulated cultural change:
- In this way, rituals of giving and receiving were linked with beliefs about sickness, giving disease a central position in cultural interactions.
- In modern western society, by contrast, many people view infections only as biological threats to health and wellbeing rather than essential elements of belief and cultural change.
- It’s an intricate and underappreciated stimulus of cultural change.
- In some of our earliest recorded histories, laws surrounding disease were parts of everyday life.
- For example, among the Hittites, who saw the height of their power in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) over 3,000 years ago, incorrectly disposing of the remnants of a purification ritual used on a sick person was considered sorcery — which then, as in many cultures, was a serious offence.
- Purification, or the removal of substances considered unclean, has also played a central role in many of our most widespread religions, including Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam — and few, if any, modern-day scientists would dispute the importance of personal hygiene for staying healthy.
- This highlights the potential for conflict between rituals and scientifically informed behaviour — and creates the illusion that the two are distinct.
- Cultural mismatch Where the link between ritualistic practices and health benefits is broken, we might, following the economist Nathan Nunn, call behaviour that harms us “cultural mismatches”.