Sunday, 23 October 2011

Daniel Everett: The Pirahã, Faith, Language & Chomsky

Daniel Everett trained as a missionary in field linguistics, in 1977 he and his family moved to Brazil to study Portuguese before moving to a Pirahã village in the Amazon lowlands so he could translate the Bible into their language and convert them to Christianity. He encountered a people who had no creation myth of their own, living only in the present with no interest in the distant past or future. People had come before with this message, not impressed by fiction the Pirahã could not understand why he and others were telling them about a person the storytellers had neither met or heard speak themselves and asked Daniel to stop speaking about this Jesus person. By 1982 Dan was having serious doubts about his belief, by 1985 he had lost his faith.

Through his study of the Pirahã language Everett began to have doubts about another of his mentors ideas. He claims Pirahã is a black swan in Noam Chomsky's theory of universal grammar, in particular universal recursion which the Pirahã seemingly do not use. Chomsky refuses to further discuss Everett's work, calling him a charlatan.

The ZIP includes three interviews with Daniel Everett from Philosophy Bites, Dr. Kiki's Science Hour and Think Atheist in which he talks about his time with the Pirahã, Language and his abandonment of religious faith.

Upcoming Documentary in 2012