View Full Version : Religion: Harry Potter & Flocking

James Brody
October 22nd, 2005, 12:08 PM
Written 8/9/05

Why do some kids get carpal tunnel injuries from reading Harry Potter? Why do kids and mothers make lines to get the latest volume? Why does Barnes & Noble stay open until midnight for the first day of sale for JK Rowling's latest? (And why didn't I meet her when she was a poor and unknown barmaid!!!)

Geoff Miller suggested that adaptations are easy to learn, fun to do, and performed by every normal human. Such things emerge in children on school yards and form cultures. A bud sprouts at puberty as muscles, voices, hair, and mental quickness advertise our intense new interest in the shimmies and shapes of people whom we hated only a week ago. Catch a smile from a pretty girl and stay awake for a week!

The Harry Potter fascination, however, occurs earlier than sex and it's a flocking thing.

Remote ancestors to humans flocked even before they got laid. Bacteria still congregate or scatter in relation to food and toxins. Helpless hairless toothless overly neuroned primates cling to each other for reasons first discovered by bacteria three billion years ago and by planets eleven billion before that. And we humans combat with spells our favorite nightmares, chimeras of eyes, teeth, claws, and flying demons, all reminders of when we were very small. Enlarge the faces of insects and discover Halloween masks! We still clump, huddle, and shiver as one in the dark but tomorrow we chant and strut with our shivering partners from the night before.

The flock has payoffs. (Even nightmares have payoffs when they reinforce attachment.) Flocks give us partners, defenders, food, drink, and guidance for long trips. The communal memory is greater than that of any single member. I doubt that a NASCAR driver, even if prepubescent but without special powers, would pull fans away from Harry Potter. Also, I expect the theologians to dislike him and that dolphins and whales have bad dreams about insects...

Conway Morris, Simon (2003) Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Copyright 2005, James Brody, all rights reserved.