Skip to comments.Anthropology A Science? The Experts Disagree
Posted on 12/09/2010 6:30:08 PM PST by Palter
Anthropologists have been thrown into turmoil about the nature and future of their profession after a decision by the American Anthropological Association at its recent annual meeting to strip the word science from a statement of its long-range plan.
The decision has reopened a long-simmering tension between researchers in science-based anthropological disciplines including archaeologists, physical anthropologists and some cultural anthropologists and members of the profession who study race, ethnicity and gender and see themselves as advocates for native peoples or human rights.
During the last 10 years the two factions have been through a phase of bitter tribal warfare after the more politically active group attacked work on the Yanomamo people of Venezuela and Brazil by Napoleon Chagnon, a science-oriented anthropologist, and James Neel, a medical geneticist who died in 2000. With the wounds of this conflict still fresh, many science-based anthropologists were dismayed to learn last month that the long-range plan of the association would no longer be to advance anthropology as a science but rather to focus on public understanding.
Until now, the associations long-range plan was to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects. The executive board revised this last month to say, The purposes of the association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects. This is followed by a list of anthropological subdisciplines that includes political research.
The word science has been excised from two other places in the revised statement.
The associations president, Virginia Dominguez of the University of Illinois, said in an e-mail that the word had been dropped because the board sought to include anthropologists who do not locate their work within the sciences, as well as those who do.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
public understanding. ping
Don’t forget the economists...every new development is “unexpected” by their experts according to most news reports.
..add physiologist and sociologists to the list.
Science is not a subject; it is a methodology.
Absolutely. Unquestionably the most profound and puissant of all branches of science.
“The decision has reopened a long-simmering tension between researchers in science-based anthropological disciplines including archaeologists, physical anthropologists and some cultural anthropologists and members of the profession who study race, ethnicity and gender and see themselves as advocates for native peoples or human rights.”
Neither branch is science-based. If they just stuck to observation they could call it science, but they have all sorts of ideas which can’t be tested, verified, or falsified.
IOW their work is intentionally biased. They're not scientists.
I think physical anthropology is scientific. Cultural anthropology may fade into sociology.
Just my opinion based on one course on anthropology in college and occasional reading.
Same goes for religion.
Problem is, most of society thinks they are both subjects.
The message I get from this is:
The experts can’t come to a consensus, so there are no real answers yet.
BUT, some of the experts are willing to give their opinion.
I think you can add string theory physics to that list since it proposes a model that cannot be tested because the necessary measurements would have to be on a scale less than Planck’s constant.
You could also add the global warming theorists to that list, whether it is meteorology, chemistry, physics, oceanology, etc.
Science is really in a sad condition and I don’t think many recognize how bad it really is. I resigned from the American Chemical Society years ago when they turned into a PC politically lobbying organization bent on getting government funding. They will support any pet cause, project, or theory that gets funding for members (and themselves).
“Science is really in a sad condition and I dont think many recognize how bad it really is. “
I noticed it and it broke my heart.
It is as much a science as history is.
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Bronze Age Forum
Excerpt, or Link only?
· Science topic · science keyword · Books/Literature topic · pages keyword ·
The Neandertal Enigma"Allan Wilson had always been described to me in superlatives, such as 'one of the real geniuses in science,' or 'the most arrogant guy I know...' [H]e apologized for putting me off so long and bluntly explained that the reason he had done so was that he did not trust me... 'The anthropological perspective on evolution is no longer valid; it has been overthrown. And yet the science writers who insist on talking to me come drenched in an anthropological perspective, and there is really no point in talking to them... It is paralytic. It prevents you from asking certain questions, and it forces you to ask others. The whole discipline invites you not to investigate.'
by James Shreeve
...A few months before my visit, Wilson had announced at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science... that the Neandertals were replaced because they could not speak... suggesting that a particular gene for language might have been carried in the mitochondria themselves. Since invading males would have been more likely to mate with resident females than the other way around, the offspring of sexual contact between the two groups would be 'linguistically deaf-mute,' like their Neandertal mothers. Thus disadvantaged, these 'village idiots' would face the same fate as the mothers: extinction. Only the language-endowed African lineage would continue. The language gene idea, and especially the unfortunate term 'village idiots,' elicited hoots of derision from the anti-Eve camp, and gave no joy to Wilson's colleagues." [pp 119-121]
Just my opinion based on one course on anthropology in college and occasional reading.
When I was in college we had a sociology prof who was widely mocked, mimicked and caricatured as saying. "Sociology is a science. Of course sociology is a science. Please say, 'Sociology is a science.' If you don't say 'Sociology is a science,' I'll cry!"
Still, there remains a demand for a legitimate field of study of cultures, kinship groups, mores and taboos, independent and untainted by PC toxins.
I have a degree in physical anthropology and it was all genetics and anatomy. I was not as interested in archaeology but those exams were also run like med school exams: stations with a minute to identify a piece of broken bone and tell which gender, age, etc.
Bullpoop that it’s not science!!
Speaking as one who has a degree in Anthropology (archaeology), I must say I agree.
Yes, I remember the Physical Anthro course I took. It was the hardest of the courses. I loved it but, being weak in science, I had to work really hard for the grade. Just like you, we also to determine gender, age, etc from skeletal remains. It was fascinating. I really would have loved to work in forensic anthropology.
I'm not a huge fan of the social anthropologists, but I don't think I'd go so far as to call them piss ants!
History has actual facts.
F’rinstance I can’t say that the Battle of Waterloo was faught in any other year other than 1815.
Anthropology, can pretty much make up whatever they want.
It seems to me that there is a factual basis to physical anthropology when they are dealing with fossils or DNA, but there is some guesswork because not everything can be explained--I don't think they have conclusively determined the relationships between all the pre-Homo sapiens hominid fossils, and at any time a new discovery can change what they think they know.
I consider that to be physiology, not so much anthropology.
It’s like a botanist knowing how plants relate to one another.
Outside of the physiology there’s not much of a factual basis, that I can see in anthropology, and a whole heap load of conjecture.
You can get that with History as well. Empirical history is only part of the overall discipline.
The understanding of behavior (human culture, relationships) can be scientific if the process follows the scientific method. (This is where you get “evidence-based” best practices is the phsycological and social fields.
A discrete influential element is introduced to affect behavioral changes. Results are documented by tracking selected indices measuring the behavioral change. The cause and effect relationship should be demonstrable by repeating the experiment/practice.
Yes, I think they are legitimate sciences.
Well just damn. Another prestigious institution taken over by the left. Political correctness strikes again.
It was all downhill after screeching, nasty feminists changed the UMass Anthropology Dept. to the UMass Department of Feminist Anthroplogy and ran a pogram against all male professors. Physical anthropology is indeed a hard science. Cultural anthropology has been debased to a voodoo science of far-left witch-doctory.
As an field archaeologist, I find your broad statement that archaeology isn’t science amusing. It is very important to use the same scientific methodology as a chemist or physicist. The field of anthropology itself has been hijacked in the 80s and 90s by lefty loons the same as when the Nazi’s in the 30s used it to promote and projects its agenda. Yes it does sully the reputation of the field but does not diminish the nature of the study. Conjecture and bias, just like in “climate change studies” does not change how the science is performed, just how the findings are displayed.
ok, so genetics isn’t science? nor is forensics? By finding a penny with the date of 1900 in an undisturbed site makes a pretty clear case that that penny was not dropped before 1900, giving a reference for human activity timeline. Now saying that that penny was used for religious purposes would be beyond conjecture unless it was at the bottom of a known religious shrine etc.
The same phenomenon has occured in other social sciences such as political science. Those of us who would rather study our subjects in a detached manner using the scientific method in search for impartial truth have been elbowed out by charlatans with a political agenda and end game having nothing to due with the search for objective truth. Anything that promotes political agendas isn’t science. What we have a a diminishing number of social scientists in search of truth and an increasing takeover of ALL sciences by socialists pretending to be scientists trying to impose an agenda. Lysenko is alive and well in academia and Stalin is smiling from hell.
Genetics insofar as it makes observations and predictions is a science.
Fr’instance, Mendelian inheritance is generally well understood.
Gene expression, not so much, but that’s a feature of learning, not an intrinsic problem with the discipline.
Mutations? We label them as random because we don’t understand the rules which they operate. That isn’t scientific. Neither is the 97 percent similarity with apes, neither is the label ‘junk’ dna, etc. There is so much that we don’t know about genetics at this point in time.
Historiography has always looked like another example to me.
“As an field archaeologist, I find your broad statement that archaeology isnt science amusing”
From the discussions on FR over the years it seems as if archaeology is not so much science as forensics.
There was a guy on FR (he got himself banned over the Evolution discussions) who studied fossils for a living. He claimed to use scientific methods but it was definitely not the same methods as in physics or chemistry where theories are proposed and tested under controlled conditions.
I didn’t know what that was, but I looked it up, and I agree with you.
It’s navel gazing.
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