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Anthropology a Science? Statement Deepens a Rift
New York Times ^ | December 9, 2010 | Nicholas Wade

Posted on 12/10/2010 2:44:56 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife

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.

[snip]

Dr. Peregrine, who is at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, said in an interview that the dropping of the references to science “just blows the top off” the tensions between the two factions. “Even if the board goes back to the old wording, the cat’s out of the bag and is running around clawing up the furniture,” he said.

He attributed what he viewed as an attack on science to two influences within anthropology. One is that of so-called critical anthropologists, who see anthropology as an arm of colonialism and therefore something that should be done away with. The other is the postmodernist critique of the authority of science. “Much of this is like creationism in that it is based on the rejection of rational argument and thought,” he said.

Dr. Dominguez denied that critical anthropologists or postmodernist thinking had influenced the new statement. She said in an e-mail that she was aware that science-oriented anthropologists had from time to time expressed worry about and disapproval of their nonscientific colleagues. “Marginalization is never a welcome experience,” she said.

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: anthropology; colonialism; race; science
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This article reminded of a comment I heard years ago. It was said by a black woman during a TV group discussion, the genesis of which I don't recall.

She said: It's called anthropology when they show pictures of naked black people and pornography when they show pictures of naked white people.

1 posted on 12/10/2010 2:45:02 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

No real surprise here.

“Anthropology” hasn’t been a science in decades. It is a “science” on the same level as “sociology.”


2 posted on 12/10/2010 2:50:14 AM PST by WilliamHouston
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To: WilliamHouston
Seems psychiatry is having a shake-up too!

The End of Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Say it ain't so! "Could the NPI and DSM V debate reflect an important ethical conflict?"

Then of course there is the human caused global climate change........"science" meltdown.

As climate-change talks continue, lack of consensus spurs smaller-scale actions "CANCUN, MEXICO - In response to growing frustration that the U.N. climate negotiations are not producing real-world results, individual nations, states and business are cobbling together patchwork solutions to preserve forests, produce clean energy and scrub pollution from the air."


3 posted on 12/10/2010 2:58:52 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife (Allhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2122429/posts)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

I spent three years in a doctoral program in anthropology. Trust me; it’s NOT a science. No where near.


4 posted on 12/10/2010 3:01:50 AM PST by A_perfect_lady (Islam is as Islam does.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

I spent three years in a doctoral program in anthropology. Trust me; it’s NOT a science. No where near.


5 posted on 12/10/2010 3:01:57 AM PST by A_perfect_lady (Islam is as Islam does.)
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To: A_perfect_lady
I spent three years in a doctoral program in anthropology. Trust me; it’s NOT a science. No where near.

In a politically-correct world, it cannot be PERMITTED to be a science, because real science and real research would generate too many politically-incorrect findings.

6 posted on 12/10/2010 3:06:30 AM PST by PapaBear3625 ("It is only when we've lost everything, that we are free to do anything" -- Fight Club)
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To: PapaBear3625

Anything that can’t be measured or predicted by mathematics is not science—it is conjecture and hypothesis.


7 posted on 12/10/2010 3:11:38 AM PST by LexRex in TN ("A republic, if you can keep it.......")
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To: A_perfect_lady
Were you in cultural or other (such as physical)? I took a class from an archeologists who said, "Those cultural people have more similarities with the humanity faculties (philosophy, literature, and so on) than with me.
8 posted on 12/10/2010 3:15:02 AM PST by paudio (The differences between Clinton and 0bama? About a dozen of former Democratic Congressmen.)
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To: LexRex in TN
Anything that can’t be measured or predicted by mathematics is not science—it is conjecture and hypothesis.

Which is why anthropology cannot become a science. Imagine an actual science-based anthropologist conducting research into the genetic and ethnic basis of IQ. There have been a few, and they've been tarred and feathered in academia.

9 posted on 12/10/2010 3:16:31 AM PST by PapaBear3625 ("It is only when we've lost everything, that we are free to do anything" -- Fight Club)
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To: paudio
Were you in cultural or other (such as physical)? I took a class from an archeologists who said, "Those cultural people have more similarities with the humanity faculties (philosophy, literature, and so on) than with me.

Physical anthropology would be better off being absorbed into the biology and medical fields, and leave cultural anthro in the humanities depts.

10 posted on 12/10/2010 3:20:10 AM PST by PapaBear3625 ("It is only when we've lost everything, that we are free to do anything" -- Fight Club)
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To: paudio

Yes, I was in linguistics, but I had to take classes in all four branches: arch, bio, cultural, linguistic. It’s just a hodge-podge.


11 posted on 12/10/2010 3:20:26 AM PST by A_perfect_lady (Islam is as Islam does.)
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To: A_perfect_lady

Ah yeah... No doubt that linguistic anthropology IS part of what I call ‘mumbo-jumbo’... :-)


12 posted on 12/10/2010 3:22:42 AM PST by paudio (The differences between Clinton and 0bama? About a dozen of former Democratic Congressmen.)
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To: LexRex in TN
...it is conjecture and hypothesis

Like the single minded, never ending "scientific" "search for life" holy grail quest that holds NASA hostage.

If there is other life in the universe we will find it but the "search" for it has taken on religious fever, spread from the Mars science community into most of NASA (sort of a religion to debunk religion, if you will).

13 posted on 12/10/2010 3:23:26 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife (Allhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2122429/posts)
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To: LexRex in TN
Anything that can’t be measured or predicted by mathematics is not science—it is conjecture and hypothesis.

Some economic models are based on pure mathematical model, with assumptions that only hold for the model but not necessarily in reality, and use variables that practically difficult (if not impossible) to measure (with validity) so they would never been tested against any data. Sometimes I doubt whether they are (social) science.

14 posted on 12/10/2010 3:31:02 AM PST by paudio (The differences between Clinton and 0bama? About a dozen of former Democratic Congressmen.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

You can not be an “advocate” and a scientist period. Absurd to think otherwise. At last some are recognizing this. Best to stop the pretence. Let the scientists separate themselves from the societal manipulators.


15 posted on 12/10/2010 3:33:52 AM PST by JimSEA
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To: A_perfect_lady

“I spent three years in a doctoral program in anthropology”

And you survived it? Free Republic is a good source for political rehab!


16 posted on 12/10/2010 3:35:53 AM PST by mdmathis6 (True enlightenment occurs when one discovers just how much like God, one is NOT!)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

I thought that the crack about creationism was the telling thing here. Comparing it to a rejection of rational thought is not aligned with the Scientific Method, wherein one measures a hypothesis against evidence to draw conclusions. Thirty-odd years ago, I was an Anthro student, spent much time in our anthropology lab. Nice people, generally, as far as hanging out went, but science? More political than anything else. Aside, perhaps, from politically correct.


17 posted on 12/10/2010 3:36:43 AM PST by sayuncledave (A cruce salus)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

My 1978 Anthropology degree is a BA.


18 posted on 12/10/2010 3:55:57 AM PST by Southern Partisan
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To: WilliamHouston
“Anthropology” hasn’t been a science in decades. It is a “science” on the same level as “sociology.”

As usual, all the good comments are taken by the time I get here.

19 posted on 12/10/2010 4:11:02 AM PST by Graybeard58
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
She said: It's called anthropology when they show pictures of naked black people and pornography when they show pictures of naked white people.

Yep, I can't imagine 12-15 year old white girls being shown running around topless.

It's kiddie porn, no matter the color.

20 posted on 12/10/2010 4:14:09 AM PST by Graybeard58
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Liberals always considered themselves as the intellectually gifted condemned to walk amongst grunting squatting apes.

One of the few industrious ones called himself an “anthropologist” and not only provided himself a living at the publics’ expense but added yet another junk science to the Leftist agenda.

21 posted on 12/10/2010 4:16:33 AM PST by Happy Rain
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To: Graybeard58; Cincinatus' Wife
If you live in a culture where it's normal for 12-15 year old girls (Black or White) to run around topless, isn't it wrong for some old White guy to call it pornographic and judge them by his/our standards?

That culture may view you/us the way we view the total covering of Muslim women, huh?

22 posted on 12/10/2010 4:32:24 AM PST by blam
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Science?
Anthopologists are fixated on the sex lives of obscure human tribes living in prehistoric conditions. How is that science?
Science is physics, chemistry, mechanics, electricity, magnetism, optics, acoustics and anything else heavy in math.


23 posted on 12/10/2010 4:35:53 AM PST by BuffaloJack (The Recession is officially over. We are now into Obama's Depression.)
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To: PapaBear3625

Very true.


24 posted on 12/10/2010 4:36:03 AM PST by WilliamHouston
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To: JimSEA

We also have “advocates” of climate change.


25 posted on 12/10/2010 4:37:27 AM PST by WilliamHouston
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To: blam
[Excerpted from link below] ...It is part of the ethos of designer tribalism to foist all of one’s own attitudes and longings onto the apparently blank canvas of whatever primitive populace happens to be in vogue at the moment. To some extent, this is simply a matter of ignorance, as illustrated, for example, by Christopher Columbus’s report that the people he discovered “are very gentle, and know nothing of evil.” But the culture cultist supplements ignorance with heavy helpings of ideology and idealization. He looks at an exotic culture and, lo and behold, he finds himself looking into a flattering mirror. This is one reason that natives always seem to be non-smoking, vegetarian, sex-worshipping, drug-taking, eco-conscious, progressive-thinking pacifists—according, anyway, to the press releases distributed by the culture cultists.

Sandall speaks in this context of anthropology’s tendency to “normalize the primitive while treating civilization as aberrant.” Consider the Maoris. In contemporary New Zealand, Sandall notes, one finds “a miscellaneous army of teachers, academics, government servants, clergy, radical lawyers, progressive judges, journalists, and numerous other bien pensants promot[ing] the revival of traditional Maori culture even more fanatically than the Maori do themselves.” He cites an Anglican priest who rails against the “monocultural grip on all our institutions” that British colonialism supposedly still exerts (if only!), and cites various teachers who wish to return the education of Maori children to the tribes. In the background is a rose-tinted view of the Maoris as a peace-loving, ecologically conscious, spiritually delicate people who have been abused for two centuries by hard-bitten, materialistic Europeans.

In fact, the ecological record of the Maoris would not win any plaudits from the Sierra Club. Shortly after paddling up to New Zealand in their canoes eight-hundred years ago, the Maori indiscriminately burned huge swathes of forest. They also decimated the wildlife. Actually, “decimate” is far too weak a word. Within a short time, Sandall notes, some 30 percent of the bird life on New Zealand had become extinct thanks to the depredations of the Maoris. All twelve species of moa, for example, a large, flightless bird without natural predators before the Maori arrived, became extinct some six-hundred years ago. According to Sandall, it was perhaps the fastest megafaunal extinction ever recorded. Not that the Maori were particular about where they got their protein. Divided into numerous tribes, they were incessantly at war. Prisoners were routinely baked and eaten. But all of this is papered over. And even as the Maori past is systematically distorted and rewritten, so their future is jeopardized by government policies that, in the name of “bi-culturalism” and preserving tribal customs, dooms its beneficiaries to a life of second-class citizenship.

Sandall is at his best when puncturing over-inflated reputations. Many of his subjects, it is true, have been repeatedly punctured before. Somehow, though, the gas keeps seeping back in, so new puncturings are always in order. For example, it is pretty well known today that Margaret Mead’s book Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) should be filed under fiction, not anthropology. Mead herself acknowledged that in populating the South Seas with sexual libertines she was pushing speculation “to the limit of acceptability.” But Mead’s book, along with Ruth Benedict’s investigation of the pueblo life of the Zuni in Patterns of Culture (1934, another work of what Sandall calls “didactic semifiction”), was immensely influential. Both were part of the tsunami that legitimized “the bohemian counterculture of Greenwich Village,” first in the universities and then in the 1960s in the culture at large. We cannot be too frequently reminded that what was presented as anthropology is really a species of fantasy. [End Excerpt] The perils of designer tribalism

26 posted on 12/10/2010 4:42:06 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife (Allhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2122429/posts)
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To: blam
I suppose porn really is in the eye of the beholder because you have a point. Seeing semi naked young girls doesn't do a thing for me but I can see why pedophiles would be drawn to it (In our culture of course). However, in the culture where it exists, it may not be all that appealing to the perverts to whom it is an every day occasion.
27 posted on 12/10/2010 4:49:58 AM PST by Graybeard58
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To: BuffaloJack

See post #26.


28 posted on 12/10/2010 4:50:19 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife (Allhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2122429/posts)
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To: sayuncledave

That’s where National Geographic has landed — a politically correct rag with great photographers.


29 posted on 12/10/2010 4:52:21 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife (Allhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2122429/posts)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

This fight has been going on in anthropology for at least a century, and has lots of colorful permutations.

Two of my favorites are first, when Margaret Mead was totally suckered by the Samoans. It has long been a socialist wet dream to find people living “in the state of nature”, ever since the idea was thought up by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Such people would be happy, healthy, and very slutty, having no sexual inhibitions at all. The trouble is that such people do not exist, and have never existed.

Well, MM decided she could “objectively”, white coat and clipboard interview the Samoans about their sexuality, to see how inhibited they were. Yet the smiling, giggling Samoans confessed to such a totally uninhibited lifestyle, that MM finally thought she had discovered “the tribe in nature”. And of course, other socialists were thrilled to death.

In truth, the Samoans are just slightly more prudish than are most people, but they have a refined sense of humor, something also not found in “the state of nature.” In other words, they played her like a banjo. Only years later when some real anthropologist went to confirm her “research”, was it discovered that the Samoans had made a fool out of her.

The other case was the flip side to this, a man by the name of Carlos Castaneda, whose very name still elicits angry derision and contempt from some, but not all, anthropologists even today.

He began his career in earnest by trying to write his PhD thesis before it had been assigned to him, on the study of the use of hallucinogens by the Indians of the American southwest. This was quickly derailed when he found, or said he’d found, a much more interesting subject: a Yaqui-Yuma Indian man alleged to be a sorcerer and seer. A shaman, of which nothing was known of either him or his world.

His extensive writings about his encounter with this individual and his unheard of reality were huge popular bestselling books. They also generated enormous acrimony in the anthropological community.

This is because, if you look through the content, the books offer a devastating critique of the Margaret Mead school of anthropology. They assert that it is impossible for an anthropologist to objectively view others and to accurately interpret what they are doing, because they lack the inner knowledge, the world view, of their subjects.

This created a schism as profound as that between Newtonian and Quantum physicists.

Inside and outside of anthropology this caused an explosion of people wanting to learn the “hidden knowledge” of any number of cultures and peoples, in some cases before those people went extinct.

Castaneda also became a driving force behind the New Age movement, though he openly derided it, and wanted nothing to do with such people, because he provided a recipe, of sorts, of how an ordinary person could become superhuman.

At his peak, anthropologists were having fistfights over it all, creating mountains of bitter personal acrimony in their emotionally invested schools of thought.

Again, these are just two of the stories from the last 100 years or so.


30 posted on 12/10/2010 4:52:54 AM PST by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: LexRex in TN
Anything that can’t be measured or predicted by mathematics is not science—it is conjecture and hypothesis.

As a physicist I have to tell you that this is one of the most ignorant statements I have seen around here. Biology is certainly a science, but much cannot be measured and little can be predicted. Much of the most exciting work in chemistry is too complex for mathematical prediction.

31 posted on 12/10/2010 4:54:57 AM PST by AndyJackson
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy
$10K spiritual warrior experience in Sedona, AZ.....follow the money.

[Excerpt] Ray’s attorneys have said the deaths are tragic accidents, not criminal acts.

The hearing continued Wednesday with testimony from Mercer’s wife, two sweat lodge participants and a sheriff’s detective.

The Mercers were stationed outside sweat lodges that Ray led from 2007-2009, tending to heated rocks and sending them through a flap and into the center of the sweat lodge. Ray then would pour water of the rocks, sending steam rushing through the structure in a ceremony typically used by American Indians to cleanse the body.

Ted Mercer said he saw more and more people in distress over the years, including a man who thought he was having a heart attack, people whose eyes were rolled back, a woman who went into convulsions and others who couldn’t say who or where they were after exiting the sweat lodge.

“It always concerned me when people were coming out landing in the dirt face first and you would have to drag them away from the door,” he said.

Defense attorney Luis Li repeatedly flashed pictures on an overhead projector of participants smiling, being hosed off with water and flashing their biceps, asking if those were some of the same people that Mercer said were distressed.

“When they were in distress, we weren’t taking pictures, we were helping them,” Mercer said. “A lot of these people come around.”

Amayra Hamilton, the co-owner of the retreat where Ray held the sweat lodge ceremonies, testified that Ray wanted the lodges increasingly bigger and hotter over the years and shot down suggestions that separate ceremonies be conducted for larger groups. State lines up witnesses in sweat lodge deaths hearing

32 posted on 12/10/2010 5:05:45 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife (Allhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2122429/posts)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
"Not that the Maori were particular about where they got their protein. Divided into numerous tribes, they were incessantly at war. Prisoners were routinely baked and eaten. But all of this is papered over. And even as the Maori past is systematically distorted and rewritten, so their future is jeopardized by government policies that, in the name of “bi-culturalism” and preserving tribal customs, dooms its beneficiaries to a life of second-class citizenship."

My neighbor is from New Zealand and he says that the Maori ARE different.

Maori Men And Women From Different Homelands

Violence Is Blamed On 'Warrior Gene' In The Maoris

BTW, my neighbors favorite sports team is the All Blacks which have many Maoris as players.

33 posted on 12/10/2010 5:10:53 AM PST by blam
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To: PapaBear3625

In a politically-correct world, it cannot be PERMITTED to be a science, because real science and real research would generate too many politically-incorrect findings.


In a politically-correct world, Science cannot be PERMITTED, because real science and real research would generate too many politically-incorrect findings, leading humankind off-planet, to the stars, and to its destiny.


34 posted on 12/10/2010 5:12:23 AM PST by PIF (They came for me and mine .. now it is your turn..)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Great. Now let’s come clean about Sociology, Economics, Psychology, Climatology and anything with the word “Studies”.

They’re all in the grey area between Sciences and Humanities.
None are properly called sciences.


35 posted on 12/10/2010 5:12:29 AM PST by Vide
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To: LexRex in TN

I thought it was philosophy until it can be quantified and falsifiable.


36 posted on 12/10/2010 5:15:14 AM PST by 31R1O
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To: WilliamHouston

Wow...... post number two and sociology is outed.

Way to go Williamhouston!!


37 posted on 12/10/2010 5:17:23 AM PST by bert (K.E. N.P. N.C. D.E. +12 .....( History is a process, not an event ))
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To: Vide

A lot of people, with a lot of time on their hands who need funding. The shark eventually is jumped.

Even “Married with Children” eventually soured.


38 posted on 12/10/2010 5:17:52 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife (Allhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2122429/posts)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

-——(sort of a religion to debunk religion, if you will). -—

That is paranoid. The search is on because it is interesting and challenging to study such a wide ranging body of possibilities.

Certainty is your enemy, uncertainty is your friend


39 posted on 12/10/2010 5:22:13 AM PST by bert (K.E. N.P. N.C. D.E. +12 .....( History is a process, not an event ))
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To: bert
That is paranoid.

No bert. That is a theory based on observed evidence.

40 posted on 12/10/2010 5:24:03 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife (Allhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2122429/posts)
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To: AndyJackson

Which is the reason why physics is more scientific than either biology or chemistry.


41 posted on 12/10/2010 5:38:58 AM PST by BenKenobi (Obama's book of the month, Herman Melville's Killin' Whitey)
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To: AndyJackson
Biology is certainly a science, but much cannot be measured and little can be predicted.

I don't know about that. As a biochemist, I measure things all the time, and I seem to recall making all kinds of measurements throughout my biology classes. True, most life scientists don't engage in the heavy calculus like physicists do--for some reason, most of the biological functions that I am familiar can be nicely analyzed with logarithmic equations. But we certainly use the math and make predictions (otherwise, how could we do hypothesis-driven research?).

42 posted on 12/10/2010 6:09:33 AM PST by exDemMom (Now that I've finally accepted that I'm living a bad hair life, I'm more at peace with the world.)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

The problem, in my view, about the dominant modern approach of most anthropologists is that they make far too much, far too broad, far too detailed pronouncements about the meaning of what they find, for what is often the scanty, slim evidence that they actually find.


43 posted on 12/10/2010 10:29:12 AM PST by Wuli
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To: AndyJackson
I guess I'm in good company then--

If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion. Doth saith Robert Heinlein

44 posted on 12/10/2010 2:26:55 PM PST by LexRex in TN ("A republic, if you can keep it.......")
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To: Cincinatus' Wife

Excellent exerpting & comments too!


45 posted on 12/11/2010 8:06:17 AM PST by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: neverdem

Thank you kindly.


46 posted on 12/12/2010 5:09:42 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife (Allhttp://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2122429/posts)
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To: WilliamHouston

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2640914/posts

The Problem: Most scientists in this country are Democrats.

The Party of Irrationality has taken over “science”.


47 posted on 12/12/2010 7:53:24 AM PST by 1010RD (First Do No Harm)
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To: paudio

Economics is a social science. The attempt to mathify it and make it a science has made it dismal.


48 posted on 12/12/2010 7:56:54 AM PST by 1010RD (First Do No Harm)
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To: AndyJackson
Humm, if you cannot reduce a chemical reaction to math it does not exist.
49 posted on 12/12/2010 7:58:53 AM PST by mad_as_he$$ (V for Vendetta.)
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To: mad_as_he$$
This is shear and utter ignorance. Most of the interesting chemical reactions under study these days are complex biological molecules taht cannot be "reduced to math" on the world's biggest supercomputers -not in any sort of predictive fashion.

Individual chemical bonds are pretty well understood and mathematically modeled - though not perfectly or chemistry would be at and end as a science. Complex interactions are not, which is why chemistry and biochemistry remain sciences and not just branches of engineering.

50 posted on 12/12/2010 9:07:35 AM PST by AndyJackson
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