KiltedBastich: This is a big issue in the social sciences. Many of them have no exposure to the natural sciences, and so when studying social phenomena assume exclusively social influences. Given that the universe invariable ignores our ideological boundaries, their preconceptions are a big problem.Sociobiological explanations are gaining more and more tractions, helped along by work coming out of neuropsychology, but there is still a strong bias against it. Which is ironic, because you'd think if anyone would be aware of the way inherent social biases could distort your understanding of the world around you, it would be social scientists./background in both social and natural sciences//plus some philosophy of science for fun///huge nerd and proud of it
Arkanaut: Do anthropologists have a Prime Directive that they have to follow or anything like that?
Because People in power are Stupid: What is your definition of culture? You seem to stress a quantitative approach over qualitative given your statements about what the universe ignores.
KiltedBastich: Arkanaut: Do anthropologists have a Prime Directive that they have to follow or anything like that?Yeah, actually, they pretty much do. There are some hardcore ethical restrictions on what you can and can't do, and if you ignore them, your career is pretty much farked. The rep you get means you can end up blacklisted - much like they tried to do to Chagnon in TFA. It's bad enough when the allegations are false and you can prove it. If they are true and you get found out, forget it, you're done with the social sciences. No one will work with you for fear of their rep getting similarly trashed, you won't get hired by anything remotely resembling a reputable research group, and forget about getting funding.Basically "Heretic leper unclean!!" - and actually pretty much deserved. Ethical violations in anthropology means you farked with their culture while you were studying them. You can screw over an entire people for generations to come that way, as anthropologists and sociologists have learned the hard way in the past to their chagrin.
Tiberius Gracchus: Well they do exist - but they're in turmoil right now (and have been for a while). Things like how should anthropologists interact with the Govt during wartime - should they educate soldiers (and help prevent misunderstandings) or refuse to participate in overtly political interference (esp. since some of the advice will be used to kill people).Simultaneously there's been a pushback against treating people like animals in the savannah (you're not filming a lion documentary, that's a person) and trying to determine exactly what your ethical obligations are when observing a tragedy you can prevent. Are anthropologists advocates, passive observers, or what? Scheper-Hughes was tossed out of the AAAs for intervening in an execution in the early 90s (late 80s?) but now her sect is in power saying anthropologists are advocates first and researchers second.Into this mix is the ongoing debate of "nature and nurture" and the exact ratio of culture to biology in human behavior - and of course the position of biological anthropologists in traditionally cultural areas of research. (This debate flared up a couple years ago with the American Anthropological Association executive board removing the word "Science" from their mission statement (replacing it with an emphasis on advocacy) resulting in many of the remaining archaeologists from leaving the AAAs).It's in that environment that you have Chagnon (we'll just call him polarizing at minimum)- wrapping himself in the pro-science argument, and painting his opponents as anti-science fluff heads (it is ridiculous that he managed to paint Marshall Sahlins as anti-science) - as if believing his arguments to be overly-essentialistic makes you anti-science in anthropology.
Arkanaut: KiltedBastich: neuropsychology[tangent]I bet you'd annoy a lot of people if you pronounced that word "nu-ROP-si-CALL-o-jee".[/tangent]
everlastinggobstopper: I'm enjoying the discussion here, KiltedBastich and Tiberius Gracchus.Chagnon's work has been used as a sounding board by the anthropological community at large for decades, with the shifts in anthropological theory, methods, and ethics reflected in how people perceive his work.Whether it's a broader debate about how scientific cultural anthropologists should strive to be, the collaboration between anthropologists and government agencies, or the nature-nurture debate, Chagnon's work keeps being argued as a case example - usually incorrectly. As the author implies in the article, the reactions to Chagnon's work say a lot more about the state of anthropology as a discipline than Chagnon's research itself. It's not just the Yanomamo who have axes to grind.I frankly have a bit of Chagnon fatigue these days, and would much rather see the anthropological community discuss the issues as issues, instead of couching them in 30 year old research.I'm one of the archaeologists who abandoned the AAA when they dropped science from their mission statement. The steady march of cultural anthropology toward a more postmodern approach is probably our discipline's most pressing problem. I suspect that the pendulum will swing back toward the center soon, but not without hurting our reputation in the mean time.
Agarista: I loved Fierce People.One of those I can re-read and re-read.
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