dowsing, NPR, etc.

Centro de Estudios Regionales TJA (cerdet@UAJMS.BO)
Mon, 12 Dec 1994 16:16:03 PST

Centro de Estudios Regionales Tarija
Hello everyone,
Just a few notes on the phsycic-dowsing-intestinal-bungy
justice debate.
In our rush to decide whether or not we should be dowsing
or firewalking letos not forget that the origin of this whole
debate was the rather hokey sounding acertations of an unknown
phsycic. As we muse on about all of this, we ought not forget
that this kind of thing is going to keep on until we do
something about it (if we decide that this is justified). It
does seem pretty irresponsible of NPR to do a show about the
intestinal antics of ancient peoples based an unproven and
generally unaccepted practice. Even if we are willing to give
some space for apparently screwy techniques to prove
themselves as useful this does not mean that NPRs dog and pony
show was acceptable. It just doesnot seem reasonable to be
broadcasting this kind of thing when other important and
proven techniques could be explored. After all, non-
anthropologists are learning from what they hear about us and
we ought to be carefull to be sure the information getting out
about us is reasonable.
Before we loose sight of the origin of this whole thing we
ought to think strongly about the suggestion of writing NPR
and saying we are unhappy with the way archaeology was
represented. Even those of you who think dowsing works would
probably be less than thrilled to have your work represented
in that way.
Whether or not we want to take a tolerant relativist
approach to exploring the possibility that phsycic readings
might work has no relavence on the the responsability of NPRs
broadcast. I think we all know that that show did no service
to anthropology or the expansion of knowledge about it.
Phsycic reading is totally unproven, untested, and at this
point sounds pretty crazy. Not the kind of thing to base a
show on.
If we want to study this and see if it works, great,
there is no reason not to. However there is absolutely no
reason that this should have been broadcast until it is an
accepted part of archaeology (which I venture to guess is
pretty doubtfull).

Andrew Turner

FYI: Iom new to the list, but this is me, for those of you
who care to know. I have a B.A. in anthropology from the
University of Wisconsin. I wrote my senior thesis on the
importance of using cultural context in evaluating indigenous
technologies (in this case specifically raised fields in the
Lake Titicaca Basin of Peru and Bolivia). I am a practicing
anthropologist and I currently work in a small NGO in southern
Bolivia. My latest project is the study of coca use among the
Guaran!. I have various interests but the overall idea that
gets my blood pumping is change. I am interested in broad
trends like the begining of agriculture, cities, war, or just
about anything that you can say involves a group of people and
that somehow or other was "invented" in human history. How do
people make broad changes? What factors cause groups to
change the entire nature of their social organization? How
much of this process is accidental and how much is planned?
Of course this all goes on and on, but thatos the general
idea. I am also interested in studying sports from an
anthropological standpoint.