Biological = trivial?

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Thu, 18 Jul 1996 10:37:20 -0400

In message <> Adrian Tanner writes:

> [...] even if ritual's universality should eventually turn out
> to be an established fact, we have thereby condemned ourselves from the
> start to studying something that, since universal, must be some aspect of a
> biological need, and for that reason (and here I venture a totally personal
> view which is probably simply a matter of aesthetic taste) uninteresting, if
> not trivial.

I could not disagree more. To me, the most exciting aspect of both anthropology
(in general) and linguistics (in particular) is the attempt to understand the
interaction between what is universal (given by biology) and how that
universality is realized in particular contexts (social, environmental). To
borrow from my other post this morning, this is what makes anthropology unique
among the "social sciences", and I really hate to see us lose that uniqueness.

Of course, we all have to focus far more narrowly than in Boas and Sapir's day;
there's just too much out there to keep up on. But to dismiss the biological
component of H. sapiens as "uninteresting" or "trivial" is a shame, in my

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida