Re: seeking refs on comparative work

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Thu, 1 Aug 1996 08:56:08 +0900

Robert Snower writes,

>You don't understand cultural relativism. The various cultures around the
>globe are like various flavors of ice cream. They are all equally
>delicious. Objectively, they are all equal. Objectively, one is as good as
>another. It is a matter of taste. The differences between them are
>strictly subjective. If you go and find analogies between them, you are
>getting objective. It means some have something in common the others do not
>have, and someone might ask why. That is dangerous, because a common
>feature implies a common origin. Now you are talking evolution. Evolution
>means higher and lower, hierarchy, and that means dominance, racism, and
>imperialism. Since evolution presupposes competition, you have got to
>embrace collectivism, and you have got to condemn the culture whose soul is
>competition, namely Western culture, or you are necessarily an evil man who
>endorses dominance, racism, and imperialism.

Now, I'm perfectly willing to see this as well-drawn and nicely pointed
characterization of a certain political point of view; in the same sense,
say, as a well-drawn political cartoon.

But, hey, "a common feature implies a common origin." Why did my biology
textbooks spend so much time trying to pound the difference between
"analogies" (similarities in form reflecting similar adaptations; whales
and fish, for example) and homologies (similarities in form reflecting
common origins; bones in the fins of whales and the wings of bats,
traceable to common mammalian origins) and warn about the dangers of
confusing one with the other?

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo