Re: Social evolution of hominids

Thomas Clarke (
16 Jan 1997 15:09:11 GMT

In article <> Phillip Bigelow <> writes:
>Thomas Clarke wrote:

>> In article <> (Phil
>> Nicholls) writes:

>> >Speculation is not bad, ... but there is a great deal more to physical
>> >anthropology than the wild speculation and just-so stories.
>> >Unfortunately, this aspect of physical anthropology is not as "sexy" and
>> >therefore of less interest to the amateurs and dilatants.

>Tom Clarke wrote:
>> Don't forget, though, that it is the amateurs and dilletantes who
>> pay the bill in the form of taxes and foundation grants.

>Yes, but the average amatuer or dilletante (fortunately) doesn't
>have the expertise to control the *flow* of the research funds.
>If the average amatuer or dilletante did have such control,
>there would be a lot more waste than there is now.
>Can you say "pseudo-science-funding"? Sure, I knew you could.

Phil. Phil. I'm sure you knew that I was not suggesting that
amateurs and dilletantes control the flow of research funds.

My point was that a good paleoanthropologist has to be an entertainer,
a showman, in order to generate interest and enthusiasm among the
general population for his/her science so that the appropriators of
funding (lawyer's in Congress?) are sure to listen to their staffers
when they suggest that the amount given to NSF for PA be increased
(or maintained in today's climate).

>> >It is, however, the meat and potatoes of the American Journal of
>> >Physical Anthropology and the Journal of Human Evolution.
>> >Speculations and "grand theories" are the desserts.

>> But those desserts pay the bills.

>Then how do you explain the longevity of all of these boring and
>stodgy professional societies? If they aren't "sexy"-enough to pique
>the interest of the average non-scientist taxpayer, then how on
>earth have these professional societies stayed solvent?
>Why is the _American Journal of Physical Anthropology_ still
>being published?

Professional societies are maintained by the dues of members, conference
fees etc. Maybe some grants. Where do the dues etc come from?
The members salaries (maybe if they have a benevolent employer from
the employer). Why do the members have salaries? If they are
academic because students take their courses. If they are lucky
enough to be purely research because they succeed in convincing some
funder of the value of their science - value not just to the discipline
but to society as a whole. Why do student's take courses; why do
funders think PA is valuable to society? Because of the desserts.
Because it is sexy. Because it helps them understand, in a general
way, their place in the universe.

>> So don't short change the
>> dessert. You don't have to eat it if you don't like to,
>> but if you don't serve it, the customers will stop coming to
>> your restaurant.

>The professional journals don't write for the average amatuer
>(taxpayer) audience, so your point is somewhat irrelevant.
>Fiscally, the average amateur is in the dark when it comes to
>science funding. I am quite contented and am more than a little
>relieved in knowing this. For instance, how many more
>(amatuer-funded) trips to Mt. Ararat have to be made to
>find Noah's Ark? I think we could have stopped after trip
>number "0". I am just thankful that N.S.F. had nothing to
>do with funding these pseudo-science vacation trips.

If the average taxpayer decided that PA was irrelevant - perhaps
due to a resurgance in creationism (god forbid, pun intended),
then professional journals and NSF managers would not be relevant.
There would be no funds for them to control.
Ask the particle physicists. They lost the superconducting super
collider (SSC). They put in a valiant effort with books like
"The God Particle", but after the end of the cold war, the general
population and its representatives decided there was no benefit
in research that might, just might, result in some new weapon -
not when existing weapons were being destroyed and were overkill anyway.

What do you mean by being content about amateurs being "in the dark"?
Keep them in the dark and PA will drop off the radar screens of those
with the purse strings. Admittedly mount Ararat expiditions are bad
science, but they are good business - they do get funded. Might be
something to learn about funding from how the Ark seekers do it.

Like it or not you are part of show business. Just as a
director/producer must learn how to get his art funded by producing
something that the public will buy, you must learn to fund your
science by intriguing the public with the discoveries of PA.

Tom Clarke