Re: The Real Place of Fuzziness in Anthropology

Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax (
Tue, 13 Aug 1996 19:10:13 -0800

What can I say? Angeline cannot admit that she misinterpreted me!

Note how after she accuses me of digressing from the topic of the newsgroup
which I am writing from, she carefully cuts out the section in which I
point out that my post is going (like other items in the thread) to

I think this speaks to this person's "character".

Angeline Kantola wrote:
> In article <>,
> Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax <> wrote:
> >Angeline Kantola wrote:
> >>
> >> First off: my intent was not to attack you personally, Joel. Nor was I
> >> making any reference at all to anthropology--what inspired me to write was
> >> your sentence, attributed below, that "[p]hysics and chemistry are
> >> currently undergoing a revolution thanks to the insights of chaos theory".
> >> I'm a practicing physical biochemist, and I can tell you that the
> >> scientific rank and file are hardly dragging out old data to be
> >> reinterpreted in the light of chaos theory.
> >
> >Maybe that's a problem. Over here in anthropology we are dragging
> >out some of that old data. But then, our data subjects don't just sit in
> >a test tube and gurgle. They have minds and can think for themselves.
> >They can also comment on our studies.
> And more power to you, and to them. Natural and social sciences differ in
> many ways. Perhaps you're better off publicly addressing the field you
> know best and keeping your less well founded opinions to yourself.
> >> What really presses my peeve button, though, is that lots of folks dwell
> >> in this funny gray area of belief about science: that they can discount
> >> whatever science they choose not to believe, or buttress whatever flaky
> >> philosophy they hold dear, by invoking the mysterious science of chaos
> >> theory. Chaos theory seems to be perceived as some 'wild card' that means
> >> anything, but anything, can happen. Ain't so, folks.
> >>
> >
> >All I note is that Ms. Science here keeps bringing this up when I have
> >made some clear statements that I believe to the contrary.
> And again, my intent was never to critique you, personally, for it!

But you go off and debate me anyways? I find this a bit hard to believe
with the mountain of evidence to the contrary you are providing me and
other readers of this group.

> Though *you* may be seeing this on sci.anthropology, which I hope is as
> intellectually rigorous as a sci.* group ought to be, *I'm* catching it on
> alt.pagan. There are lots of folks in this group who take exactly the
> approach described above, who take the Chaos Theory Fudge Factor to heart,
> and it was for them that I wrote my initial post.
> And I am catching it on sci.anthropology. Bully. We're even. Look
at your headers before you accuse me of being off-topic next time.

> >> Note that my paragraph above did not refer specifically to you.
> >
> >Yet you made it in response to something I said. This is nothing more
> >than bullshit, being used to cover up the fact that you have but recently
> >been a boor. Unlike you, I /admit/ that I mean much of this personally
> >-- I am not about to couch what I am saying behind some alabaster facade
> >of academic respectability.
> Clearly you mean much of this personally; your response to my post was
> rude specifically to me, and you've taken to calling me names. Very
> professional.

Never claimed to be saying this as a professional. You still don't get
it, do you?

> >> >Pardon me, but the fact that scientists are no longer just rejecting
> >> >data which is inconsistent with the conclusions they want to find and
> >> >for the first time trying to explain all the data strikes me as a revolution.
> >>
> >> Boy, you really don't know anything about how science works, do you?
> >
> >Not at all personal eh?
> Well, the above comment shows a lack of familiarity with the field. What
> more can I say?

What can I say? She says it and she thinks it is true. Never mind how much
testing is done. Angeline is still going to believe that she is right.

> >What would you have done in high school, I ask you, should you have
> >heated your little test tube mercuric oxide for the hour of the class
> >and found it still a cinnamon powder? In the meantime, your classmates
> >were playing with their shiney little balls of mercury? What do you
> >think would have gone on your report?
> I'd probably have reported it to OSHA or the like; mercury is dangerous
> shit, and I sure don't want to be breathing its vapors. 'Specially not in
> a typically pathetically equipped high school science lab. But we digress.
> I came in to sound some alarm bells about popular uses of chaos theory,
> not get into an argument ao

You came in with all guns blazing. All you have to do is say "Well, I can
see how you might have taken it that way and I am sorry. I should have
said...." Then a discussion might have ensued.

And now you are plain being silly and digressive from the issue I have
raised. Must be uncomfortable indeed.

> > I've known plenty of people
> >who have rewritten the little lab report pretending that it did
> >"what it was supposed to do". Otherwise, they were left to explain
> >why it didn't do what it was supposed to do.
> These your anthropologist friends? Just wondering. (Sorry, sci.anthro
> folks, he's just too good a straight man.)

Nothing personal? Ha!

Anyways, yes. I've seen it done in anthropology, physics, biology, and a
few other places. Surely you can't believe that the mere presence of an
ethic is going to keep people from doing this! If you do, I have a diamond
mine in my backyard I can sell you.

> >Again you are missing the point: what if the twins are raised in different
> >environments? Do you think that starving one twin while young and letting
> >the other live like a prince is going to have any effect?
> >
> >As you agree, these are the same genotype. But is the phenotype going to
> >turn out the same? Do you believe in some "psychic connection" between
> >the twins? Do you believe that even under drastically different conditions
> >the twins are going to turn out looking exactly alike?
> >
> >I hope not!
> No, not at all; but neither do we need to invoke chaos theory. I'll bet
> you and I can guess what some of those differences would be between a
> poverty-stricken, halfstarved twin and his cornfed brother, and I'll bet
> medical science could give us some great explanations.

Again, this woman is either too proud or too stupid to see that I am not
in the class of people she so obviously detests. She claims she doesn't
mean me, but little Angeline, Goddess's Gift to the Benighted, keeps
debating me. And if you don't see the relevance of chaos theory to this example,
well, you don't understand chaos theory. It means looking at things along a
continuum rather than trying to box them.

> I've said my piece, and have no interest in getting into it further with
> you, Joel.

Oh really? Made a big enough fool of yourself?

> Cheers,
> Angie

Fond Regards,


___ ___
/\ _|_ /\ Joel and Lynn GAzis-SAx
/ /\_|_/\ \
/ / /\|/\ \ \
\ \ \/|\/ / / "If we try to flee from our human condition into
\ \/_|_\/ / the computer, we only meet ourselves there."
\/__|__\/ William Barrett