Re: The Real Place of Fuzziness in Anthropology

Len Piotrowski (
Wed, 14 Aug 1996 23:27:37 GMT

In article <> Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax <> writes:


>Taking this out of alt.pagan.

Oh, what a relief ...

>Len Piotrowski wrote:

>> >Suppose we take two genetically identical rats, keeping one in the lab and
>> >releasing one (with a chip implanted so we can find it again) into the
>> >wild.
>> Your chip has altered your initial conditions already!

>Eeeep! You're right. Well, we'll plant an identical chip in the one in the lab,

Hey, there is no identity, because of Chaos theory, duh!

>> > In a year, we bring both the rats back to a central point and do
>> >all the scientific measurements on them.
>> Each of your measurements have violated an absolute notion of comparability.

>Not any more! I put a chip in the lab rat!

Oh, now your chip is full of scientific instruments that measure - everything!
How wonderful those machines of yours! Each one a class onto itself!

>> > What do we get? Two identical
>> >rats?
>> They are still genetically identical. What's changed?

>That's where the notion of phenotype comes into play, my friend.

Funny, you don't act like my friend. In fact, you're not playing fair at all!
Are they or are they not identical at some level? At least I know at the level
of your identical chip they're identical, neh?

>Didn't they teach you about those?

Who "they?" "Those" what? Me wonder?

>> >At the level of the genes, yes, but beyond that level, these same
>> >building blocks have created some markedly different though similar animals.
>> Beyond that level you haven't a clue to what's going on.

>No, I would say that you haven't a clue if you don't understand what
>I am getting at.

I understand what you're getting at. I just happen to think it tells us
nothing of significance. Your mileage apparently varies, of course.

>You are looking only at the level of DNA and declaring
>the rats identical.

Most mistaken!

>However, when we look at the sum total of the animals,
>we will find differences in weight, body structure, and probably intelligence.

You have no idea what you'll find or how any possible similarities or
differences arose. I don't need Chaos Theory to aid me to that conclusion!

>The outdoor rat will have developed patterns of behavior not shown by the
>rat who stayed in the lab.

Boggles, eh! Chaos Theory tells you all that?

>This is what is meant by /phenotype/.

Phenotype is patterned behavior? Start now, and you may avoid some real fire.

>> >To say that chaos theory means anything goes is quite wrong and a common
>> >misunderstanding [gratuitous snub snipped].
>> If you're planning to employ it as an explanation for the above mental
>> experiment, you've as much as stated so, since you have no idea what
>> transpired over the year in which the rats were beyond your perception. To
>> ask of Chaos Theory to lead you to an understanding of the resultant
>> variations, and to conclude triumphantly the potential of Chaos Theory to
>> account for other variations, is just plain fool-hardy.

>*rolls his eyes*

... craps, you loose. Just jokin'. ; )

>> >[rehash about clones, etc., snipped]
>> So what?

>Genotype vs. phenotype. Look up the word phenotype. It will be a useful
>addition to your vocabulary.

I guess we can't all be wizards, eh Joel? I'll try and keep up from now on.

>> >
>> >That is what chaos theory teaches.
>> Some lesson. I'll pass on the advanced course, thanks.
>> >> Just my personal take on the subject.
>> >>
>> >No problem. It was a more mature and honest reaction that those
>> >coming from certain so-called professionals.
>> Thanks for the magnanimous evaluation.
>> Cheers,
>> --Lenny__

>I can't say that I am much impressed with your response. You still
>don't get the point.

Believe me I've got it, I just dropped it like a bad smell.

>Here's another take on the argument, using examples which normal
>people might be able to understand.

I guess that leaves me out - can't even get that phenotype thingy! Can't wait
though - I love your presentation style. Kinda' like Gandhi, Yahweh, and Tau
all rolled into one.

>The main argument for classification is that it makes life easier
>for the observer.

Extraordinary! Thought it had something to do with systematics of problem
solving. Sheesh, shows me where to go!

>By using a scientific system soundly based on
>classification, we have a tool at our disposal which is /predictive
>and useful/.

Cool! I'm sure Dunnell will love to hear about that! Have you explained his
fuzzy mistake to him lately?

>But by its very nature, there are going to be a fair number of cases
>that come up which must be intellectually sheared down to fit in
>the classifications.

Oh, oh, oh, you're going to fast! The nature of classification. Shearing those
classifications. It's starting to get fuzzy again ...

>Or else, the classification system must be
>changed to fit the new cases.

Classes must fit nature? Or else ... what? Can't classify anything unnatural,
like - culture, eh? Too fuzzy!

> Or else, as often happens, the
>cases are dropped in a little "unexplainable" pile and ignored.

How convenient! Explains the invention of the trash can. You know, all those
messy little piles. See, I knew you'd come up with something interesting for
Chaos Theory to explain. I'm so happy for you ...

>(Chaos theory got its start when some people tried to observe some
>of the cases in the ignored pile.)

... no, you're kidding!

>The map is not the territory as Korsinski (sp.) tells us.

... no kidding!

> Having the hill
>on the map is not the same as walking on it.

... no kidding!

> And some maps are more useful
>than others.

... no kidding!

>Topographic maps were an improvement on earlier maps because
>they simulated undulations on the earth's surface. But they were still
>not the same as the earth's surface. Period. No amount of mental exercise
>can make them so.

... OKay, I'll stop exercising!

>By their very nature, classificatory systems are both useful and misleading.

Wait! What happened to the maps?

>They are useful because they can help us to predict things that will happen
>-- over a short term.

So, all science has to do is classify - everything, right?

>Beyond a certain period, the accuracy of our predictions
>will decrease.

... something has taken a nose dive before we've even reached that point
(period)! I think it's common sense.

>Beyond that certain period, scientists can be only marginally
>better than psychics in predicting /precise/ events.

Which one was that, now? The Period of Perfect Classification of

>And thus one of the
>promises of classificatory systems is defeated by itself and that is the
>promise that some day we will be able to predict anything.

So sad! Couldn't we put a puppy in this story somewhere?

> Beyond us will
>always be that point where our ability to predict dramatically declines.

Beyond our period, or within our phenotype? I'm a little fuzzy on that.

>Perhaps we can push it out a little farther. But how far?

As far as the mind can bungle.

>The struggle of science is always to make a better model of the universe.

Plastic parts help. But don't spill glue on those classes.

>closer we can get to what is actually out there, the better.

Don't get too close, you'll roll off that period.

> We live in
>a seemingly orderly universe based on some chaotic arrangements at the heart
>of things.

Huh! Don't tell me you've classified everything already. Thought we had some
time left!

>Our building blocks, such as DNA, are themselves constructed on
>chaotic systems.

Don't worry. You'll get over it.

> Yet in this chaos, things come together and we can perceive
>flow and objects.

Chaos parts, and the Heavens were separated from the Earth. So ended the First

>They fit well enough together to produce a human mind.

... Amen!

>yet the order of the world is not such that the universe is nothing more than
>a sugarcube castle. The oceans of the world are a far better analogy in that
>they are always moving, churning, surging.

The World is the Ocean - I begin to see the Flow and Objects! My eyes are

>And as for the creatures in the ocean,
>where does the creature begin and the ocean end?

Uh, - at the period?

> With larger organisms, such
>as sharks, the answer seems easy, but what about plankton -- those tiny
>bodies in the sea which become the sea?

... and the sea becomes them, yea!

>Consider the possibility of less
>certain boundaries and you will begin to see what I mean.

The boundary between sanity and kookdom, yea!

>Again, let us return to the issue of race in anthropology.

Huh! Now I'm confused ... yea!

>On what basis
>is the classification made?

Nature? Sugarcube castles?

> Where do we stop identifying different races.

The Ocean? The Period?

>The system of classification demands exact factors be called into account,
>but if we follow its logic and keep noting difference upon difference,
>we will come up with over five billion races of one.

S M Ryan's "sets whose shortest decision procedure is the
total enumeration of their elements." What a small world we live in!

>Where do you stop? Who decides?

The periodic ocean of phenotypic plankton races! Chaos Decides!

>Could there be a better model out there?

Oh I dunno'! Do you care?

>Chaos theory might be the start
>of that better model.

Yep, I know just what you mean. (Yawn!)

>Those of us with social science backgrounds have
>seen our most cherished beliefs torn to pieces by a single fact.

Darned, pesky facts. Can't seem to get rid of 'em!

>human society is maddening.

Certainly, understanding this post is ...

>Our subjects talk back, they tell us when they
>think we are wrong about them.

Some of us can't seem to hear the true message!

>This perspective puts a different light
>on the ability of Science to know all.

How true! Next to this explication, why even Sea Peoples are helpless midgets.

Cheers ol' plankton bro,


"If you can't remember what mnemonic means, you've got a problem."
- perlstyle