Re: Different patriarchy Model

Gerold Firl (
9 Dec 1994 12:49:52 -0800

In article <> (Richard Foy) writes:
>In article <>,
>Gerold Firl <> wrote:

>>For anyone who isn't familiar with Harris, the argument runs something like
>>As human groups begin to compete with one another for resources, a
>>situation will be reached where the costs of waging "war" (meaning violent
>>attacks against other groups) will be more than compensated by the benefits
>>in terms of both short-term and long-term gains. The former consists of
>>booty and the spoils of war, with perhaps an additional benefit due to the
>>elimination of population surplus....

>It seems sto me thta applying Harris's analysis to most of the wars
>of the 20th century would not support his reasoning.
>Very few of these wars have resulted in net gains for either side.

True. Looking at culture as a complex adaptive system, which evolves as the
environment changes, it is expected that some kind of *lag* will exist
between environmental changes and cultural adaptation. The well-established
engineering discipline of control theory has characterised the trade-off
between response-time and stability in great detail; high-gain systems are
quick, but susceptible to instability. Conservatism is a stabilising force
which increases cultural stability, at the cost of introducing adaptive
lag. The european wars of the 20th century were fought using paradigms
which were already obsolete, but it took an amazing amount of carnage to
get that message across.

We can decry the pernicious influence of conservatism, particularly so at
the present time, when environmental rate-of-change is at unprecedented
levels, but think about the alternative, the carnage which is created by
cultural instability. Think of the irrational self-destruction of the
ghost-dance, executed by the US, or Russia, Germany or Japan. The costs of
adaptive lag seem minor in comparison.

Getting back to control theory, one of the best ways to minimise both lag
and instability is by a process called *feed-forward*, where the system
will look ahead to *predict* future needs, and implements corrective
measures ahead of time. This is where rational planning comes in. Of
course, planning only works if some kind of predictive ability exists.
Feed-forward based on inaccurate prediction can be worse than no
feed-forward at all, but if it is based on accurate prediction, it is very

This is where anthropology intersects with science in a way which has real
importance. I'm not talking about publications, tenure, careers, or even
the advance of knowledge, important though these may be, but importance in
terms of creating a global future of maximum benefit for all life on earth.
For man to design a rational plan for acheiving a stable, sustainable
future, anthropology must provide the predictive capability to ensure that
problems don't become catastrophes. I'm counting on each one of you,
y'hear? %^)

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf