Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

Gerold Firl (
10 Jul 1995 18:40:52 -0700

In article <3ts9em$> (Todd Michel McComb) writes:
>In article <>,
>Gerold Firl <> wrote:

>>Lets see, what exactly were my grand generalizations?

>I believe we left off one of the more inane ones with your assertion
>that all animals "minimize energy" or some such thing.

I stated that all animals have a "built-in energy-expenditure-minimization
function". If you've ever walked in the wilderness, you will have passed
the trails used by animals. You might have noticed that they take the route
which allows them to travel with minimal energy expenditure. For every
motion we make, there is a large number of different muscle-activation
sequences which could be used to execute that motion. We use the most
energy-efficient one.

>>I was describing the effects of cultural blending, as travel and
>>communications technology brings all the cultures of earth into
>>simulataneous contact, with western culture acting as focus and
>>mediator of the interchange.

>And you were implying (correct me if I'm wrong) that western
>culture had some kind of moral imperative to that position.

You're wrong. I stated that european culture had become global because
of superior military technology. "Moral imperative"? Where did that come
from? That is a very strange interpretation.

>But that's only of secondary importance to the factual errors I
>wanted to point out.

I wish you would.

>As for the things I say, I am saying this: your posts are full of
>(at best) rampant speculation, and (at worse) counter-factual
>statements. You don't see me backtracking from that, now do you?

Not yet, but then I don't see any documentation either. Point out my
factual errors, by all means.

>>You deny that modern science has largely conquered disease.

>Yes I do. And I do not deny that some diseases have been conquered.

So, some diseases have been conquered, but disease hasn't been "largely"
conquered. Are you aware of the magnitude of disease-related deaths in the
past? You've heard of the epidemics of bubonic plague, of course, which
killed 1/4 to 1/3 of the population of europe in the 14th century. Similar
rates were experienced in other areas of the civilized world, such as china
and the middle east. But this is only the most famous of the great plagues
which have ravaged mankind throughout history, many others are known, and
undoubtedly many others besides took place.

Such plagues don't happen any more, but I guess that doesn't mean much to

Ever heard of malaria? World-wide, it has probably killed more people than
any other disease. It still kills people, in fact, but nothing like it used
to. Care to guess why?

In the middle ages, life expectancy was around 30 years. By 1900, it was up
in the 40's (in the west). At that time, tuberculosis was probably the
leading killer among adults; children were more at-risk from diptheria, and
perhaps dysentary. (This is from memory, so if I make any errors, I'd
appreciate it if you would point them out). Of course, hardly anyone dies
from tuberculosis or diptheria or dysentary anymore (at least, in places
that use western medicine); or, for that matter, leprosy, syphilis, polio,
smallpox, yellow fever, etc etc etc.

How would you describe that fact? Disease was once the primary cause of
death, particularly among children but also for adults. Now, only old
people are at serious risk of death from disease (AIDS is the ninth leading
cause of death in the US today, though it is much higher for some
subpopulations). Are you saying that disease has been "partially" conquered
then, instead of largely? That word, I don't think it means what you think
it means.

>A few salient points: did you know that the State of California
>recently instituted tuberculosis testing for teachers, due to an
>order of magnitude increase in the disease? How about the spread
>of hepatitis? Or maybe this: that Vietnam is now trying to
>"innoculate" all children for tuberculosis (by giving them the
>disease in small doses; it's not a benign strain, as no such thing
>exists), with very limited success? And, of course, everyone knows
>about the high profile diseases that have appeared in our lifetime.
>Or maybe you use "largely conquered" in some creative way.

I guess I do. Tuberculosis used to kill huge numbers of people. It doesn't
anymore. I call that "largely conquered".

Of course, there is still no cure for AIDS or the common cold. Nonetheless,
very few people get sick and die, in the industrialized world, until they
get very old. I don't know what you're looking for, but to me that means
that man has largely conquered disease. We haven't completely conquered it,
of course, which is why I used the term "largely".

You claimed that I was liberally sprinkling my posts with factual errors,
yet the only ones you can cite are a claim that animals try not to waste
energy and this disease issue. You're not convincing me.

>And you know the cause of everything, I'm sure. You're the one
>who is always proclaiming why people do what they do, based on a
>grand stack of miniscule evidence, your personal view of the world,
>wild speculation, pervasive category errors, general ignorance of
>the literature (I see you cited a "pop mythology" book in another
>thread; cute), and mostly your own smug feeling of superiority.

"Pop mythology"; you must refer to campbells _masks of god_. I find
campbell to be very knowledgible and extremely insightful. He reads
sanskrit, german, and french (at least), so he can access a large amount
of the original sources, and, in my opinion, is a very creative thinker as
well as a knowlegable scholar. On what basis do you adopt such a
contemptuous tone? Have you read _masks of god_? Have you read any of his
books? Or did you see him on television, perhaps?

And I make no claim to know to cause of everything. I'd like to, but I
don't - that is why I study, and that is why I like intelligent
discussions. Unfortunately, they're not too easy to find; yet, a discussion
with an ignoramous is often better than none at all. It still challenges me
to formulate my ideas in a cogent way. And while I don't mind wrestling
with the pigs once in a while, I'd really prefer an honest and respectful

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