Re: This used to be on disease and immunity
Tue, 09 Jul 1996 09:41:58 -0700

Eric Brunner wrote:

> Feel free to post anything you want, now that you've established the value
> you place on definitions of such key athropological terms as domesticatants,
> cultigens and so forth. I'm sure you'll find subscribers who, like yourself,
> find a dictionary an acceptable substitute for the literature. I'm still
> a giggle over paleolithic. All very Humpty Dumptyesque.

As no anthropological defintion has been provided, I can hardly have
established the value I place on it.

My response was to what I thought was a rhetorical request for animals
and plants domesticated after c.16. No defintion for domestication was
provided other than to contrast it with tame. So, I took these two
general terms and compared and contrasted them to identify my own
general defintion so that the person I was responding to would know on
what basis my list was derived. If that person wanted to apply a more
specific defintion (and he did), I could then limit my list to those
animals which fell into those limits (I did).

None of my anthropological books define domestication, there has yet to
be an agreement in this forum for such a defintion, the definition in my
biology and animal technology texts correspond with that found in the
dictionary, only more technical. None of my texts establish a difference
between domestic and tame. My purpose then was to identify what I
percieve as the distinction between tame and domesticated.

What I'm trying to establish here is that there is a fundamental
difference in process between looking up the anthropological defintion
to a term and establishing terms to clarify ones comments (successful or
not). Terms to concepts is not the same as concepts to terms.

> : I have tried to make it clear that I am not a professional anthropologist,

> This was self-evident.

> : such my vocabulary in this field is probably quite limited. However, this
> : does not mean that I cannot make an effort to express myself clearly.

> A sucessful effort would be of different value than an effort.

Bravo! You have shown yourself to be a professional at insults. How
about a little bit of scientific professionalism?

> : If you can suggest better terms for the meaning which I've tried to present,
> : then by all means share them. Until then, Merriam-Webster seems just as
> : good a place to find a match between word and concept as any other reference.

> This would appear to be a poor use of my time, given your attachment to the
> sources of your preferences. Generalized, your position appears to be that
> for each term of specialist meaning, dictionary meaning takes precidence
> until someone manages to convince you of the limitations of that meaning.

It is poor use of your time to suggest useful alternatives, but good use
of your time to respond with insults and unfounded accusations? I
suppose in a way you are correct. It is certainly easier to insult than
to develop a intelligent response.

I never stated that the dictionary should take precedence over
specialized defintions. Again, you show your expert ability to pull
things out of context. I stated that a dictionary appears to be just as
good as any other source to find a word which matches the concepts one
is trying to present. I also requested that you provide a useful
alternative to the terms I used, and you refused because it would be a
poor use of your time. I would not have requested if I was planning on
limiting myself as you suggest.

You cannot build a successful argument based on two false premises. But,
then, this is assuming that your purpose was sincere. I am beginning to
doubt the sincerity of your responses. If it is your purpose to insult,
I suggest we redefine the topic so as not to continue interupting the
flow of conversation.

> This could be extreamly tedious, since there are lots of rather loaded words
> rattling about in dictionaries and a discourse on what is actually ment in
> some context would have to incorporate a history of how that specialized
> meaning came into being and what the theoretical issues behind each nuance
> of meaning actually incorporates. Clearly, an attempt to use nomenclature
> as commonly used within a field is less of an imposition upon participants
> in that field than an insistance on the use of meanings provided by the
> authors and publishers of dictionaries, who have their own cultural limits
> and problems of ethnographic construction to compound the problem of any
> useful collective understanding.

I don't think I asked for a rundown on the history of the development of
any term. I asked for you to suggest an alternative word which would
successfully express the meaning I was trying to establish.

> : > Since Aztec "culture" is defined as beginning in 1325 AD, I suspect that
> : > you ment something else than what you've written, and Mesos in general are
> : > exculded from your area(s) of prior examination.

> : Since the topic seemed to have been an cultures existing around the time of
> : European contact, the Aztecs seemed a good place to begin. Just because I
> : chose to examine a single culture in depth does not mean that I excluded
> : examination of other 'Mesos'.

> I asked what you've examined. You've managed not to be responsive. Try not
> to be offended, I've simply asked what you do know. It could be as obscure
> as 14th century settlement patterns in the Canaries, or as mainstream as
> Mesoamerican writing systems, or as on-point as maize genetics or the
> ethnographic record of pathogenic events in the Valley of Mexico. It is
> your offered area of in depth examination, I'm only curious to know just
> what that is, given the pattern of assertions offered thus far.

Sorry. So far, as a result of previous directions in conversation; (1)
domestication among pre-Columbian peoples (2) metallurgy in North and
South America, (3) methods of stonework among the Aztecs, (4)
agricultural techniques of the Aztecs. These have only been covered at a
fundamental level. My recent comments have been focused on Aztecs, as I
had decided that an in depth examination of one culture would be more

> : I do think I have a basic grasp on the interactions between
> : these cultures, as well as an understanding of preceeding cultures.
> : However, these concepts are vague, and my grasp was not enough to
> : utilize these cultures in this particular post.

> Well, by all means, use your own grasp over that of anthropologists.
> So far you've managed to hit on basic issues in sedentism, cultigens,
> settlement patterns, heck, I've lost count.

So rather than attempting to understand and develop my own hypothesis, I
should just step off? Is questioning the conclusions of anthropologists
considered bad practice?

There is this thing called scientific method. Here's how it works: (1)
observe and define a problem, (2) gather and classify data, (3)form a
hypothesis (proposed explaination) based on the data, (4)test the
hypothesis, (5)draw conclusion about the hypothesis and present it to
others. This is what I have done. Often I am corrected and must
reexamine my conclusions, sometimes I discover that my approach was off
and attempt a different approach, and still other times, I recieve
attacks which do not address the concepts presented, but instead address
method of presentation, terminology, etc... All of these are beneficial
as they allow me to expand my own understanding. And you see, this is
the purpose I find in this forum, the exchange ideas and information

Now, let's add to this the approach you seem to suggest. (1) do not
question conclusions presented by anthropologists (even if you feel
there are fundamental flaws), (2) do not introduce new scientific
understandings (non-linear dynamics or chaotic math is applicable to
anthropology whether or not it is a standard yet), (3) terms for a
concept you wish to present must come from an anthropological text (or
perhaps it is the concept which must come from an anthropological
text?), (4) if such a concept cannot be found in an anthropological
text, do not look to other sources for a term or attempt to establish
your own terminology. Are these not all factors which would limit
scientific investigation?

> : I think that I wrote what I meant. It is possible that I was not
> : clear, but my comments, I believe were focused on Aztec practices.

> : > : As to the concepts of 'backwards' or 'behind', the Aztec practices of
> : > : irrigation, fertilization, and terracing are still standard in agriculture

> : > Sigh. These are hardly the inventors of these technologies.

> : And the concepts of evolution and atomic theory were first presented
> : before the current era. However, this does not stop us from crediting
> : modern scientists who advanced these areas of study. My point was not

> So it doesn't matter???

I don't see what it is you are suggesting. The terms 'backwards' and
'behind' are measures of development. How does the origins of a
technology affect this attempt to measure agricultural development among
the Aztecs? Technologies develop through interactions with other
cultures, and by building upon earlier technologies. What culture then
could possibly claim to have founded all of their technology? The level
of technology was there, whether or not the Aztecs originated it.

> : that the Aztecs invented these technologies, nor that they were the
> : only culture to utilize them. My point was that they did utilize them,
> : and that they are still heavily used in modern agriculture. This appears
> : contradictory to the concepts of a 'backwards' or 'behind' agricultural
> : system.

> It hardly requires wrong data to refute some crank "ranking" of cultigens
> and human culture. Good data is usually sufficient.

It would be nice if you could point out where my data is wrong, this
would certainly be more constructive than these attacks. Although it
might be considered a poor use of your time, it would certainly benefit
me. The only data I presented was that these technologies were in use.
If any where not in use, please enlighten me.

So far the only thing you've presented regarding this is that the Aztecs
were not the inventors of the technologies I mentioned. I pointed out
that it is not the origins of the technology which were being discussed,
but the fact that these technologies were used. You then suggested that
somehow the origins of the technology are relavent to the argument. All
I can ask at this point is 'how?'

Vague responses and personal attacks are not going to solve anything.