Re: We anthropological "obscurantists"

Gil Hardwick (
Wed, 10 May 1995 03:27:23 GMT

In article <3oiriq$>, Phil Nicholls ( writes:
>Some aspects of human biology, physiology and evolution are indeed
>covered by medical and biological research. However, there are some
>areas that these disciplines do not cover. How does culture affect
>biology and, of course, how does biology affect culture. I also
>find that doctors and physilogists are more interested in the
>mechanics of the human body and less interested in its evolution.
>Why are human blood groups distributed like they are? How did
>humans come to be bipedal?
>In my opinion, these are anthropological questions. The present
>is structured by the past, after all.

Indeed and we have both debated this question ad nauseam in the past,
Phillip, except to the point where you chose to begin e-mailing your
abuse and then turn to rant here about your silly KILL files.

Let me repeat myself here and now, then. There is no question that
there is overlap between anthropology and biology. The issue raised
concerns just HOW FAR BACK into the past do we go before the data
peters out into utter uselessness, such that the propensity of a few
to such creative abandon in pursuing theories KNOWN already to have
been stimulated by reaction to religious ferver, begins to overwhelm
the actually abundant field data currently available.

To see that, we only have to go back so far as the mid 19th century,
NOT some loosely hypothesised 3,000,000-give-or-take-500,000 years
where somebody found a few fossilised bone fragments.

The continuing point I raise, moreover, lies in the propensity of SOME
of those doing the work of filling those gaps to misappropriate the
language and concept structures of mainstream anthropology itself, and
then applying to the work of biology.

More so when such borrowed and rehashed ideas are THEN re-applied
back to anthropology itself, in the guise of claims of "sociobiology"
and "evolutionary theory" to standing in anthropology. I insist that
such tautology and poverty-stricken extremity is unacceptable.

That you would choose to dismiss anthropology proper as marginal to
your purposes, choosing instead to take over the domain to your own
ends and then borrow your prestige from the PERHAPS currently more
faddish and trendy field of biology is quite outrageous.

You owe a very substantial intellectual debt to the anthropologists,
especially those who pioneered field work method, who had generated
your concepts and framed your discourses for you.

At the very least that debt must be acknowledged.

You people are doing no service to either branch of science by
persisting so; rather the rest of us out here would be perfectly
willing to join you in clarifying the various issues arising from
time to time, and work together on establishing viable and fruitful
research priorities of known benefit to humankind.

That is, to begin allocating funds to resolving problems known to be
affecting people alive today, at least in some reasonable proportion
to the total global research allocation for science.

In the absence of any common sense approach to the problem it all just
becomes so much more of this same cowardly post-modernist nihilist
crud we are seeing increasingly to emerge in the wake of intrigue and
hyped up sex-scandals in our anthropology departments, whose objective
is to get tenure at all costs.

That you may have seen fit Phillip on the other hand to publish any
more of this poverty-stricken nonsense of yours only so as to get me
personally to bite, merely serves to substantiate my argument.

I rest my case.