Re: evolution everywhere?

Stephen Barnard (
Mon, 09 Sep 1996 20:39:01 -0800

Shannon Adams wrote:
> Gerold Firl wrote:
> >
> > In article <>, (mb) writes:
> > |> In article <>, Shannon Adams <> wrote:
> >
> > |> > Is is just me or does every topic on this newsgroup evolve ;) into a
> > |> > discussion of evolution? Just wondering why.
> >
> > |> Yes! I have noticed this, but it seems to have occurred rather recently.
> > |> Has anyone some insight into this? When did this preoccupation take root?
> > |> Was there some recent event that has focused this interest (yes, I know
> > |> about the NM school debate). Anyone?
> >
> > I would suggest two reasons:
> >
> > 1. Evolutionary perspectives provide greater explanatory and
> > predictive power in understanding human culture than pure narrative
> > modes, and that is changing the long-term direction of anthropology.
> > As dobhinazky (<-- spelling dubious; a famous biologist) said,
> > "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"; the
> > case might not be quite so strong in anthro, but it's not far off. --
> > -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
> > 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
> I really got a good laugh when I read Gerold's first sentence of number one.
> I really don't think anyone has been able to *predict* how a culture will
> change. Once the change has occured it is *sometimes* possible to retrace
> the change but predict, I don't think so. Of course, I could be making a
> complete fool of myself but I don't think anthropology is about *predicting*
> anything. Thanks where the natural sciences come in, at least according to
> many of the people on this newsgroup. This also could be an incredibly naive
> question but What about free choice? I think that element of human
> motivation cannot be ignored.
> Shannon

You are absolutely right. Anthropology as it exists today has no
predictive power at all. It therefore does not deserve to called a
science, despite the fact that this is sci.anthropology.

It seems to me that Anthropology (with the big A) is largely conducted
by a bunch of assistant professors scrambling aboard the latest
political bandwagon, or by tenured professors defending their turf
against interlopers from more rigorous fields.

This is all a tempest in a teapot. If the old guard insists on
wallowing in the dustbin of history, and if the young Turks (no offense
to those of Turkish ethnicity intended) keep trying to one-up them, this
so-called field will just become even more marginalized, while the
rational biologists, economists, psychologists, etc. get on with the
task of trying to understand mankind.

Steve Barnard