Sociocultural Speculation

Fri, 12 Apr 1996 10:47:24 CST

M. Joanis notes the propensity, among sociocultural anthropologists, for
speculative philosophizing unbridled by much reference to evidence or,
for that matter, logic. Well, we are not all like that; and back two or
three decades, many--maybe most--were not in the mood of resenting or
disparaging science because it could not tell us what we *should*
do--i.e., could not provide us with ultimate moral commitments. On
another topic: I would like to join D. Read in thanking M. Salovesh for
his enlightening history of holocultural research. For all its
weaknesses, I think cross-cultural statistical analysis is one form of
genuine scientific progress in sociocultural anthropology. For those
(many) inclined to doubt this, I would urge you to read a very short
article, by Melvin Ember, before raising your objections: "Statistical
Evidence for an Ecological Explanation of Warfare," American
Anthropologist 84 (1982):645-649. --Bob Graber