Re: Is a Synthesis bad?

Deus Ex Machina (X8H1@MUSIC.STLAWU.EDU)
Tue, 30 Apr 1996 18:37:30 EST

Since I didn't explain what I meant to clearly in past posts I'll try
One of the common threads , as I have said before, on Anthro-L is
the PROPOSED unification or "synthesis" of the anthropological sub
fields. In my view I don't view such a proposed unification
necessary. The reasons are many. I think that ultimately we all have
the study of humanity in common. That is, I believe, where many of
part ways. The four "main" fields are very different in many respects.
It differs in the specific subject of study (ie fossil remains or
"culture") and in the method of study. While anthropologists from
the different subfields have something to learn from each other,
similar to the way physical anthropologists often need help ain
from geology, genetics, etc. As I said before I don't think we need to
synthesize all the subfields. For one thing I don't see how the
subfields could be synthesized. For another I find the concept of the
unification of the study of culture and biology, dubious. Why?because I
think there is little actual support for it. By this I mean empirical
data. Its just doesn't appear to be quantifiable or measurable.
Some have postulated that our biology is tied with culture in the sense
that our brains allow us to have "culture," but then again, it seems
that this kind of argument could be made about many things. For example,
our mode of locomotion could be said to be just as responsible. In other
words what were talking about is reforming a whole field of science base
on not a theory, but a hypothesis. With regards to the "Modern
Synthesis (Which I mistakenly called the Great Synthesis) in which
evolutionary theory was unified with genetics.
My other objection is based more on a gut feeling than anything.
I think that were the fields to be synthesized the dominance of
socio/cultural anthropology would would unecessarily and possibly even
harmfully influence physical anthropology. Why do I think this?
Well,it goes to what I was talking about the philosophy of science and
scientific method. Philosophy is the field that scientific practice
springs from.
MOst of the people that I KNOW who focus on soc/cult anthro hardly
ever take any courses on methods, theories, or practices of science,
they as a general rule avoid science classes including physical anthro
classes altogether. In short they often have an incorrect view of scienc
that is often negative. They think as many do that science is math
physics, chem, and bio, maybe also geology and psych. The funny thing
is that some of these sciences are no more exact than anthro
and some of these fields aren't science. Math for
instance isn't a science. Its a tool that is *applied* in science but
by itself it isn't a science this comes out of AJ AYER and his Language,
Truth, and Logic. I could of course go into detail as to what science
exactly is detail by detail but I have a paper to write. The point
is that a field that collects data by observation via experimentation
and comparison is a science. I am not terribly great at explaining this
so if I have left anything unanswered just ask. I have nothing against
soc/cultural anthropology I just feel that in the same way that many
find my thinking limited I think that sometimes the soc/cult field
has its limitations that could be disastrous for the phys. anthro
subfield. I dunno if I keep going I'm going to confuse myself. Maybe
Holly Swyers is right in asking what is really meant by "synthesis"
I think I understand it, but I would have trouble explaining it.
I won't deny that I could be totally wrong about alot in this thread
then again maybe I'm not. Or maybe I think too much? Anyway, thats it
for now. Back to the Miocene!

Matthew D. Joanis

"Those who desire to give up Freedom in order to gain Security,
will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."
-- Thomas Jefferson