Re: PC, humanity, you and me.

John Stevens (8859jstev@UMBSKY.CC.UMB.EDU)
Thu, 27 Oct 1994 10:19:24 EDT

Ow ow OW!

The multiple wallops that several folks have been aiming at the head of
us un-scientific types in the past few days is starting to leave me with
a dull ache, the kind you get behind your eye when you listen to some
guy at a party rambling on and on about how politicl correctness is so
bad and thus liberalism is bad and if they'd all just be *rational* about
it things would be just peachy.

Folks, can we stop picking apart someone's effort to quantify an issue long
enough to realize that we are, once again, getting back into that foolish,
facetious bickering about the "two moieties" of anthropology? I thought that
Mike wrote a fine piece that came from heart and head, and because he didn't
use intricate statistical analysis and epidemiological sleight-of-hand and
reams and reams of studies to back himself up. people are getting on his case!
Damn, he talked from the gut; what a crime! And he did it in the tongue o'
science, focusing more on rhetorical and logical fallacies than on (shudder)
*the facts*, those marvelous edifices that have done so much to advance the
cause of good ol' Western Civ. From the people who used "facts" to bring you
napalm, supply-side economics, and the reservation system. . . .

I am tired of science; it can cure my headaches but does not illuminate many
of the scholarly and personal concerns that I wrestle with day after day.
There are many scientists in anthropology, but anthropology is not a science;
that would be like saying that, since some scientists wrote science fiction, it
is a science. We think that if we can get to the *real facts* that everything
will be fine, that falsehood and hatred and the myriad little nasties with
big pointy teeth will be kept at bay by such an impenetrable fortress. Un-
fortunately, campers, facts are like water; if you solidify them into a
particular form, you generally get your own reflection staring back at you.
Rushton and Hicks exemplify this wonderfully, and its sad to see other folks
who seem to be on "the same side" nibbling at each other's arguments because
they're not scientific enough, and by extension arguing that if they were
scientific enough, we would win. Win what? Pardon my cynicism, but in fifty
years our kids and grandkids and grand-squared-kids will still be trying to
hash issues like this out; nothing is ineffable. The universe is rotting and
the bacon you had for breakfast is lying in your intestine, leaving little
tidbits of chemical death for you to absorb. Instead of bickering or trying
to "finally" answer some great question for the sake of eternal humanity, why
don't we get down to earth and talk right here, right now, and realize that our
answers, like the center, cannot hold, and do more to prepare for tomorrow? The
scientists that are my heroes (Lynn Rogers, Einstein, CS Richard F. Burton, and
several others) share many commonalities with my "humanist" heroes (Harlan
Ellison, Matthew Arnold, Akira Kurosawa, Ellen Gilchrist), in that they realize
that certain categorical distinctions are designed to define and thus limit
one's life; such things should be tools, not parameters. When science stops
being science and becomes a human endeavor to survive or improve things in
the moment, it is an amazing thing. And far more useful than taking tweezers
to each other's arguments.

Comments are welcome; just don't ask why I'm so grumpy today.\

In the spirit of healthy discourse,

John H. Stevens
University of Massachusetts at Boston