Science, Religion & Anthropology

Scott Holmes (sholmes@NETCOM.COM)
Tue, 10 Oct 1995 10:09:02 -0700

anthropology list, is really quite intriguing, rather like viewing a
verbal Klein bottle or listening to a description of Escher stairways.
Religion and science are both found within cultures, which anthropologists
study from within their own contexts of religion and science.

Anthropology, more than any other science, is uniquely positioned to
study both by utilizing both. Any self-analysis of why you are engaged
in this study will eventually enter the realm of religion - Value.
Self-analysis is required if one expects to approach objectivity in your
work (for post-modernists, perhaps I should replace that word with the
phrase `a minimum of personal bias'). One must also be very much aware
of one's own societal context.

The review I cited in my previous post, _The End of Evil_, offers an
interesting, perhaps sideways, perspective of the morphosis of "Western
Civilization's" dominant epistemology. The authors reviewed trace this
from a "... stark and polarized world engulfed in a cosmic war between
supernatural forces of good and evil" to the current "Age of Irony"
characterized by the comment that post-modernism and radical relativism
"robs us of solid ground for making value judgments".

If one is incapable of value judgments, can one recognize values in
other cultural groups?

Those of you that have subscribed to this list for the last couple of
years will recall my interest in the "Invention of Warfare". I'm
currently centered on the concept of "Other". It's my feeling that this
construct is created by means related to Gregory Bateson's ideas on
learning. The "Other" is only an amorphous structure that generally has
some name attached to it. More often than not, there is value attached
as well. Witness the "race" or "feminist" threads to see the quality of
value. It's my feeling that this value springs from the realm of religion
not from scientific reasoning.

On this topic of warfare, we can look at Bob Graber's model of social and
cultural evolution (in his book of the same name) and see a very well
developed scientific approach to a study of this problem. On the other
hand, there is a dimension to the problem that cannot be dealt with on
the scale of his formulae. One part of this relates to how participants
view their "others". Here, we have "value" and it comes from religion.

One part of the field of anthropology is to understand how members of
cultures view their "others" and why it is they place a particular value
on those "others". So, in my view, both science and religion are required
to come to an understanding.

On a slight aside, related to Matt Tomaso's response to my previous posting;
if "Most of the postmodern-influenced anthropologists don't take the
phenomenological contradictions of postmodernity that seriously." are they
not in danger of getting trapped by logical inconsistencies?

I hope all of you serious anthropologists will forgive this gadfly,
auditing the course in the back of the room, from occasionally interjecting
comments. My means of livelyhood (programming) may keep my brain active
but it does little for the mind.

---------- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, ----------------
Scott Holmes <> Informix 4GL Applications
--------------- Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ------------------------