Re: Pomo Results

Tom Byers (TomByers@AOL.COM)
Wed, 25 Oct 1995 11:02:51 -0400

McCreery wrote:

>"When I wrote my note asking for pomo results in
>anthropology, I thought I was being pretty clear about the
>kind of thing I was looking for.... What I'm hoping to see is even one
>small paragraph (two or three sentences will do nicely),
>describing a significant RESULT of pomo research. "

Here4s a result. Robert Ulin (AA 97: 519, 1995) presented good evidence
that standards for the best-tasting French wine resulted more from political
forces than soil and climate. For instance, Bergerac wine had a better
reputation than Bordeaux wine before English Hegemony gave the Bordeaux
elites a chance to control the wine trade and to pass legislation favoring
their product. Also, Chateau Latour is twenty times as expensive as wine
from the Paulliac cooperative despite their vinyards being side by side. In
fact, the former offered to buy property from the latter, in which case wine
made from the same grapes would instantly taste twenty times better.

What encourages me is that, out of respect for his own good evidence,
Ulin decided not to ground his results in a philosophy of anti-science. He
backed away (hesitantly) from the hardline pomo view that there is no past
independent of our perception of it. Common sense prevailed. It would have
been counterproductive to present good evidence through a framework which
claims there is no such thing as "evidence", or at least no solid basis for
distinguishing good from bad evidence. On what basis could he have argued
that there is no objective basis for arguing?

Of course, one could argue that Ulin's approach was not post-modern at
all, but post-post-modern. Now that we are all aware how mapmakers help
shape the territory they map, it is time to ask how anyone ever took
seriously the notion that that there is no territory beyond the map. The
invented boundary between New Jersey and Pennsylvania is subject to political
challenge if doing so would serve somebody's interest. The boundary between
New Jersey and the Atlantic ocean is not subject to political challenge even
if doing so would somehow consolidate a tyrant's rule or rescue a horde of
powerless people from oppression.

Oppressed people have no reason to thank intellectuals who accuse their
oppressors of committing science. Abandoning objective standards would rob
us of the tools to show that Jensen and the bell curve people are doing
flawed, biased science. Denying or railing against the power of science
rather than harnessing it, is not wise. The time has come for someone to
deconstruct post-modernism.

Tom Byers