reply to Mizrach

Mike Lieber (U28550@UICVM.BITNET)
Fri, 23 Sep 1994 00:27:58 CDT

(1) No one writing implied that all small scale societies degrade their
environment. In fact, all of those pointing out that the noble, ecological,
savage was a modern twist on an old myth did so the way any professional
anthropologist would--with specific data on specific societies. There is
nothing polemical about this procedure. Just further specification of what we
already know: the range of variation among human populations is too great for
any single empirical generalization to fit all of them.

(2) Mizrach's point on the technological potential of large scale societies to
implement their cultural premises in large scale disastrous ways echoes what
several others have said and is well taken. Bateson had some very interesting
things to say on this score--he is still well worth reading.

(3) I doubt that elctronic media will ever result in faculty not teaching for
two reasons. First, most faculty I know can't resist a captive audience
appearing to hang on their every word. Second, those most thoroughly engaged
in research to which they are utterly committed need access to the classroom.
This is the place where you are most likely to find out if your ideas hold
water. This is because you are forced to make your ideas clear enough for
students to comprehend and respond to. Second, once students comprehend your
ideas, they are the ones most like to ask the naive questions that cut to
the heart of the issue you are wrestling with. If you can't connect your
theory to the most naive questions, then your theory is probably in need of
repair or a long rest in the trash can. But you have to give the students
enough background to understand the context of your own ideas. You prepare
them to be discussants. In the process, of course, they learn a good deal
about the issue under consideration. You can get naive questions from your
colleagues, of course, but only from those colleagues who are adult enough to
be too unselfconscious to care what their more self-conscious brethren
think about their naivete.
Mike lieber