Put in on the ground

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Sat, 23 Sep 1995 07:21:33 +0900

Matt Tomaso writes,

"While I certainly agree that evolutionary models (that is, models about
change) are of potential use in archaeology, I would like to propose a
challenge. Let's put one of these models on the ground with an
hypothetical, or even real, example. Year after year, I see elaborate
arguments about the viability of evolutionary paradigms, but rarely have I
seen anything particularly enlightening come out of their application. I
suspect that many other listmembers would feel more at ease with this
discussion, especially those of us interested in social realities like
power, ideology, identity, agency, consciousness, and discourse, if we were
able to point to something (anything) specific that this approach can yield
and which can not be given (as easily) by any other approach."

I'll second that. I wonder, too, if it is possible to find an example which
falls in neither the "We must remember that..." or the "In the grand sweep
of things...." categories. The bit from Churchland I quoted a few
messages back about the human brain's having evolved like other brains
to coordinate muscular action falls into the first category. Bob Graber's
ideas about population size and social complexity fall into the second.
Like Matt, I find that as what I am talking about becomes more specific,
evolution fades into the background. Doesn't disappear, mind you; just
doesn't offer much in ways to cope with detail beyond an admonition to
keep an eye on material circumstances, demography and such as well as what
the folks in question say they think they're doing. But that's what good
historians, generals, business leaders, etc., do anyway. So what's to
get excited about?

John McCreery