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American Anthropological Association drops the word 'science' - last commented 17 December 2010 01:41 PM

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Go to: American Anthropological Association drops the word 'science'

SpockSkywalker's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by SpockSkywalker

Well, unfortunately many cultural anthropologists seem to be satisfied with their work not being scientific and don't want the discipline to privilege scientific "ways of knowing" over non-scientific ways. In my opinion cultural anthropologists should be told that if they want to call themselves anthropologists they need to have scientific attitude about their work and tie it to the biological and archaeological studies.

Tue, 14 Dec 2010 03:17:56 UTC | #562929

Go to: American Anthropological Association drops the word 'science'

SpockSkywalker's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by SpockSkywalker

From Comment 12 by nancynancy

I think a split is coming.

I have a feeling you're right. This might be what finally splits physical anthropology and archaeology away from cultural anthropology. Although maybe it will be like the split that happened within the Stanford department and some cultural researchers will go with the more biological ones. Maybe not though. But they should if those cultural anthropologists want their research to have any real basis.

I'm also with you on not being able to stand cultural anthropology classes though. That's why my minor is practically all physical anthropology.

Mon, 13 Dec 2010 13:20:10 UTC | #562442

Go to: American Anthropological Association drops the word 'science'

SpockSkywalker's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by SpockSkywalker

Hmm... Apparently there are two independent associations of anthropological fields that are not part of the American Anthropological Association. They are the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and the Society for American Archaeology.

According to Wikipedia the AAA formed the Society for Anthropological Sciences in 2004 because there weren't enough scientific anthropologists within the organization. So the SAS is just an interest group within the AAA whose purpose is to argue for science.

Sun, 12 Dec 2010 00:53:43 UTC | #561894

Go to: American Anthropological Association drops the word 'science'

SpockSkywalker's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by SpockSkywalker

@ Neodarwinian

I don't think anthropology is completely lost yet, although if it continues down the path it seems to be on now it will be eventually. In my bio anthropology classes the role of evolution and genes on behavior was not dismissed at all. One of my professors actually said he thought the idea that genes don't play a role in behavior was bizarre. That behavior was all based on learning seemed to be the position of my cultural anthropology class though. At least that was the position that I took from all the postmodern stuff we read, but at times it was kind of hard to tell what the authors were getting at.

I saw a lot of good scientific research and I hate seeing the discipline undermining itself this way. I agree with keithapm and blitz442 that without science as a base the "understanding" spread by the AAA will be pretty shallow and likely pretty useless.

I found some other blogs on this subject, one in favor of the new wording Recycled Minds Blog and another against Respectful Insolence Blog.

I also found some links regarding a split in Stanfords anthropology department in the late 90's and it's reuniting in 2007.

Stanford Department of Anthropological Sciences and Together Again.

I must admit that despite my dismay I am interested to see how this recent development will play out.

Sun, 12 Dec 2010 00:09:45 UTC | #561880

Go to: Grammar comes from a biologically innate, dedicated faculty

SpockSkywalker's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by SpockSkywalker

Okay, I'm back for another brief appearance (since I'm pulling up more articles anyway). Before saying anything I'll state up front that I'm not a linguist nor do I have a great deal of experience in languages. However, I do tend to fall in the camp that supports domain-specificity rather than domain-general processes. I'd also like to add that you've made a very well thought out post :)

Anyways, the first thing I'd like to say is that no one is saying that there is a "correct" grammar. To say that something is natural and therefore "good" or "correct" would be to commit the naturalistic fallacy. What people who study the innate aspects of language discuss is something called Universal Grammar, something that exists in everyone and all languages (supposedly) conform to. If a language existed somewhere that violated universal grammar then it wouldn't be "incorrect" or just "unnatural," it would be strong evidence against, and possibly falsify, Steven Pinker's hypothesis.

If language is an adaptation then there would be physiological signs of this. One couldn't just say, "Oh, there are similarities between languages so some part of language must be innate." The positioning of the larynx in humans is taken as some evidence that it has been adapted for speech and speech areas have been localized in the left hemisphere of the brain. In fact, one of the papers I could e-mail you is a study looking at how learning languages based upon universal grammar affects activation in the brain compared to learning languages not based on universal grammar. Universal grammar activates Broca's area (very important for language) while non-universal grammar does not.

Domain-generality and domain-specificity are terms used to describe how the brain processes information. If the brain is domain-general that implies that it is a general purpose learning device. There are only a few innate rules and processes inherent in the brain and they are put to work solving problems and processing information independent of its content. But the world is a variable place and there are a lot of different adaptive problems to solve and the same processes aren't going to be helpful in all of them.

Domain-specificity has been gaining more support for this reason. According to this view locations in the brain have been restricted to dealing with just one sort of information and because of this they can have content in them that aids in the processing of information they are adapted to deal with. This can be seen in other brain regions aside form Broca's and Wernike's (speech). The FFA seems to be specialized for processing faces (objects are recognized wholly as faces rather than individual features), the PPA (recognizing scenery), and even extends to reasoning. Behavioral studies have shown that people are better at solving logic problems when they relate to social contract issues compared to abstract logic problems, which they're horrible at, even though they're based on the same rules. In fact, different areas of the prefrontal cortex respond depending on whether a person is solving social contract problems vs. precautionary rules. If I recall correctly different areas of the PFC have been implicated in necessary social rules compared to what is just permissible as well.

Well, I should probably get back to work. I hope I was at least somewhat helpful!

Fri, 04 Jun 2010 05:51:13 UTC | #476279

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