Hi, I’m Ben and I’m going to attempt to start a blog. Much like my life, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with it yet, but I do have some vague ideas that would require a lot of arm waving to articulate. Since I’m not holding my breath for the day either of those get resolved, for the time being I’m just going to post stuff I’m interested in. Mostly, that means stuff about paleontology, museum planning and plastic toys.
To start off with something that does not really fit into any of those categories, whadaya make of this?
Having finished my B.A. last year in Anthropology, this makes me sad and tired. As it is, Anthropology hardly qualifies as a real discipline. Rather, it’s an umbrella field where lots of research vaguely related to “the human condition” (a meaningless phrase in and of itself) gets lumped together. This includes real, rigorous scientific research relating to anatomy, primate evolution, hominid paleobiology and the like, as well as all the varying subfields of Archaeology. Anthropology also includes social/cultural anthropology, which, since the 1970s has become deeply entrenched in the ethereal realm of anti-positivism. As one might expect, researchers on both sides of the field have very little common ground, and indeed, biological and archaeological anthropologists spend much more time collaborating with biologists and geologists than they do with social anthropologists.
I imagine it’s pretty clear that I’ve thrown myself in with the bio/archaeo camp. Perhaps in a later post I’ll explain why I have lost my patience for most social anthropology, but that would require more detail than I would like to get into at this point. For now I’ll just say that I am very troubled by the implications of the AAA’s decision to remove “science” from its agenda. In a country where only 14% of the population believe that evolution is “definitely true”, this is not a decision to be taken lightly, as it only opens the door wider for the very effective anti-science PR machine. The importance of scientific rigor is especially important for Anthropology, which is already a poorly-defined discipline. By eliminating scientific standards from Anthropology, I think the AAA is slitting its own throat.
Update: It has come to my attention that the twitter tag for this discussion is #AAAfail. Awesome.