anthropology   17234

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22 hours ago by pricepoints
Science in the clouds: Why do chimpanzees build nests?
It is apparently learned by great apes from their mothers, so not instinctual.
Anthropology  Science 
2 days ago by abiola
On Anthropological Knowledge, Dan Sperber
"Most anthropologists would be better---and no less honorably---described as ethnographers. They are more interested in specific cultures than in Homo sapiens's cultural abilities and dispositions, in varieties of human experience than in its variability. Ethnography is an important pursuit in its own right. It answers a legitimate curiosity as to what it is like to belong to another culture, to be Nuer, Tibetan, or French-a curiosity which is not so much about facts as about the way these facts are subjectively experienced, and which calls for interpretations rather than mere descriptions.
The task of theoretical anthropology, on the other hand, is to account for the variability of human cultures. Like any other science, it must answer the question: what is empirically possible? And hence: what is empirically impossible? Like any other science, anthropology requires data, that is,descriptions of the real world (the real world being a particular case of an empirically possible world, with the extra advantage of being observable). An accumulation of data, however, does not make a science. When does data contribute to science? When it is reliable and relevant enough to constitute evidence for or against some general and non-trivial hypotheses.
It might seem, then, that the huge mass of data collected by ethnographers is twice devoid of scientific usefulness: today, because there are hardly any anthropological hypotheses to confirm or disconfirm; forever, because the interpretive character of these data is not compatible with the required level of reliability. Yet, without ethnographic evidence, no science of culture is conceivable.
Can this fundamental obstacle to the development of a scientific anthropology be overcome?"

[Perhaps worth reading further if I get around to pursuing the idea of using ethnographic methods to study statisticians & data scientists working in their natural habitat.]

h/t Cosma:
4 days ago by civilstat
Bridging the gap | Science
But today, more than 2 decades after his wake-up call in California, Malhi, now a molecular anthropologist at the University of Illinois (UI) in Urbana , is part of an effort to change the relationship between these communities. On a recent morning, Malhi listened as about 40 students and faculty introduced themselves at the Summer Internship for Indigenous Peoples in Genomics (SING), a weeklong program funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and held this year at the University of Washington (UW) here. About half of participants spoke in Indigenous languages spanning the globe from Alaska to New Zealand.

SING aims to train Indigenous scientists in genomics so that they can introduce that field's tools to their communities as well as bring a sorely needed Indigenous perspective to research. Since Malhi helped found it at UI in 2011, SING has trained more than 100 graduates and has expanded to New Zealand and Canada. The program has created a strong community of Indigenous scientists and non-Indigenous allies who are raising the profile of these ethical issues and developing ways to improve a historically fraught relationship.
genetics  science  indigenous  anthropology 
5 days ago by madamim
"Humankind is unique in its incapacity to learn from experience" | New Humanist
Your new book claims atheism is a “closed system of thought”. Why so?
Because atheists of a certain kind imagine that by rejecting monotheistic beliefs they step out of a monotheistic way of thinking. Actually, they have inherited all of its rigidities and assumptions. Namely, the idea that there is a universal history; that there is something like a collective human agent; or a universal way of life. These are all Christian ideals. Christianity itself is also a much more complex belief system than most contemporary atheists allow for. But then most of these atheists know very little about the history of religion.

Particularly, you argue, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. What is your disagreement with them?
They treat religion as a kind of intellectual error; something only the crudest of Enlightenment thinkers believed. Not every human being has a religious sensibility, but pretty much all human cultures do. Neither Dawkins or Harris are interesting enough to discuss this at length.

Dawkins is really not worth discussing or engaging with at all. He is an ideologue of Darwinism and knows very little about religion, treating it as a kind of a priori notion, rather than the complex social, and anthropological set of ideas which religion usually entails. Harris is partially interesting, in that he talks about how all human values can be derived from science. But I object strongly to that idea.


You are hugely critical of modern liberalism: what is your main problem with the ideology?
That it’s immune to empirical evidence. It’s a form of dogmatic faith. If you are a monotheist it makes sense – I myself am not saying it’s true or right – to say that there is only one way of life for all of humankind. And so you should try and convert the rest of humanity to that faith.

But if you are not a monotheist, and you claim to be an atheist, it makes no sense to claim that there is only one way of life. There may be some good and bad ways of living. And there may be some forms of barbarism, where human societies cannot flourish for very long. But there is no reason for thinking that there is only one way of life: the ones that liberal societies practice.
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8 days ago by nhaliday

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