–Napoleon Chagnon, noted anthropologist, passed away after sparking some professional controversy during his life, work and career. John Horgan here. Can I trust the folks at the Smithsonian to report the ideas as to why he was controversial? John Hawks links to a comprehensive NY Times piece.
I’m guessing one political and ideological subtext is that Marxist materialists, and folks more prone to certain Western Humanist Ideals, were not fans. The global raft of Humanity and all native tribes need not only study to get at the truth and better understanding, but salvation of some kind (against the same colonial oppressor). Opponents of such views are more likely to see courage in Chagnon. How far off am I?
As to the science done, the observations made, the methods used, and the conclusions drawn, I really don’t know much. Where one knows little, one should mostly shut-up.
Alas, dear reader, I’ve woken from bed this morning with yet another chance to awaken you to my glorious, borrowed truths: The Western materialist, idealist, Romantic view is certainly incomplete, still ascendent within many of our institutions, and busily attracting many zealous ideologues and non-liberty-loving devotees.
How and what you think about Nature and Human Nature, is up to you.
How does the West interact with the non-West, and vice versa. What common assumptions do Westerners often assume and project onto other civilizations? The late Roger Sandall, here:
‘The claim that “open societies” are now increasingly threatened would probably meet with little argument. But what is the nature of the threat, and what are its roots? Here less agreement might be found. Some would say an essentially religious clash of civilizations is the main cause, and point to the growing struggle between Islam and the West.
Others might point to Russia under President Putin, finding evidence of a long-standing political tradition that owes relatively little to the Russian Orthodox Church, but has always found liberty odious.
And then there’s a third and troubling possibility — that from an evolutionary perspective, taking a long view of our historic and prehistoric origins, open societies where voluntaristic principles prevail are new forms of human association only recently arrived from the distant tribal past, and in the more violent trouble spots around the world they never arrived at all.’
The late Ken Minogue:
On the many dangers of political idealism, and using political theory as the limits of your field of vision:
‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial. Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony. In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral idea.’
-Minogue, Kenneth. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).
Also On This Site: Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?
Ron Bailey at Reason (Are Savages Noble?) (You have to answer a few questions to access the archives)
Bailey reviews two new books on anthropology, one by Jared Diamond, the other by Marlene Zuk. Inevitably questions of political philosophy arise.
Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?: Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?: From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit
One of the few people who might be considered left who’s thought deeply about matters. Religion has a fair amount to do with it: Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder…
Full Misguided Nostagia for Our Paleo Past here.
‘The paleofantasy is a fantasy in part because it supposes that we humans, or at least our protohuman forebears, were at some point perfectly adapted to our environments. We apply this erroneous idea of evolution’s producing the ideal mesh between organism and surroundings to other life forms, too, not just to people.’
Darwin and the arts: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’…
You know, Plato addressed Thrasymachus in the Republic about the will of the stronger: From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Might Makes Right’…Darwinian Conservatism’…From Edge: ‘Re: What Makes People Republican? By Jonathan Haidt’…Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’…
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