Re: Chunking intelligence functions

From: Neal Blaikie (
Date: Thu May 10 2001 - 09:58:25 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:

> Eliezer wrote:
> > Looks like the war rages on, Ben. There still seems to be a fairly large
> > disparity between the group that thinks that Mead was at most a minor
> > nuisance, or perhaps a good researcher who moved the social sciences in
> > the right direction despite her minor foibles, and the group that thinks
> > that Mead managed to do almost as much damage as Marx.
> There is indeed this disparity. However, neither of the sides in this
> dispute believes that her work about sex life in Samoa was correct.

At this point I should probably state that I agree with this assessment of
Mead's work, as did all of the professors I had when I was studying anthro. The
only coursework that featured her (or Boas for that matter) dealt with the
history of the discipline. It's possible I received a skewed perspective,
though. I was in school in the mid-80s at a small college, and it may just be
that the group of professors I had weren't pro- or anti-Mead, but just not
interested in her at all. They had their own particular biases to think about!

Lee Corbin wrote:

> Would you please give some examples from "the vast body of
> anthropological work... not influenced by her"? (Thanks!)

I wish I could, but I can't! I'm not trying to be evasive, but this statement
was more anecdotal than factual. It's been over ten years since I studied
anthro, and I haven't stayed in the field (I actually work as a network
specialist). Like I mentioned above, my perspective could simply reflect the
fact that I studied under professors who weren't particularly interested in
Mead one way or the other, although I've spoken with a couple of friends who
actually are anthropologists and they don't seem to have much to say about her
either (and both went to school in different parts of the US than me). Our
department was pretty evenly divided among hardcore physical
anthropologists/archaeologists and cultural anthropologists. The first group
was very scientific and uninterested in theory, while the second group were
pretty much all theory (but no Mead!).

I wasn't really interested in defending Mead or anthropology in general, but
was just trying to provide a more neutral persepctive. I'm certainly not
interested in becoming involved in a "war." Yawn.

> >No one in the field has ever held her up as some sort of
> >icon or queen bee (or even as anthropology's Einstein)...
> That was not my impression, and little else can explain the
> vehemence in many quarters against Derek Freeman.

My own ignorance of what has been happening in anthro since I lost interest in
it is reflected in the statement you quote above, although that was always my
impression. I'm beginning to think I should have stayed out of this one!

As for the vehemence directed against Freeman, this is just pitiful. If social
scientists want to practice their discipline as science (and many do), then
they need to be willing to drop their ideological adherence to theories (and
theorists) in the face of factual evidence to the contrary. Of course, some
"hard" scientists have this problem as well. Maybe it's human nature!


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