Wählen zwischen Masern und Windpocken.

aus New York Times, 14. 12. 2010

Anthropology Group Tries to Soothe Tempers After Dropping the Word ‘Science’


The battle of the anthropologists — those who hew closely to scientific tradition versus those who take a more humanistic approach — flared again Monday, as the organization that represents both sides tried to patch things up.

The American Anthropological Association had caused a stir by dropping the word “science” from its long-range plan, angering the evidence-based anthropologists who worry about their field’s growing too soft. All three mentions of the word “science” were excised, and two were replaced by the phrase “the public understanding of humankind.”

On Monday, the association issued a statement of clarification, saying it recognizes “the crucial place of the scientific method in much anthropological research.”

Damon Dozier, the association’s director of public affairs, said: “We’ve heard loud and clear from our members that they have concerns about the long-range plan. We’ll look at the words again.”

The association is an umbrella group that includes several disciplines ranging from physical anthropology — like the study of fossilized human skulls — to more interpretive subjects, like research on race and sex. There has been a longstanding cultural gap within the association between the evidence-based researchers, who include some social anthropologists, and those more interested in advocating for the rights of women or native peoples. The new long-range plan, approved last month, inflamed these differences.

In Monday’s statement, the association defined anthropology as “a holistic and expansive discipline that covers the full breadth of human history and culture.” Anthropology draws on the methods of both the humanities and the sciences, it added.

Mr. Dozier said, “We mean holistic in terms of the diversity of the discipline.”

Peter N. Peregrine, president of the Society for Anthropological Sciences, an affiliate of the association, said Monday that he had heard “outrage and tremendous concern” from his members about dropping references to science, some of them asking how they could justify their department’s existence if their national organization did not regard anthropology as a science.

But Mr. Peregrine expressed hope regarding Monday’s statement, interpreting “holistic” to mean that science is included in the anthropological understanding of human beings.

The differences between the humanistic and scientific approaches may, however, be too large to be bridged. “I really don’t see how or why anthropology should entail humanities,” said Frank Marlowe, president-elect of the Evolutionary Anthropology Society, another association affiliate, given that the social sciences are empirical, while the humanities are analytic, critical or speculative.

“We evolutionary anthropologists are outnumbered by the new cultural or social anthropologists, many but not all of whom are postmodern, which seems to translate into antiscience,” Dr. Marlowe said.



Vor ein paar Jahren noch hätte ich mich bedenkenlos auf die Seite jener geschlagen, die sich gegen den Fetischismus der naturwissenschaftlich-„exakten“ Methode in den Humanwissenschaften auflehnen. Aber heute, nach zwei Jahrzehnten political correctness, muss ich mir das nochmal ganz genau durch den Kopf gehen lassen… Pest oder Cholera, das ist vielleicht unnötig dramatisch formuliert. Masern oder Windpocken, das wird man wohl sagen dürfen.

J. E.

~ von Panther Ray - Dezember 17, 2010.

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