Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AAA Update: Reconsidering the Relationships of Anthropology and Science

According to the NYTimes, the American Anthropological Association are reconsidering the drop of science from it's mission statement. I found this to be particularly consequential, "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," (Wade, N. NYTimes). In an age of endangered humanities at universities across the country, would dropping the association of anthropology and science make departments more likely to receive budget cuts or worse yet, being erased entirely? 

The other part of the article that stood out is the fact that cultural and social anthropologists with postmodern methods outnumber scientifically oriented physical anthropologists. The AAA move to drop science seems more and more to appease a majority rather than to recognize the "holistic" elements of the science. For now, the AAA is reconsidering. I am not familiar with the climate of the AAA and how it will go about taking all its members concerns into mind. I think that the clearest form of protest from science minded anthropologists would be quitting the AAA, this not only weakens the organizations numbers but also it's revenue. Realistically though, I doubt many are going to quit the AAA and those who do would only make science an even smaller minority within the organization. 

What the AAA (and anti-science anthropologists) needs to understand is that anthropology seeks to understand human existence in all aspects from a variety of different approaches. There is room for studying humans through both a humanistic and scientific lens -- and just because you don't like the other doesn't mean you can just drop it from the mission statement -- and using different perspectives can help contribute to a greater shared knowledge. 

Wade, Nicholas. "Anthropology Group Tries to Soothe Tempers After Dropping Word 'Science'." The New York Times. 14 Dec 2010.

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