Friday, December 10, 2010

It's A New World: Anthropology Is No Longer A Science And Trees Have The Right To Sue

The whole nature of science seems to be changing. Once centered around the gathering and interpretation of data, science these days just isn't about science anymore. For example, one association of Anthropologists is no longer going to identify themselves as scientists:
Anthropologists have been thrown into turmoil about the nature and future of their profession after a decision by the American Anthropological Association at its recent annual meeting to strip the word “science” from a statement of its long-range plan.

The decision has reopened a long-simmering tension between researchers in science-based anthropological disciplines — including archaeologists, physical anthropologists and some cultural anthropologists — and members of the profession who study race, ethnicity and gender and see themselves as advocates for native peoples or human rights.

During the last 10 years the two factions have been through a phase of bitter tribal warfare after the more politically active group attacked work on the Yanomamo people of Venezuela and Brazil by Napoleon Chagnon, a science-oriented anthropologist, and James Neel, a medical geneticist who died in 2000. With the wounds of this conflict still fresh, many science-based anthropologists were dismayed to learn last month that the long-range plan of the association would no longer be to advance anthropology as a science but rather to focus on “public understanding.”

Until now, the association’s long-range plan was “to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects.” The executive board revised this last month to say, “The purposes of the association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects.” This is followed by a list of anthropological subdisciplines that includes political research.
This is just part of a trend, where sciences have a whole new focus. And if this is the path that Anthropoligists want to follow, they will just have to stand in line--behind the environmentalists, who are concerned now about the rights of trees to sue:
What if a trimmed tree could sue as an amputee or a shucked clam could claim wrongful eviction?

In an effort to ban everything from drilling oil to incinerating garbage, about a dozen communities across the country have adopted ordinances that give nature legal standing and water down the rights of businesses.

...In the 1970s, Stone penned a seminal article, "Should Trees Have Standing?", which was cited during a famed Supreme Court decision.

The case involved the Sierra Club trying to stop The Walt Disney Co. from building a large ski resort at Mineral King Valley in California's southern Sierra Nevada. The court decided the group lacked standing and failed to show how it would be injured, though environmentalists prevailed when Congress added the land to Sequoia National Park in 1978.

The case and article inspired decades of debate on the issue, including a mocking poem by the American Bar Association that asked, "How can I rest beneath a tree if it may soon be suing me? Or enjoy the playful porpoise while it's seeking habeas corpus?"
I'm telling you, it's a whole new world we are living in.
Remember when journalists were content just to report the news?

Hat tip: David Hazony via Twitter

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