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Re: Rant

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  • George Thomas
    Perfect!  We may be on our way to preempting the next evolutionary step within the ID genepool.  But really, the divine complexity of shark coprolites is a
    Message 1 of 12 , Jun 4, 2010
      Perfect!  We may be on our way to preempting the next evolutionary step within the ID genepool.  But really, the divine complexity of shark coprolites is a holy wonder.....One finds one and hears choirs..... organs..... um.....
      I'll see what happens if I ever find another one and the lab folks find it bagged & tagged.
          Posted by: "Lynch, Brian M" blynch@... bdlqvcc
          Date: Thu Jun 3, 2010 5:48 am ((PDT))

      I will now wait with curiosity to see how coprolite morphology and complexity might work their way into the ID scenario!


      -----Original Message-----
      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com on behalf of George Thomas
      Sent: Thu 6/3/2010 8:24 AM
      To: sacc-l@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [SACC-L] Re: Rant

      Marshall Sahlins's affluent forager, AND Marvin Harris's section in his 1970s-80s text re our illusions about having more free time than foragers. Harris provided stats for intro students.
      Continuing with previous poop under discussion, I was recently unexpectedly edumuckated while on a survey involving "shovel tests." Among the small, non-artifactual rocks on one screen load was something that looked like a tightly-wrapped snail-like or gastropod fossil, but not quite.  I put it in a safe place until I could look it up in my Adubon fossil fleld guide.  Winging it and going by morphology alone, I found the thing illustrated.  It was a shark coprolite.  I actually must admit, in fairness, that I was momentarily tempted to treat the thing like an artifact, some kind of sculpture.
      We rant on an on about "exceptionalism" and, securely lacking in information, we assume we are better off than anyone in the past because we have more "stuff," and that we have a handle on complexity.
      But it seems the shark has the edge on poop complexity. (Who was the poop "designer," and what were they thinking?)
      Posted by: "Lynch, Brian M" blynch@... bdlqvcc
          Date: Wed Jun 2, 2010 9:57 am ((PDT))

      Bob, Interesting parallel, by the way, with the experience of having to tell a budding archaeologist that he just put 'poop' in your hand rather than a valuable artifact.

          Posted by: "Lewine, Mark" mark.lewine@...
          Date: Wed Jun 2, 2010 9:34 am ((PDT))

      Yes, thanks for the idea!

      From: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com [mailto:SACC-L@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Nikki Ives
      Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2010 11:57 AM
      To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [SACC-L] Rant

      Wow - it sounds like this article would be a really good example of ethnocentrism - I might use it in the classroom!

      Nicole Ives
      Prince George's Community College
      Largo, MD

      From: Bob Muckle <bmuckle@... <mailto:bmuckle%40capilanou.ca> >
      To: SACC-L@... <mailto:SACC-L%40capilanou.ca> ; SACC-L@yahoogroups.com <mailto:SACC-L%40yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Wed, June 2, 2010 11:35:53 AM
      Subject: [SACC-L] Rant

      Something has been bothering me big-time. And it has been going on for almost five weeks. I can't seem to get it out of my head. I'm hoping by writing this bit of a rant, I can transfer the thinking about it to whoever is reading it.

      On a very general level, I get bothered by all the misinformation, bias, ignorance, and such in the mainstream media. I get even more bothered when it comes from a well-known "academic personality" who people might think he or she really knows what they are talking about.

      More specifically I am bothered by an article written by Michael Shermer, who is the founding publisher of "Skeptic Magazine", book author, columnist for 'Scientific American' and appears to have carved out a career on the public lecture circuit. He wrote an essay called "Life Has Never Been So Good for Our Species" or something like that. As far as I can tell it was originally published in the L.A. Times at the end of April and has since been reproduced in many kind of media, including the traditional print papers and the digital (eg. Huffington Post). I used to be fan of the kind of work Shermer did, including promoting rational thinking. But....in my view the article is crap. It reminds my of the deer poop that the student dropped in my hand yesterday; except worse because Shermer is dishing out the crap to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions.

      I haven't actually read the article for weeks, so my info might be a bit off, but not much. Shermer's basic argument, as I recall, is that despite what some from the envrionmental movement say, we should not be thinking all gloom and doom about the present or the future. He basically says that we have it pretty good, better than ever before. He might be right, but I still don't like the article.

      What bothers me is the way he presents his argument. He is all over the place with odd comparisons, and uses data from where I don't know. Right from the get-go, he says that humans are far better off now than at any time prior to 10,000 years ago. To illustrate his point, he uses an example from the Yanomamo, which he must think is representative of everybody prior to 10,000 years ago, which is absurd. Equally absurd, he suggests that based on the Yanomamo, and presumably by extension all prehistoric peoples, he suggest the amount of poverty can be extrapolated by the fact that an average village has only 300 artifacts (he doesn't actually use the word artifact). This is grossly absurd. I've excavated in many preshistoric sites. Many prehistoric sites can reveal 300 artifacts an hour during excavation. One local prehistoric sites has over 60,000 artifacts cataloged, and I'm not talkign lithic flakes or potsherds.

      For comparison (with his 300 artifacts representing a village of prehistoric people), he says someone living in Manhattan has 10 billion products available to them. An obvious indicator of how good we have it, in Shermer's mind.

      There is so much more, but I am running out of time before I head off to work in the forest, in the rain....

      He compares the average annual income of hunter/gathers with those in industrialized nations, as if the average annual income in USD is important to foragers. As further proof of how good humans have it today, he notes that we have to work less now that a few decades ago to purchase....get this: a cheesburger.

      He thinks we have it really good now compared to the past, because we can buy tv's, dvd's, brand name jewelry, and SUV's. He thinks this is the best time ever because there is less pollution now in some American cities than there was 20 years ago. And he thinks we have it really good now because the crime rate has gone down in some American cities over the past few decades.

      I think a lot of his argument is really faulty. He is all over the place. I think a lot of the problem has to do with his ignorance of anthropology, both archaeology and cultural. He seems to have no appreciation of what was happening in prehistory; nor does he seem to appreciate other cultures may have other values that are important to them, rather than being able to shop forever or buy an inexpensive cheeseburger.

      I wonder what many ethnic minorities would think of Shermers' statement that we are better off now than at any other time. He talks about how it is easier to ride a bicycle in the LA smog now than 20 years ago, but doesn't mention that there actually used to be no smog at all. I wonder if he asked any Indigenous people if he though their people were better off now than 500 years ago. My list goes on and on.

      I'm not actually doubting that for some, this is a pretty good time for the species. Especially if you restrict the species to wealthy, middle-aged American males of European descent, living in Southern California, who writes and lectures for a living.

      Rant over.


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