The previous Four Stone Hearth Anthropology Blog Carnival was Four Stone Hearth Number 43, here, at Swedish Extravagaza. It was the Lard Edition. Go check it out. The home page for Four Stone Hearth is here. The next edition, due on or about July 16th, will be at YOUR blog if you want it to be (the position is still open). Just let Martin Know at the 4SH home page.
BIOLOGICAL AND EVOLUTIONARY ANTHROPOLOGY
In our continuing exploration of facile examples of ‘evolutionary’ explanations for human behavior (usually described instead as ‘human nature’), I have another couple of exhibits: Do Jerks Get Laid More?, a great attack on recent research by Jill Filopovic at Feministe (h/t: Alternet); and Science Daily’s story, Women Have Not Adapted To Casual Sex, Research Shows (which I’ll discuss in the next posts). Daniel already discussed some of the recent research on homosexuality in The Gay Brain: On Love and Science, but this piece, the first of two, is dedicated to recent ‘evolutionary’ work on male-female relations, especially arguments about what is ‘natural’ in sexuality including that all-important question, ‘What do women want?’…
A lot of controversy and blogging about the gay brain of late. … Vaughan proposed “hard wired” as one of the worst psychobabble terms. For me, the fixation on biological determinism is the larger, and worse, cultural concept behind that. So I propose leaving behind biological claims for identity. It just gives us claptrap like the opening lines from the New Scientist news report, “Brain scans have provided the most compelling evidence yet that being gay or straight is a biologically fixed trait.”…
Narrative and memory are interwoven in our consciousness, and thus explorations into trauma from both humanities and social science perspectives almost invariably discuss narrative in one form or another. An ongoing debate within psychological research, for example, ponders whether the coherence of trauma stories is correlated to the amount of emotional distress associated with a given traumatic memory. It is hypothesized that the greater the distress, the less organized the narrative. If this were the case, we might expect that the coherence with which an individual is able to talk about the trauma would increase as the memory is processed and resolved, a finding for which we have some evidence…
There is new information from an older idea (from about 2000) by Paul Sherman and colleagues. The idea underlying this research is simple: Symptoms of illnesses may be adaptive. Indeed, this may be true to the extent that we should not call certain things illnesses. Like “morning sickness.” Broadly speaking, there are two different kinds of reasons that a woman may experience nausea in association with pregnancy. 1) This pregnancy thing is a complicated mess with all kinds of hormonal (and other) things going on, so you puke; or 2) a woman who is pregnant feels nauseous for good evolutionary reasons.
Most members of the jury will have heard of genes and know they are responsible for our inherited characteristics. As you probably already know, your genes control such things as your skin, hair and eye colour, the shape and size of your face, eyes and nose, your blood group and to a large extent your general height and shape as well as many other things, such as elements of your personality (Steve Jones 2000). One of my brothers believes even the willingness, or otherwise, of individual dairy cows to come into the open side of a herringbone milking shed is inherited. Anyway it is most likely that instinctive behaviour is genetically inherited in some way. Humans have many instincts. One of them is the ability to learn a language (Ridley 2000). We’ll come back to language periodically.
A new paper in the open access journal PLoS Biology describes a new way to model the human brain using diffusion spectrum imaging. Since we’re in the omics age of science, you shouldn’t be surprised that this map is dubbed the connectome. The semantics of the connectome is similar to genome, proteome, metabalome, transcriptome — etc. in that it is a matrix of nearly all the neuronal connections of the human brain. The image to your right is from the new PLoS Biology study, the larger the dot represented the more neurons are in that area in 4 or more individuals.
You may recall the launch of Conservapedia.com back in March 2007, founded by American religious activists (a styling that we always like; has anything ever been done by a non-activist?) who asserted that Wikipedia was “increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American”.
Their principal beef was that they found themselves unable to make permanent changes on the site to articles that they disagreed with (or where the evidence disagreed with them). So they cloned it – though not in a Dolly the sheep kind of way, obviously – and under the, um, guidance of Andy Schafly, its founder, set about creating their own little corner of the net where they could be sure that their version of truthiness would reign. And just to make sure, they subtitled it “The Trustworthy Encyclopedia”.
Two items regarding a recent piece on the Smithsonian’s web site.
The latest issue of Smithsonian arrived today, in time for my dinner. There are few things more pleasing than reading and eating on a fine summer day, sitting on the back patio with a light breeze blowing and the perfect toasted cheese sandwich, not burned this time, sitting on my plate.
But even a perfect toasted cheese sandwich can have its charms diminished when you find your sex so blithely dismissed in the opening lines of an article that caught your eye…
…These population expansions appear to have been driven by cultural innovations that gave some African populations an edge over others and, eventually, over archaic humans in Europe and Asia. Unfortunately, instead of speaking of an expansion out of Africa, the Smithsonian article prefers the term ‘exodus’ — as if life had become so intolerable in Africa that humans were forced to pick up and leave. In fact, almost the opposite happened: modern humans did so well in Africa that they elbowed out their archaic rivals not only on their own continent but on others as well….
…And what, please, is synteny? Synteny is the conservation of blocks of order within two sets of chromosomes that are being compared. Let’s look at our original set of hands, and compare it to the set that was produced by an inversion and a translocation as a simple example….
In a recent issue of Brain and Behavioral Science (BBS) Penn, Holyoak and Povinelli argue for a profound difference in kind, not degree, between human and animal minds. Their suggestions elicit mainly vigorous opposition as well as some support from an array of commentators. Several of the commentators point out evidence for flexible relational capabilities within a physical symbol system exhibited by dolphins and birds. As I read through the debate and its mind-numbing detail I give up on trying to convey a succinct summary, but here is their abstract. (You might compare this with the work of Hauser et al, that I mentioned in a previous post.):…
In discussing the role of anthropologists in the battlefield I’ve argued that what is needed isn’t so much anthropology as common sense. I find it hard to see how the expert opinion of anthropologists will be taken seriously in an organization which fires Arab experts simply because they are gay. If an organization doesn’t take local knowledge seriously, how much help can an anthropologist provide? This short video by Guardian journalist John D McHugh makes clear what I mean….
Check out Hip-Hop Linguistics
What does it mean that English, and other subject-verb-object languages, might have veered off-course from the dominant (hard wired? or simply ancient?) subject-object-verb model? A recent study shows that despite one’s native linguistic model, non-verbal communication will follow the subject-object-verb format, both gesturally, and diagrammatically. Basically, when people try to communicate with just their hands, they will create “sentences” following the “mice cheese eat” model even if their spoken language would follow a “mice eat cheese” format. The study seems to indicate that the English model is a variant of something more automatic. Why would this kind of change happen?
When this show was originally on, I was quite excited, because I was taking a Neolithic of the Near East class at the time, and it seemed like a good thing to watch. Unfortunately, at that time, I was unable to see it. I was thus very excited to be offered the chance to review a copy. However there is nothing at all about the beginnings of the Neolithic in the Near East, or the countless important developments that began to take shape around 10,000 BCE. It seemed to me, that this would have been an important point of some note.
From the same blog, see also I get email
Whereas selection in organisms is defined based on differential reproductive success, for material traits the concept of replicative success is used. In those instances where the replicative success of the trait affects the the reproductive success of the bearer the trait is considered a functional trait, otherwise it is considered stylistic.
Lustreware was invented by a small guild of Islamic ceramicists living in the Iraqi towns of Baghdad and Basra in the 8th century AD. They used copper, silver, and lead to make the gold lights flicker on the pot surface. Naturally, they thought they were alchemists….
Reporter Bruce Lieberman profiles geneticist Ajit Varki in this week’s Nature. It’s a good summary of Varki’s work in sialic acid evolution, focusing on one particular change in the N-glycolyl neuraminic acid (Neu5Gc), work that I touched on here around 3 years ago….
Archaeologists have found the site of one of England’s oldest houses. The Stone Age house at Horton, close to Windsor Castle, is thought by experts to be well over 5,000 years old.
John Sherry is an anthropologist who is also chair of the Department of Marketing at Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business. I had coffee the other day with John, and was struck by how similar some of our approaches are. What unites us is an interest in behavior, for me behavioral health and for John consumer behavior, and a belief that anthropology can help unite interdisciplinary understandings of behavior and experience….
Mouse pad picture from Eich-tt-pee double-U double-U double_u dot overstock dot com slash office dash supplies slash patrioti dash puppy dash mouse dash pad slash two six one six four eight six slash product dot html