Science, AAA, and Anthropology

I am not going to spend much time describing the controversy regarding the American Anthropological Association removing the word “science” from their long-range plan statement. What has been called #AAAfail is aptly covered by the great folks over at Neuroanthropology if you are interested in the details. My first reaction (also possibly my second and third) was more exasperation and disillusionment than outrage. It might be a problem of perception, but I share the feelings of exclusion and sometime condescension that archaeologists face when trying to reach out to our “parent” discipline, anthropology. If you are wondering about that tone of condescension, check out Savage Minds’s characterizing the critique of the AAA’s actions as having “as much complexity as an average episode of WWE Smackdown.” Bloggers get caught in the middle–how to complicate the public understanding of our practice and remain comprehensible is a fine art.

Anyway, I think there is a mostly good outcome of this controversy in that it has 1) made people really consider their ideas regarding science and the study of humans in present and past and 2) that there has now been a dialogue opened to discuss this apparent sore spot in the discipline. Perhaps a third beneficial outcome is that more people will read Neuroanthropology, and hopefully contribute to the wiki that they have created to discuss and edit the AAA Long-Term Plan.

Finally, I hope that there will be two other outcomes of this AAA PR disaster–that my fellow blogging archaeologists will (continue to) blog their research, demonstrating our own flavor of scientific truthiness, and that more anthropologists and archaeologists will read blogs and find them to be useful venues for discussion about our field.