Woman's role in the emergence of human culture

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Woman's role in the emergence of human culture
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Woman's role in the emergence of human culture. The discussion was initiated by Fred.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

This article by Jens bubbles

This article by Jens bubbles with new ideas but is easy to read. It doesn't seem so much to be about women and their revolutionary roles in past societies, as its title suggests, but more about scientific method and the gradual replacement of older scientific approaches such as the inductivist method - which relies so much on empiricism - with more socially based approaches, embodied best in anthropology at the present time, in which the desire and preparedness to formulate hypotheses as a scientific approach begins to dominate, and which prompts the ensuing search for supporting evidence and/or proof. The "string theory" hypothesis is mentioned in this regard as is Chris Knight's "red ochre" hypothesis, later found to be true (probably)!

Knight is rather the hero of this piece, and is proved excellently quotable. He appears good at explaining potentially complicated ideas - perhaps a "new" scientific breakthrough in itself - and goes on to ask: "...is it really possible to study human phenomena scientifically – with the same detached objectivity as an astronomer can show towards galaxies or a physicist towards subatomic particles?". The answer presumably requires a 'yes'; but are the astronomer and the physicist as "detached" and as "objective" as they appear, and as the bourgeoisie would have us believe, and as scientific methodology has always insisted on in the past? Maybe not. Times change, and science, like Marxism, may have to admit that "the proper study of mankind is man" as Alexander Pope put it, back in the days of the confident dawn of the bourgeoisie, a confidence and hope now shattered and lost.

And if there are the beginnings of an opening up and growth of scientific methodologies, and the development of creative scientific "speculation" through the powers of hypothesis formation, then this perhaps opens the door to the "theory" or at least the hypothesis of "the subterranean maturation of working class consciousness?" That would be nice.

A Couple of Points

A couple of critical points after reading this over. First, I think it runs into a bit of difficulty on the origins of language when it seems to argue that language allowed early man to "express ideas." Its as if language is some neutral tool that simply allows man to communicate already existing ideas to others. I think this might put the cart before the horse, as it would seem to run afoul of a good junk of semiotic theory which sees language as a kind of structure of domination with a life of its own. Some might go as far as to see language (symbolic culture) as the origin of alienation and domination itself. I wouldn't got that far myself, but I have some discomfort with the way langauge is dealt with here. At the very least, there is a causality issue.

On the issue of the proletariat and science being natural allies. This seems the kind of sweeping statement that gets us in trouble on these issues. Its seems like a very teleological vision of eternal scientific/historical progress with the proletariat as the social agent that will finally redeem science from ideology. I think that the question of "ethics" gets lost here. There are others way to conceptualize the relationship between the working class and science that just don't seem to ever breakthrough in this discussion.What about E.P. Thompson's "moral economy"? Habermas' conflict between "system and lifeworld"? Once again, not endorsing these ideas per se, but there seems to be some critical alternatives to the teleological vision that could be explored. How much science do we really need? Is there a point where science runs into conflict with human self-fulfillment in society?

I suppose this is another instance where I am simply not satisfied with the understanding of science, technology, etc. as weapons of progress (only needing the correct social agent to fulfill their task).

Whatever happened to Chris Knight? I thought he said he was willing to engage in discussions on the forum?

I caught a story on the radio

I caught a story on the radio the other day about a British anti-genetically modified foods activist and occasional eco-terrorist, who has renounced his poistion and is now claiming that gentically modified foods are the only hope for the future. His reasoning: he now understands that the "consensus of the scientists" suggests GMF are perfectly safe. So this raises the issue once again of the nature of "scientific consensus." When do we accept it and when do we call into in critical question? The left likes to ridicule anyone who denies evolution or climate change; suggesting that the "consensus of the scientists" is too strong for any rational person to ignore. But it seems when it comes to some of the left's pet issues--like opposition to GMF--the scientific consensus is often seen as in league with the profit motive. This all raises tough issues about the interpenetration of science with power that seems to problematize any tendency to simply demure to scientific consensus. Of course, it is not clear what should replace this? Certainly, we cannot substiute political judgment for scientific consensus? Or can we?