Where would you place anthropology on the index of "exact" sciences?

  • Thread starter sbrothy
  • Start date
  • Tags
    Sociology
In summary, anthropology is a social science that studies human societies and cultures. It is often considered to be an inexact science due to its focus on the complexities and subjectivity of human behavior and cultural practices. However, with advancements in research methods and the incorporation of quantitative data, anthropology has gained recognition as a rigorous and scientific field. Ultimately, its placement on the index of "exact" sciences may vary depending on the specific approach and methodology used by individual anthropologists.
  • #1
sbrothy
Gold Member
557
429
I'm about to make a bunch of comments on a (rather old issue of an) anthropological essay which is apparently issued by The Univeristy of Copenhagen. My beef with it is personal, and what really annoys me about it is it's patronizing tone. I'd rather not go into too much detail as I'm sure that would probably lead to more warnings and I can't really afford more of them. I've been lucky to have been able to talk myself out of some of them in the past (as I've learned the rules in detail. :) ) but I'd rather not annoy Murphy or or even Destiny herself being a smart...

I'd put anthropology somewhere around sociology or perhaps even ethnography. (Mentioning phrenology might be a little too abrasive). What annoys me about these people and their papers is their arrogance and my suspicion that some of their articles and/or conclusions reach into the last real newspaper we have in Denmark, namely: Weekend Avisen. It is issued on paper once a week and costs around $25. OK that isn't quite fair. We also still have Kristeligt Dagblad (Daily Christian Monitor?), but these 2 papers are the only ones with editorials with any real gumption as far as I can see. I's pretty sad.

I really have no idea where I was going with this. Feel free to ignore me.
 
Last edited:
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
Giving a link to a non-English language article and expecting us to comment on it is ... well, silly.
 
  • #3
phinds said:
Giving a link to a non-English language article and expecting us to comment on it is ... well, silly.
Yes... Hence my last comment. Sorry about that. But I had so much inertia I couldn't stop.
 
  • #4
sbrothy said:
But I had so much inertia I couldn't stop.
OK, I can emphasize with that. Once you feel the need to rant about something, it can be hard to stop.

SO ... what is it exactly that bothers you? Is it anthropology as a science or is it some particular anthropologists?
 
  • #5
phinds said:
OK, I can emphasize with that. Once you feel the need to rant about something, it can be hard to stop.

SO ... what is it exactly that bothers you? Is it anthropology as a science or is it some particular anthropologists?

It's particular piece from 2015 which is having a renaissance due to some social (well yeah anthropological) issues coming back to haunt a certain demographic.

I'll be back if I really do something about it. I'm utterly alone with this though so it might amount to nothing at all.
 
  • Like
Likes renormalize
  • #6
sbrothy said:
It's particular piece from 2015 which is having a renaissance due to some social (well yeah anthropological) issues coming back to haunt a certain demographic.

I'll be back if I really do something about it. I'm utterly alone with this though so it might amount to nothing at all.
I mean I'm utterly alone in being able to comment on it. not being bothered by it.
 
  • #7
sbrothy said:
I mean I'm utterly alone in being able to comment on it. not being bothered by it.
Not sure what that means. Do you mean you think you are the only one who has this particular concern? Why can you not comment on it. Forum rules ?
 
  • #8
phinds said:
Not sure what that means. Do you mean you think you are the only one who has this particular concern? Why can you not comment on it. Forum rules ?
It's a long explanation. I have my own website up and running now. It was supposed to be my peronal box of LEGOs but once you have a soapbox you know....

Lets it rest for now. We'' see how far I get. Then I'll be back.
 
  • Like
Likes phinds
  • #9
Not knowing and understanding the methods of any scientific inquiry makes evaluating conclusions rather useless. The reporting of results in the general new media is often worthless for serious consideration of the results.
 
  • #10
I'm still not at a place where I'm willing to explain further. It'll end up being a link to my own site so I won't break any rules (apart from linking to my own site that is). The topic is drug-related. I'm guessing you managed to infer as much from my vagueness. It's also personal but grounded in scientific publications. I have a personal axe I to grind though. Then again: this is not really the place no matter the amount of of scientific papers I link to.

I just wanted to point out a rather funny fact:

After I made some fun about the sliding "scientific" scale of anthropology vs. ethnography, reading a little further into the paper that had me riled up I encountered the following heading:

"The Ethnographic Material"

---- https://www.researchgate.net/public...e_og_andre_modsaetninger_i_det_danske_program

(We're Not Running an Amusementpark here. Treatment vs enjoyment and other conflicts in the Danish Program [for Diacetylmorphine Substitution Treatment].

So yes, anthropology and ethnography seems to go hand in hand. No surprise there, but especially ethnography has a bad reputation of being part of the "white man's burden".

An no. I still don't know exactly where I'm going with this....
 
Last edited:
  • #11
sbrothy said:
So yes, anthropology and ethnography seems to go hand in hand. No surprise there, but especially ethnography has a bad reputation ...
My anthropology professors distinguished between physical and cultural anthropology.

Physical anthropology relies on hard data from numerous sources located where humans and related species lived, ate, died and became buried, Physical anthropologists exhume old bones and artifacts, plot the remains of settlements and campsites while studying the matrix left behind.

Cultural anthropologists study human interactions and customs, using language as a principle tool. Language study requires ethnographers and some linguists to live among the people whose languages they seek to document and learn, along with common activities and beliefs.

This necessity of living among study subjects, with some better known ethnographers becoming assimilated in the subject cultures, leads to disapprobation of embedded researchers to the point of hatred and opposition. Noted ethnologist, author and linguist Richard Francis Burton provides a flamboyant example of this contretemps.

Yet the cultural scientists appear pinnacles of rectitude and scholastic agreement compared to the arguments and controversy surrounding seemingly innocent discoveries and publication of bone fragments and pottery shards. Not knowing the OP's principle gripe, though one can imagine, anthropology attracts argument as a strong magnetic field attracts iron filings.
 
  • Like
Likes sbrothy and BillTre
  • #13
Klystron said:
Yet the cultural scientists appear pinnacles of rectitude and scholastic agreement compared to the arguments and controversy surrounding seemingly innocent discoveries and publication of bone fragments and pottery shards. Not knowing the OP's principle gripe, though one can imagine, anthropology attracts argument as a strong magnetic field attracts iron filings.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Leakey

There DO appear to be ... difficulties?
 
  • #14
Klystron said:
[...]
This necessity of living among study subjects, with some better known ethnographers becoming assimilated in the subject cultures, leads to disapprobation of embedded researchers to the point of hatred and opposition. Noted ethnologist, author and linguist Richard Francis Burton provides a flamboyant example of this contretemps.
[...]

A productive man indeed. I read a particularly gruesome one recently which, needless to say, I can't find. I almost immediately passed it on, as it was that...enlightening (Good would have been the wrong word here I think.). It was part of the ongoing story about African hunter/gatherers being forced to "farm" in areas where it's painstakingly obvious that it's impossible. Also needless to say the results are beyond ugly; genocidal even.

I also recently read the story of an escapee from a North Korean KZ-camp and - although a chilly read - it had nothing on suffering on the first.
 

Related to Where would you place anthropology on the index of "exact" sciences?

What is the definition of an "exact" science?

An "exact" science is typically defined as a field of study that relies heavily on mathematical models, quantitative data, and empirical evidence to produce precise and reproducible results. Examples include physics, chemistry, and certain branches of biology.

How does anthropology differ from "exact" sciences?

Anthropology differs from "exact" sciences in that it often deals with qualitative data, such as cultural practices, social behaviors, and historical contexts. While it does employ scientific methods and can include quantitative research, it also relies on interpretive analysis and theoretical frameworks that may not always yield precise or universally reproducible results.

Can anthropology be considered a science at all?

Yes, anthropology is considered a science, but it is often categorized as a social science rather than a natural or "exact" science. It employs systematic methodologies, including fieldwork, observation, and comparative analysis, to study human societies, cultures, and biological aspects of humans.

Are there any branches of anthropology that align more closely with "exact" sciences?

Yes, certain branches of anthropology, such as physical or biological anthropology, are more closely aligned with the "exact" sciences. These subfields often involve the study of human evolution, genetics, and forensic analysis, which can include quantitative data and empirical methods similar to those used in biology and medicine.

What role does interpretation play in anthropology compared to "exact" sciences?

Interpretation plays a significant role in anthropology, as it seeks to understand the complexities of human behavior, culture, and social structures. While "exact" sciences aim for objectivity and precision, anthropology often requires a more nuanced approach that considers context, meaning, and the subjective experiences of individuals and groups.

Similar threads

  • General Discussion
Replies
4
Views
868
  • General Discussion
Replies
28
Views
5K
  • Other Physics Topics
Replies
2
Views
2K
Back
Top