03 February 2006

on impotent arguments

we have been dialoguing simultaneously (at the same time) about plagiarism and about science/knowledge/observation on various blogs in this corner of the 'sphere, and then I see this article. Link.

now I should preface this by saying that most of what I know about DNA I learned/gleaned from Richard Powers' fabulous Goldbug Variations. what I know is this: it's very very complex. so when the media excerpts a preliminary report regarding this prehistoric mummified corpse we found, claiming that DNA can 1. tell us the guy was infertile and then 2. of course, from that we can say that it's possible/likely even that he died because of a spat over his infertility...well, it just strikes me as, um, bad critical thinking. hello! did they even call an anthropologist? hello! do they realize that there's this little thing called, um, "history" and that "time" has elapsed since this guy lived? do they even recognize that it wasn't so long ago that we practiced a "blame the mom" policy vis-a-vis problematic conceptions, and that it wasn't so long before that that we had all sorts of wacky explanations for how babies are made?

I'll stop saying "hello!" now. but I will say that it's a sad thing when scientists and the media that report on them fail in every way to have any interdisciplinary sense whatsoever. it's not just about the history question on the MCATs, people. it's about thinking logically and deducing conclusions from that. and why is infertility even a question here? aren't there more interesting questions? like: what did this guy eat? why was he in the alps? how did he get there from his supposed genetic roots in central asia? sure, sex is interesting, and impotence is always funny. but really. we reveal more about ourselves than about the ancient societies we claim to be studying, no?

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