Steve Pinker demolishes John Horgan’s view of war

23 May

Why Evolution Is True

As you may recall, Science Contrarian John Horgan’s notorious “admonition to skeptics” blog post at Scientific American criticized the entire skeptical community for its supposed failure to campaign against war. That “hard target”, said Horgan, should take precedence over our attempts to attack “soft targets” like homeopathy, global warming denialism, and opposition to vaccination and GMO foods.  But he also criticized those who propounded what he called the “deep-roots theory of war”.  Let me refresh you on what he said (note that every single one of his “references” goes to a Horgan blog post!):


The biological theory that really drives me nuts is the deep-roots theory of war. According to the theory, lethal group violence is in our genes. Its roots reach back millions of years, all the way to our common ancestor with chimpanzees.

The deep-roots theory is promoted by scientific heavy hitters like Harvard’s Steven Pinker, Richard Wrangham and Edward…

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May The Fourth Be with You!

5 May Featured Image -- 407

The Geek Anthropologist

How do anthropologists celebrate May the 4th? By reading anthropological articles of course!

Head over to Anthropology News to read May The Folk be With You, a piece on Star Wars and folklore by TGA’s own Nick Mizer.

Our archives are also filled with fascinating pieces about Star Wars for you to enjoy and share on this auspicious day!

Learn more about the 501st Legion in Emily Jackson’s Fan Activism and the 501st Legion: Be the Change You Wish to see in the Galaxy or reflect on storytelling in Nick Mizer’s Storytelling and Worldbuilding in The Force Awakens. Finally, check out Emma Backe’s 2015 in Review: Geek Girls and Gender in which she explores representations of women in pop culture using, among others, the example of Star Wars: The Force Awakens character Rey.

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Applying Anthropology for a Safer World

20 Apr Featured Image -- 405

Welcome to the AAA Blog

Claim our bodies, claim our right,
Take a stand, take back the night!

Across the globe, the month of April is a time for communities to mobilize Take Back the Night rallies, Clothesline Project demonstrations, anti-violence marches, speak-outs and fundraisers.  Their slogans reflect a continued call for a safer world during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

However, despite decades of research, activism, and policy efforts, there is little evidence to suggest that rates of sexual assault are decreasing.  In particular, campus sexual violence has emerged as a threat to the health and well-being of college-aged women, a trend that affects all of us at a societal level.

As an anthropologist, my goal in examining cultural practices is to make the strange familiar- and the familiar strange.  And campus sexual violence is a phenomenon that has become uncomfortably familiar.

Working from the central tenets of anthropology- understanding cultural systems holistically with attention…

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5 Questions with Archaeologist Dr. Beth Horton

17 Apr Featured Image -- 400

Northwest Cultural Resources Institute

How would you describe the work you do at Fort Vancouver NHS?

As an archaeologist with the National Park Service, I work within Cultural Resource Management (CRM), which means I help the park meet its regulatory compliance needs for cultural resources. I make sure that for any activities we undertake, potential impacts to significant resources are thoroughly considered during the planning process. This includes finding and documenting archaeological sites, historic buildings, and other structures, such as wells, earthworks, and culturally modified trees, as well as determining the significance of these resources. I am lucky enough to also undertake archaeological research projects, and assist other parks with their CRM needs throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Horton excavates a privy underneath the Artillery Barracks building in Vancouver Barracks Dr. Horton excavates a privy underneath the Artillery Barracks building in Vancouver Barracks

What is your background, and how did you get interested in archaeology?

I grew up in Lexington, MA, and as I kid I read…

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Pinker opposes BDS boycott of Israel by American Anthropological Association

29 Feb

For what it’s worth, I agree with Pinker. Punishing scholars (not governments) from nations with questionable human rights records makes little sense – plus we’d have to punish every nation’s scholars, including the U.S.

Why Evolution Is True

Various universities, student organizations, and academic associations have been joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), urging a boycott of Israeli academics. Their recomendations range from complete non-interaction with Israeli academics to milder “sanctions”, including boycotting of institutions rather than scholars (i.e., you could invite an Israeli academic to speak at your university).

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is about to vote on a resolution supporting the BDS by imposing a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, based on these principles, outlined in the linked pdf:

Whereas, The AAA’s 1999 Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights states, “Anthropology as a profession is committed to the promotion and protection of the right of people and peoples everywhere to the full realization of their humanity” and “the AAA has an ethical responsibility to protest and oppose… deprivation;” and whereas the AAA has historically upheld those rights, including the right to education and academic…

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Chinook Nation (You CAN Help!)

23 Feb

Making the world a better place sounds lofty, but can be pursued every day with simple actions. In this case, you can quickly and easily help address a historical injustice by simply signing a petition.

I had the chance to meet and talk with Tony Johnson, Chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation, at the recent Society for Cross-Cultural Research meetings in Portland, Oregon. Since then, I have learned a bit more about the Chinook Nation, their justified grievances, and continuing efforts to be federally recognized.

Attempts to gain such recognition reveal a history of broken treaties, misunderstandings, and debate about the specific criteria for federal recognition as a tribe. After reviewing these criteria, the outgoing Clinton administration granted the Chinook Indian Nation federal recognition. Unfortunately, this decision was reversed by the Bush administration just 18 months later.

Now, Tony and others are appealing to the Obama administration to review federal recognition criteria and clarify the legal standing of the Chinook. Please visit the Chinook Nation link above for more information about what you can do to help.

I have also started a petition at to help draw attention to this issue. The petition must have 150 signatures to become searchable on the petition site, a necessary step if the petition is going to have any hope of reaching the 100,000 signatures necessary to be reviewed by presidential staff.

Please review and sign the petition here, and share widely so we can (minimally) reach that first threshold. Imagine how good it will feel to know that you have helped bring about this change – all you have to do is sign your name. Thanks!

Why do you love anthropology?

13 Feb Featured Image -- 376

Welcome to the AAA Blog

Why do you S_S-Classic-Heart-Pink_1024x1024 anthropology? We thought we’d get an early start celebrating Valentine’s Day and the Feb. 18 Anthropology Day event by sharing the #AnthroLove.

Read the responses below from AAA President Alisse Waterston and her colleagues at John Jay College CUNY. Then share your own story with us in the comments!


I got to anthropology the long way, and later than most. Almost 30 years old when I “discovered” the field—well after I had completed my undergraduate education—I found anthropology to be the discipline that would best help me understand the world as it exists rather than as I may have wanted it to be. Anthropology gave me the intellectual tools to step outside myself and question what I thought I knew. It helped me realize and come to terms with the human capacity for cleverness, creativity, connection as well as delusion and other…

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