Open Thread, 07/23/2017

Finished The Enigma of Reason. The basic thesis that reasoning is a way to convince people after you’ve already come to a conclusion, that is, rationalization, was already one I shared. That makes sense since one of the coauthors, Dan Sperber, has been influential in the “naturalistic” school of anthropology. If you’ve read books like In Gods We Trust The Enigma of Reason goes fast. But it is important to note that the cognitive anthropology perspective is useful in things besides religion. I’m thinking in particular of politics.

I haven’t been blogging much since I was abroad on a business trip. Specifically to the Persian Gulf. I’ll say more later, though I am going to be vague on geography since I’d rather not mix these two streams of my life (also, to be clear, this is not related to my day job).

One Family, Many Revolutions: From Black Panthers, to Silicon Valley, to Trump. I had known of this connection before, between Ben Horowitz, the Silicon Valley VC guy, and David Horowitz, the right-wing provocateur. The elder Horowitz’s contention that one needs to play dirty to get anywhere is a position that I believe has more support today than it did ten years ago. The culture has come to him.

Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll Try U.F.O.s. No surprise.

43 Senators Want to Make It a Federal Crime to Boycott Israeli Settlements. Here are the sponsors. I’ve never felt so sympathetic toward BDS….

My piece in India Today on South Asian genetics is hitting the printing press this week.

57 thoughts on “Open Thread, 07/23/2017

  1. On another note, an attempt to deal with the replication crisis. I suspect that if the policy were put into effect widely, people would eventually figure out how to game it just as much as they do under current conventions. I don’t make any predictions about how long that would take, but [as an economist, I believe that] until the incentives change, behavior won’t, and the incentives under a competitive publish or perish policy are obvious.

  2. I guess the point (a technicality perhaps) to me is that it seems likely to be Malthusianism and states that make a difference between mobilisation / violence between pastoralist (stockbreeding, pasturing) societies and agriculturalists (crop cultivators) and rather than anything relating to the different modes of production working outside these variables.

    Keep in mind, hunter-gatherer lifestyles and semi-nomadic pastoralism are far more conducive to inculcating warmaking skills than crop farming does. It’s not just a matter of free time.

  3. I could see that, though also perhaps some advantages on the farmer side of the ledger, assuming similar division of labour (rather than a female farmer setup, which would put lots more free time for males at the same Malthusian point).

    Well nourished planters could need good physical strength to plant, dig, etc. I’d assume they might be better at permanent physical structures (like fortifications), as fairly sedentary people could have an easier time developing and storing tools, and tentatively farmers may have more discipline and long term planning, at least than hunter-gatherers.

  4. a female farmer setup, which would put lots more free time for males at the same Malthusian point

    I think that’s unlikely. Agriculture is thought to have brought both class division and greater sex differentiation. Hunter-gatherers and semi-nomadic pastoralists were much more egalitarian in both class and sex roles, as a rule.

    I’d assume they might be better at permanent physical structures (like fortifications)

    That’s a good point. Jericho was permanently settled around 9,000 BC and the famed wall was built by 8,000 BC, if my memory served. That is both amazing and obvious, though. Once the early agriculturalists settled down and had storage/property to defend, they almost had to build a wall – otherwise they would be predated upon by both beasts and wild men, perhaps at night.

    In open combat, though, farmers generally fared poorly against the other two groups, especially the pastoralists, a disadvantage that grew still once horse domestication for transport began in earnest.

    It’s almost a timeless (pre-modern) tale of wave after wave of pastoralists taking over agricultural civilizations as elite overlords.

  5. @ Twinkie: In open combat, though, farmers generally fared poorly against the other two groups, especially the pastoralists, a disadvantage that grew still once horse domestication for transport began in earnest.

    Def. would not contest you see that for the era of recorded history along the edge of steppe-frontier in Eurasia, particularly during periods when complex states are on their downswing. And I do see the power of the horse in military dominance.

    But I guess to illustrate the issue in my thinking, if you contrast herders like the Khoe and hunter gatherers like the Hadza against cultivators like the groups in Highland New Guinea and South America (and formerly North America), with enormously frequent war and violence. (In a way those seem like a good contrast in a way, to my mind, because there’s not any issue of states suppressing violence, and none of these societies have horses, so you can look at what matters outside that).

    Put another way, rather than them having an inherent advantage linked to subsistence itself (though that is not implausible) Eurasian herders may just be survivors of “War Before Civilization”, a la Keeley.

    Keeley IRC (from skim reading summaries of the book) sets the distinction on mobilisation rates, warfare, between state and pre-state level societies (rather than pastoral-cultivator!). For most of the recent Eurasian context the boundary between state and pre-state societies tended to coincide with the pastoral-cultivator boundary… (by recent I mean *only* as long as recorded history).

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