Quote July 20 2012 – Inherent pitfalls in the social sciences and lingering effects of philosophical movements

The answer may well lie in the fact that anthropology is a highly subjective ‘science’ based around fieldwork — which is very difficult to precisely repeat — and interpretation. This means that it is easier for anthropology (and other social sciences, one might argue), than for physical science, to become influenced and even dominated by those who wish to promote a particular ideology. As Polish sociologist Stanislav Andreski noted, social science is always prey to “sorcerers clad in the latest paraphernalia of science”. The Romantic Movement, which developed as an anti-rational reaction to the Enlightenment and has had a huge influence ever since, is in some senses similar to the Christian religion it partially replaced. Christianity has God, where Romanticism has a kind of fate; Christianity asserts dogmata (e.g. the Trinity), as does Romanticism (noble savages are better than decadent urbanites; the tribe is better than the city); Christianity condemns its critics as heretics, whereas critics of Romantic thought are condemned as ‘Enemies of the People’ or, in the case of its two most famous offshoots, ‘class enemies’ (Marxism) or ‘traitors’ (nationalism). The most recent manifestation of this movement are Cultural Relativism (which insists that primitive cultures are unique, equal and special and cannot be understood through Western categories) and Post-Modernism (arguing that all Western ideas, including sciences, are simply assertions by the dominant culture and that there is no ‘objective truth’); and if you don’t agree, then you’re an ‘imperialist’ or ‘reactionary’.

– Dr. Edward Dutton, “Going Native”, Fortean Times, July 2012 (FT289), pgs 44-49

This is an excerpt from a very interesting article about anthropologists who, while living among cultures that believed in magic and supernatural occurrences, experienced supernatural occurrences themselves. Dr. Dutton talks about the personality traits among anthropologists that seem to correlate with the anthropologist experiencing these strange phenomena, and discusses how different anthropologists reacted to various different experience. The reactions were quite varied, running the extreme from one academic mentioning a strange occurrence briefly in their log but not making a big deal out of it, to another academic completely immersing themselves in the supernatural beliefs they encounter and claiming to become a shaman for the native culture themselves.

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