Thursday, June 30, 2011

ScienceBlogs Channel : Humanities & Social Science

ScienceBlogs Channel : Humanities & Social Science


Classification Presupposes Type Definitions [Aardvarchaeology]

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 01:34 PM PDT

Andreas Oldeberg (1892-1980) is rumoured to have had some pretty ugly political leanings. But just because you like cheese, you needn't socialise with cows. If you're into Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age metalwork from Sweden, there is absolutely no getting around Oldeberg's huge illustrated catalogue from 1974.

I'm currently grabbing data out of the catalogue for my sacrificial sites project. And I've come across a funny detail that shows that old Oldeberg was not up to speed with his day's archaeological methodology.

Whenever Oldeberg describes a spearhead, he classifies it according to a fairly new piece of work at the time, Gernot Jacob-Friesen 1967. This scholar named his types for find spots, such as Valsømagle, Bagterp etc. But quite often, Oldeberg isn't sure what type a certain spearhead belongs to. He'll say wahrscheinlich Typ Bagterp, "probably Bagterp type", for instance. This is fully understandable if you only have part of a spearhead: the distinctive characteristics of various possible types may not be extant on the bit you've got. But Oldeberg does this all the time with complete objects. And that makes no sense whatsoever after 1962.

In his 1962 dissertation, Jungneolithische Studien, Mats P. Malmer established that an object type's identity rests entirely upon a verbal definition. Material, dimensions, proportions, decorative details: a scholar must tell her readers clearly what the rules are for inclusion and exclusion in a type, or it isn't a type. Do feel free to illustrate the definition with pictures of objects that belong to the type in question, but don't ever think that it's enough to say (as Jacob-Friesen did) that "Type Valsømagle is spearheads like figs. 1-3". Because that doesn't tell the reader what characteristics specifically make those spearheads members of type Valsømagle. And it doesn't tell the reader what sort of variation is permissible within the confines of the type you're proposing.

So the reason that Andreas Oldeberg often couldn't tell what type a well-preserved spearhead belonged to was that Jacob-Friesen's classification scheme is completely flawed and contains no stringent type definitions. Oldeberg could see that a given spearhead looked kind of like the pictures of Jacob-Friesen's "type" Bagterp, but he had no way of telling whether Jacob-Friesen would have accepted it as a member of the type. Because Jacob-Friesen's work does not contain instructions for how to make that call.

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Poop Factor [Dean's Corner]

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 10:37 AM PDT

cartoon_hillbilly_hurrying_to_the_outhouse_royalty_free_080930-004148-609042.jpg
Photo source.

My recent post "Inquiring Readers Want to Know: "Why is My Poop Green?" generated an extraordinary amount of interest. Why?

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Holocaust denial versus free speech [Respectful Insolence]

Posted: 29 Jun 2011 10:00 AM PDT

Classic Insolence logoIt's grant crunch time, as the submission deadline for revised R01s is July 5. However, in a classic example of how electronic filing has actually made things more difficult, the grant has to be done and at the university grant office a week before the deadline if it is to be uploaded in time. So, my beloved Orac-philes, I'm afraid it's reruns one last time today, but, benevolent blogger that I am, I'll again post two on the same topic. As regular readers know, I've had a long history of combatting Holocaust denial online, but I also have a real problem when the price of combatting Holocaust denial is suppressing free speech. For those of you who recall Bishop Richard Williamson, who was recently busted for Holocaust denial in an interview, I just realized that his trial in Germany is due to start on July 4. So I thought I'd repost a couple of posts I wrote around the time it all happened, back in 2009. Remember, if you haven't been reading at least two years, it's new to you! And, who knows? Maybe I'll blog about the trial next week, too, which would make this a nice way to bring everyone back up to speed.

I detest Holocaust denial.

Relative newbies who haven't been reading this blog that long may be wondering why I, a physician, booster of science-based medicine, and scourge of the anti-vaccine movement (well, at least in my mind, anyway) would blog about Holocaust denial, but in actuality my interest in combatting Holocaust denial predates my interest in combatting quackery by at least two years. Indeed, one of my earliest long-form posts for this blog, written more than a year before I joined ScienceBlogs and reposted after I joined relates how I discovered Holocaust denial, my confusion and revulsion upon that discovery, and how I became involved in refuting it. Although these days I don't write about it as often as I used to, I've never lost my interest in it and have still on occasion done rather lengthy posts on it. And it can't be said often enough: Holocaust denial derives from either anti-Semitism, Hitler admiration or apologia, or both. Always. After all, as I've echoed a Usenet regular named Allan Matthews, whoonce asked so brilliantly:

See, you'd think that after many months of posting this at least one revisionist who isn't a neo-Nazi or anti-Semite would have come forward and said "Here I am!" But, no. It appears that there just aren't any such revisionists around.

Based on their past posting history, the few bozos who have bothered to claim that they aren't neo-Nazis or anti-Semites were, upon examination of their claims, found to be clearly lying. Of course, given the general behavior of revisionists, this lack of honesty isn't surprising in the least.

However, just in case some revisionist 'scholars' have missed my question to date, here it is again:

Where are the revisionists who aren't neo-Nazis or anti-Semites?

It's a fair question. After all, how can revisionists hope to be taken seriously if they all have such apparent biases, agendas and axes to grind?

So, then, if Holocaust revisionism is an intellectually honest endeavor, where are the revisionists who aren't neo-Nazis or anti-Semites?

I have never found such a Holocaust "revisionist."

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