Category Archives: sciencing

Anthropology in a climate of change, war, and internecine environments 2

[In process]
Part 1**

Part 2*** From a follow-up to the newslist discussion about anthropology and climate change–

Q. “So…what can we do to solve this problem? Can we think like engineers?”

Please, don’t. Not even anthropological engineers. For example, see this — Continue reading

Anthropology in a climate of change, war, and internecine environments 1

[In process]

Part 1**
Part 2*** [separate post]

* Background

I think there is a need for anthropological perspective in any issue of human existence.

It is a sad irony that the discipline (science) which is most comprehensive and fundamental (science is a human activity and the basic science of human activity is anthropology) has often seemed through its profession association to be narrowly focussed and consequently irrelevant.

Last month, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) accompanied the chairwoman of the Disaster Recovery subcommittee, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to another hearing, in Anchorage, about the few places in Alaska designated for US Army Corps of Engineers environmental management [sic].

The anthropologists are about to have their annual conference in Washington DC and will be exercised about the U.S. Army recruiting anthropologists (Human Terrain Systems). On the other hand, Barack Obama is hip to Margaret Mead “Obama demonstrated that he understood the reasons why America for decades (think of the Bay of Pigs invasion) has made gravely serious national security decisions based on laughably inaccurate intelligence.”

Meanwhile, none of our western Alaska or Mississippi deltas is taken seriously. “Rush Limbaugh adds Alaskan to polarizing efforts.”

The best the state of Alaska has done so far is issue an official pass to a non-existent mass disease shelter in the region’s pandemic preparedness exercise this year (flu shot clinic).

I think if Governor Palin actually had a scientific advisor to her environmental sub-cabinet especially from rural Alaska or if Landrieu and Stevens could earmark enough funding out of the millions for the Corps mission in Alaska to pay for scientific support for the Unorganized Borough [over half of Alaska’s area, 970,500 km² (374,712 square miles), an area larger than France and Germany combined], this actually would be more effective than the endless photo-op and news stories about polar bears without ice.

How do we bring attention to the need for comprehensive analysis, assessment, and action on environmental change? No one would think of building a levee without an engineer, why are we doing relocation and reconstruction of communities — in Alaska and Louisiana / Mississippi — without a human scientist / human ecologist (anthropologist)?

[This analogy would work better if I didn’t already know that someone in DC thought of managing emergencies with a horse show announcer.] At the very least we need to aggregate the existing knowledge that we know full well must be included, whether for a northern or a southern delta.

It may not be a direct plus for NOLA– my records precede Katrina and I read Voices of New Orleans. If all the people and power and money there can’t get trailers that the Feds are allowed to inspect — but I think the imaginative scale in Alaska would be easier to actually test many of these concepts and approaches.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Continue reading

Readings for analysis and interpretation, sciencing

turning book pages I acquired the original set of readings through recommendations from my Oxford tutor. I added others from my own experience, especially browsing authentic bookstores and open stack libraries. I combined them into a set for teaching a university course in statistical methods– Readings for quantitative analysis and interpretation in biocultural science, human biology, anthropology

The course was an empirical introduction to analytical approaches to anthropological data. Basically, I wanted real-world approaches to learn critical thinking– sciencing. The course was designed for students without a strong numerical or an introductory statistics background. The daily newspaper was itself a source for analysis and discussion.

I also had a set of cartoons to illustrate statistical concepts, such as Sid Harris, Probability: if you have 5 dogs, 3 will be asleep

There may be more recent texts to base a course upon, however, almost nothing supersedes the classics. I think it’s Ingle (or Bevridge) that always has me laughing out loud.

Related previous posts are

Proximate goals were:

  • read the newspaper correctly.
  • understand the basis of readings assigned in university anthropology courses and in research.
  • ask anthropological questions of a statistician.
  • communicate to others what you’ve learned, in words and pictures, using computer assistance.

We began with:

  • What are facts and figures? and
  • learn descriptive, inferential, and exploratory analysis of ‘data’.

In the process, we examined:

  • why anthropologists would want to display, test, qualify, and quantify ideas and
  • the ethics of generating, presenting, and using facts.

Aitchison, J. & JAC Brown 1966 (or 1963) The Lognormal Distribution. Cambridge UP.

Ahlgren, Andrew and Peter C. Jurs. 1986 Multivariate Analysis. (letters) Science Pattern recognition used to investigate multivariate data in analytical chemistry. Science 6 June 1986 232: 1219-1224 [DOI: 10.1126/science.3704647] (in Articles),

see also, Smith, AB, 3rd, AM Belcher, G Epple, PC Jurs, and B Lavine. Computerized pattern recognition: a new technique for the analysis of chemical communication. Science 12 April 1985 228: 175-177 [DOI: 10.1126/science.3975636] (in Articles)

Ayers, AJ 1965 Chance. Scientific American 213:44-54.

Beveridge, W.I.B. 1957 The Art of Scientific Investigation. Rev ed. NY: WW Norton. NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks. # ISBN-10: 0393062872, # ISBN-13: 978-0393062878

Book Description: In The Art of Scientific Investigation, originally published in 1950, W.I.B. Beveridge explores the development of the intuitive side in scientists. The author’s object is to show how the minds of humans can best be harnessed to the processes of scientific discovery. This book therefore centers on the “human factor”; the individual scientist. The book reveals the basic principles and mental techniques that are common to most types of investigation. Professor Beveridge discusses great discoveries and quotes the experiences of numerous scientists. “The virtue of Mr. Beveridge’s book is that it is not dogmatic. A free and universal mind looks at scientific investigation as a creative art. . . .” The New York Times

Burns, D.W., M.L. Parsons, L.L. Herbaugh, and R.T. Staten. 1985 The Migrating Weevil: A Challenge for ICP-AES and Chemometrics. Anal. Chem. 57:1048-1052.

Campbell, RC 1974 Statistics for Biologists. 2nd ed. Cambridge UP. ISBN 0-521-09836-x 2 Caroll's Red King image

Carroll, Lewis Alice’s Adventures, both volumes and the The Hunting of the Snark, an Agony in Eight Fits

Chakraborty, Ranajit, Kenneth M. Weiss, and William J. Schull. 1980 A Test for Randomness of the Occurrence of a Disease Trait in Familial or Other Similar Ordered Sequences of Epidemiological Data. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 77:2974-2978.

Chamberlin, T. C. (Thomas Crowder) 1890 The Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses: With this method the dangers of parental affection for a favorite theory can be circumvented. Science (old series) v15 p92. Reprinted, Science 7 May 1965: 754-759.
T. C. Chamberlin’s Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses: An encapsulation for modern students, by L. Bruce Railsback

Chamberlin, writing near the turn of the nineteenth century, advises naturalists to invent and/or test several testable hypotheses for each question that they investigate. This method helps avoid the usual “parental affection” theorists develop when testing only one idea at a time. Moreover, he suggests, a good interpretation of a complex phenomenon may result in the retention of more than one hypothesis. For example, the formation of the Great Lakes probably resulted from a combination of preglacial stream erosion, glacial ice erosion, and crustal deformation, not any one of these processes alone. The advantages of the multiple-working-hypothesis method include increased objectivity, flexibility in response, and improved ability to recognize one’s own errors and ignorance. Drawbacks of the method are difficulty in explanation (there’s so much more to explain) and an increased delay in settling on and reporting findings. It was reprinted in Science in 1965 (v. 148, p. 754-759) and this version includes a bibliographical note that clears up the publication dates and versions. The Related Website links to an online version of the paper.

Cleveland, William S., Persi Diaconis, Robert McGill. 1982 Variables on Scatterplots Look More Highly Correlated when the Scales Are Increased. Science 216:1138-1141.

Conover, WJ 1980 Practical Nonparametric Statistics. 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-02867-3

Croney, J.E. 1977 An Anthropometric Study of Young Women Fashion Students Including a Factor Analysis of Body Measurements. Man 12:484-496.

DeLuca, Stephan J., Kent J. Voorhees, and Emory W. Sarver. 1986 Pyrolysis– Mass Spectrometry Methodology Applied to Southeast Asian Environmental Samples for Differentiating Digested and Undigested Pollens. Analytical Chemistry 58:2439-2442.

Fields, Lawrence D. and Stephen J. Hawkes. 1986 Data Compression Technique for Tables of Measurements. Analytical Chemistry 58:1593-1595.

Hayslett, HT, Jr 1968 Statistics Made Simple. Doubleday.

Hodges, JL Jr., David Krech, Richard S. Crutchfield 1975 StatLab: An Empirical Introduction to Statistics. NY McGraw-Hill. ISBN0-07-029134-9 [text for class]

Hogben, Lancelot 1937 Mathematics, the Mirror of Civilization. Mathematics for the Million. NY: WW Norton & Co., Inc. In Shapley, Rapport, & Wright 1954:141-152.

Holman, HH 1969 Biological Research Method: Practical Statistics for Non-Mathematicians. 2nd ed. Hafner Pub Co (NY) (Oliver & Boyd in UK).

Huck, Schuyler W. & Howard M. Sandler. 1979 Rival Hypotheses. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06042975-5

Huff, Darrell 1954 How to Lie with Statistics. WW Norton.

Huxley, TH 1863 We Are All Scientists. Darwiniana. D. Appleton-Century Co., Inc. In Harlow Shapley, Samuel Rapport, and Helen Wright, eds. 1954 A Treasury of Science. 3rd rev. ed. London: Angus & Robertson. pp. 14-19.

Ingle, Dwight J. 1958 Principles of Research in Biology and Medicine. JB Lippincott Co.

Landes, Kenneth K. 1951 Scrutiny of the Abstract. AAPG Bull., Vol. 35, No. 7 (July 1951), 1660 and then in Geophysics, Vol. 17, No. 3 (July 1952), 645.

Levi, Primo 1984 The Periodic Table. NY: Schocken Books. ISBN 0-8052-3929-4

Lie, Rolf W. 1980 Minimum Number of Individuals from Osteological Samples. Norw. Arch. Rev. 13:24-30.

McCain, Garvin and Erwin M. Segal 1969 The Game of Science. Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole Pub Co.

Miller, M. Clinton, III ed. 1978 Mainland’s Elementary Medical Statistics. (1963 by Donald Mainland). Biometry Imprint Series, vol. 3. Biometry Imprint Series Press. Distributed by University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, MI. ISBN- 0-8357-0349-5

Moroney, M.J. 1956 Facts from Figures. Penguin Books. 3rd and rev ed.

Pelto, Pertti J. and Gretel H. Pelto 1978 Anthropological Research: the Structure of Inquiry. 2nd ed. Cambridge Cambridge University Press.

Pirsig, Robert M. 1974 Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Bantam Books.

Platt, John R. 1964 Strong Inference: Certain systematic methods of scientific thinking may produce much more rapid progress than others. Science. 16 October 1964 Volume 146, Number 3642 (146): 347-353.

Shapley, Harlow, Samuel Rapport, and Helen Wright, eds. 1954 A Treasury of Science. 3rd rev. ed. London: Angus & Robertson.

Siegel, Sidney 1956 Nonparametric Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 07-057348-4

Snedecor, George W. & William G. Cochran 1967 Statistical Methods. 6th ed. Ames: Iowa State U Press. ISBN 0-8138-1560-6 [This is a statistics classic but based on agronomy experiments, which I didn’t find as useful to me as the medical or human ecology examples.]

Sokal, Robert & F. James Rohlf 1981 Biometry. 2nd ed. WH Freeman & Co. San Francisco. ISBN 0-7167-1254-7

Stewart, Ian. 1986 Meaning from Numbers. Nature 324:519-520.

Tanur, Judith M & Mosteller, Kruskal, Link, Pieters, Rising, & Lehman. 1978 Statistics: A Guide to the Unknown. San Francisco Holden-Day, Inc. 2nd ed. ISBN 0-8162-8605-1. [Evidently, also guides to Biological & Sciences and to Political & Social Issues]

Thomas, David Hurst 1986 Refiguring Anthropology: First Principles of Probability & Statistics Boulder: Waveland Press, ISBN: 0881332232

Tufte, Edward R. 1970. The quantitative analysis of social problems. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co. OCLC: 106681
Tufte, Edward R. 1983. The visual display of quantitative information. Cheshire, Conn. (Box 430, Cheshire 06410): Graphics Press.
Tufte, Edward R. 1990. Envisioning information. Cheshire, Conn: Graphics Press. ISBN: 0961392118 9780961392116,  OCLC: 82873701
Tufte, Edward R. 1997. Visual explanations: images and quantities, evidence and narrative. Cheshire, Conn: Graphics Press. ISBN: 0961392126 9780961392123, OCLC: 83346412

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Sciencing resources

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub has a pointer to a useful web log on critical thinking and several suggested books and readings. I have not read these items but the Bathtub is a reliable fount of information.

[I have a list I use in teaching, but haven’t finished bloggifying it. Better get cracking.]

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On the Nature of Quantitative Analysis

The approach to a problem can be either analytic or synthetic. The analytic method is characterized by breaking down; the synthetic method, by building up. The analytic method seeks to find the pertinent factors of a problem or to identify the components of a material under study, to separate these factors and components, and to measure their quantity. The synthetic method attempts to correlate information, to bring together new combinations of matter and of ideas, and to create new matter or devise new concepts which unify apparently diverse phenomena. The analysis phase of scientific work demands close study, diligence, and care; the synthesis requires insight, imagination, and inspiration.

In any worthy scientific task both methods are used.

—Diehl & Smith 1952:1
[emphasis added]

Diehl, Harvey, and G. Frederick Smith. 1952. Quantitative analysis, elementary principles and practice. New York: Wiley.

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