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Re: [xmca] Units of Scientiic Achievement

Yes, well the problem, I think, with the concept of an Anthropocene epoch is that it's more than a little too anthropocentric.

What's needed is not so much an acknowledgment that humans are having a global-scale impact on the earth-system, as that global scale changes in the earth-system are going to have quite the impact on social and cultural systems.

It's not paradigm shift for the natural sciences to see one species, through its physical and chemical impact, tilting the earth-system (algae do it, photosynthetic organisms did it, etc.) What would be paradigm-shifting would be for the social and cultural sciences to admit that sociocultural systems include landscapes and climates and ecologies (as well as artifacts) and that the psyches until recently wrapped inside bodies and only now liberated to be epiphenomena of social interactions, are indeed epiphenonema of ecological-climatic-cum-social-cultural systems. This ought to be congenial particularly to a marxist social science, yet it seems quite resistant to the Latourian move, just like more orthdox bourgeois social science.

Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, a geological epoch has to last rather a long time ... far longer than our species is likely to. The anthropopause will strangle any possibility of an anthropocene in its cradle. No?


PS. It's great to imagine that extreme change-pressure from the earth-system results in species radiations, imagining that as we tip the planetary balance we'll beget all sorts of new hominids. But the more likely result for most species under these conditions is extinction. The cockroaches may radiate, but I wouldn't count on the primates.

Jay Lemke
Senior Research Scientist
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
University of California - San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0506

Professor (Adjunct status 2009-11)
School of Education
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Professor Emeritus
City University of New York

On Jun 22, 2011, at 7:45 AM, Langer-Osuna, Jennifer Marie wrote:

> I wonder what you all think of the latest articles in The Economist on the Anthropocene, and whether this might count as a conceptual revolution, spurring new problems (presumably in geoengineering) for our species to solve.
> Here's the online article, a bit different from the paper one but same point:
> http://www.economist.com/node/18741749
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Tony Whitson
> Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011 1:07 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Units of Scientiic Achievement
> Let me clarify that I'm not dismissing evolutionary models of change in 
> scientific disciplines. Stephen Toulmin's (1972) _Human Understanding: The 
> Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts_ has a great deal to recommend 
> it. I just wanted challenge an image species differentiation that seems to 
> suggest too much distance among distinctive species. On the molecular 
> level, I think we have more in common with yeast cells than the sciences 
> in our time have with some pre-revolutionary "sciences."
> On Mon, 20 Jun 2011, Tony Whitson wrote:
>> Andy, I don't think the analogy with evolution of biological species can 
>> really work.
>> There is tremendous kinship between us and chimps; and the commonalities 
>> among us, chimps and our common ancestors is unlike any commonality that you 
>> could point to between Ptolomaic and Copernican astronomy, or "chemistry" 
>> pre/post oxygenation, etc.
>> On Tue, 21 Jun 2011, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>> But the metaphor Michael is calling on, Carol, as I see it is "normal 
>>> science" is the incremental, gradual adaptation of a species to its niche, 
>>> and remaining much the same for millions of years, and on the other hand, 
>>> when a species is under real pressure, you get exactly the process Kuhn 
>>> describes in science: rapid diversification and die-outs, with a 
>>> distinctly new species species emerging at the end. It's called 
>>> "punctuated evolutuion" isn't it?
>>> I find the idea of a formation perfecting itself into extinction 
>>> attractive.
>>> As to "Intelligent design" - this has nothing to do with proof or 
>>> disproof, Carol, but Faith.
>>> Andy
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