Monday, September 3, 2007

One weekly blogged question can be a comment instead

Odds are some of your ideas on and from the readings are more comments than questions, so feel free to make one of your weekly blog entries a comment or reaction to the readings or to questions in our posted blogs.



Justin Smith said...

When it comes to human biogeography, the readings refer to a host of disciplines including evolutionary biology, anatomy, ethnology, systematics, conservation biology, sociology, (paleo)ecology, geography, anthropology, archaeology, and (paleo)climatology. The economic approach to these issues is sorely neglected, largely due to what I perceive as an implicit bias that impairs the separation of economic science from economic activity. Lomolino et al seem especially prejudiced against the operation of modern human economic activity (longing for some sort of post-capitalism to enforce an unnatural stasis on the biological world), and while Terrell seems more open to different perspectives, concluding that “biogeography in the future must be expanded to include our activities and us,” he confines his discussion of human management of biocomplexity to Neolithic peoples. Economics as a science is not a how-to guide to the unsustainable extraction of resources and the extinction native species, but a set of theoretical and empirical tools that just may offer a few steps toward “better ways of thinking about our place in nature.”

Michael said...

Tying in nicely with the case study provided by Terrell, a recent publication by Hunley et al. examined the genetic, linguistic and geographical variation of populations in the southwest Pacific, finding poor correspondence with either a differentiating model of population fissioning or isolation by distance.

Oskar said...

Hey Michael,
that's great you picked up on that study by Hunley. He'll be coming in to guest lecture in a few weeks. At first I thought that these findings that question isolation by distance worked against Terrell but now I think maybe it makes his point even stronger in that the boundaries between groups are even more arbitrary if relatedness doesn't decrease with distance. what do you think?

Oskar said...

That's a fair point Justin. I mean, why stress how important interdisciplinary perspectives are and then mention a series of social and natural fields we should draw from but not include economics? In one sense you could defend him in that all of the disciplines he lists directly address themes he has to integrate in his research whereas he may not run across papers by economists (i.e., if he does a google scholar search on his areas of interest he finds the fields listed but maybe not econ as much?). I'm sure he values some of the tools and techniques of economics, as they are found in a lot these disciplines as well. So why not mention it? Do you think its the pervading math-phobia that keeps economics on the outside? Economics has gotten some criticism for modeling economic systems without inputs from the natural world or not having economic systems embedded within natural ones but I doubt that that is the source of the omission in Terrell's case (you mentioned that economics is not a how-to-guide for unsustainable extraction but it is sometimes conveyed that way).
I think these relationships and boundaries between disciplines are quite interesting. I wonder what causes them. I fully agree that economics has a lot to offer the subjects addressed by Terrell and to other areas as well.

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