Indigenous myths and archaeology

Discussions unearthing human history including cultural anthropology, linguistics, etc.

Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 22nd, 2012, 8:56 am 

weakmagneto,

I admit to some confusion as to your post. (No, I don't have primary or secondary sources...I don't really care enough about this to dig into it deeply, thus the discussion here rather than a more scholarly approach.)

My confusion comes from the post in which you talk about owning stories and things that seem to be more opinion than fact. Myself, I care very little about history and beliefs (in this context...they can be fascinating, sociologically-speaking). I read the book that started the thread as I was interested in the genetic story of humanity. I've always been interested in the history of mankind...from where we originated, how we migrated, where populations have been wiped out and where genetic populations have survived, but have been culturally replaced by invaders/migrators. It's a long and complex story and one for which there are objective truths. When whites came to the Americas, the native populations were substantially wiped out. When blacks were brought to America, there was sufficient interbreeding that there are very few "pure African" American blacks. The Anglization of England was not accompanied with a corresponding genetic replacement, but was more a cultural one due to dominant economics.

But these are facts...not unsubstantiated stories. My personal curiosity is about what actually happened, not the stories the victors told to support their dominance, nor the ones the losers told to help cope with the reality of their subjugation. Those stories are independently interesting for psychological and sociological reasons. But what happened, happened. For those who believe in white superiority, that story may well remain very important to them, but it doesn't change the objective reality that Africa is the birthplace of Homo sapiens.

While my valuing of objective truth is clearly a subjective value system, the value it has for me does not in any way affect the reality of the objective truth. No?
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 22nd, 2012, 8:59 am 

Ursus,

Your point is a true, valuable, and pragmatic one. But, once data is taken, it is meant to be analyzed. I do not believe that in the case we are discussing, there was any lying. The data was taken to study diabetes and also schizophrenia and alcoholism.

Years later, the data (lawfully taken with consent) was used to look at different questions. Anybody who doesn't know that data can tell many stories just doesn't understand the concept of data.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby CanadysPeak on July 22nd, 2012, 9:30 am 

I realize there are two questions here. One is very valid: do Europeans, after several centuries of theft, murder, rape, and generally discouteous conduct, owe any special deference to the sensibilities of Native populations? This question applies in some measure to several other ethnic groups also. The answer seems complicated, depending primarily on one's value system. Utilitarians will usually have a different answer from that of sentimentalists. It is perhaps worthwhile to debate this.

The second question is that of informed consent. Whether good policy or bad, good law or hogwash, the Nuremberg Code has become "settled law." Mengeles screwed the pooch. Under the extensions of that code, now clearly embodied in US stautes, the Havasupai not only did not give informed consent, they could not have given informed consent. The tribe consists of perhaps six or seven hundred persons, a number too small to be de-identified. They are uneducated by Anglo standards, are generally poor, and many are not that fluent in English. They were incapable of agreeing to an unforeseen use of their blood. Moreover, the original consent form does not constitute a valid contract for any subsequent use since the Havasupai could not have received any quid pro quo benefit from an unforeseen use.

A better example is needed for question one. There are such examples, perhaps having to do with artifacts taken from the graves of now-extinct tribes. This may be a valid archaeological question.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby weakmagneto on July 22nd, 2012, 9:55 am 

In relation to the OP:
Lincoln wrote: Well, you can believe what you believe, but what you believe is impossible?


"One can say with a good deal of credible scientific evidence that Native Americans share genetic markers with human beings in the past and who live today and in those places we now call “Asia”’ and “Siberia.” But what does that mean?" - Kim TallBear, Ph.D., M.C.P

IMO based on the scientific evidence supplied, I believe the above. I don't think it has been proven 100%.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 22nd, 2012, 10:07 am 

weak...

What else could it mean? There is no hominid evidence in North America prior to fifty thousand years ago (and probably more like 20k, but I put the date back far enough to be not debatable). Do you think hominids spontaneously arose on North America with identical genetic makeup and migrated in the opposite direction?

This isn't about Native Americans by the way....much of Europe underwent cultural diffusion from the pastoralists of the Middle East, while retaining a genetic identity that has been resident in Europe for some 50k-ish years. Prior to that 50k-ish years, there was physical migration into Europe from other locations...typically through the path through the Middle East. [To the experts, I do not intend to argue the 50k number. I'm making a much more general point here. Insert your own several tens of thousands of number that suits you.] With the contribution of some small fraction of Neandertal genes, modern European genes have their antecedents in Africa. And, going far enough back, even the Neandertal genes have African origins.

Surely you are not arguing against at least the first diaspora from Africa? Further, while there remains some ongoing debate about multi-regional origins of modern Homo sapiens, the data strongly favors a second diaspora of order 100k years ago.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby weakmagneto on July 22nd, 2012, 10:22 am 

Lincoln: My position here is that I do not think that some of the creation stories of Native Americans originating here can be 100% dispelled based on the scientific evidence provided as per your OP.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby ronjanec on July 22nd, 2012, 10:33 am 

weakmagneto wrote:Lincoln: My position here is that I do not think that some of the creation stories of Native Americans originating here can be 100% dispelled based on the scientific evidence provided as per your OP.


"originating here"? Are you saying that man may have evolved in two completely different places?
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 22nd, 2012, 10:36 am 

weak...

I don't claim to have disproven all of the creation stories of Native Americans for the simple reason that I don't know them all. I am, however, comfortable in stating that any creation story which claims the natives lived in a particular local since the beginning of time is very clearly false. I'm also pretty confident that involves a beaver smearing mud on the back of a turtle to make the land is also pretty well falsified. If a tribe's stories describes the condensation of the Earth from rocks and gases, followed by a population of their land by hominid species that originated in Africa, I would have trouble falsifying those creation stories. I am, however, unaware of any tribes who came up with that one prior to scientific input.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 22nd, 2012, 10:37 am 

ronjanec...

No...in your language, two gardens of Eden.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby ronjanec on July 22nd, 2012, 10:43 am 

Lincoln wrote:weak...

I don't claim to have disproven all of the creation stories of Native Americans for the simple reason that I don't know them all. I am, however, comfortable in stating that any creation story which claims the natives lived in a particular local since the beginning of time is very clearly false. I'm also pretty confident that involves a beaver smearing mud on the back of a turtle to make the land is also pretty well falsified. If a tribe's stories describes the condensation of the Earth from rocks and gases, followed by a population of their land by hominid species that originated in Africa, I would have trouble falsifying those creation stories. I am, however, unaware of any tribes who came up with that one prior to scientific input.


"a beaver smearing mud on the back of a turtle to make the land" is false? Do you have any proof?
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby ronjanec on July 22nd, 2012, 10:45 am 

Lincoln wrote:ronjanec...

No...in your language, two gardens of Eden.


I was just trying to behave myself on a science forum.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby weakmagneto on July 22nd, 2012, 11:30 am 

weakmagneto wrote: Lincoln: My position here is that I do not think that some of the creation stories of Native Americans originating here can be 100% dispelled based on the scientific evidence provided as per your OP.


I still stand by this. This is in response to the below statements in the OP:

Lincoln wrote: It is clear that archaeology and genetic studies prove that Native Americans didn't originate in the Americas.


Lincoln wrote: "Well, you can believe what you believe, but what you believe is impossible?"


On a final note, Native American beliefs are very diverse just as is their cultures and languages. Not all Native American people have the same creation stories or believe that they have always lived in their present locale.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby wolfhnd on July 22nd, 2012, 11:30 am 

One is very valid: do Europeans, after several centuries of theft, murder, rape, and generally discouteous conduct, owe any special deference to the sensibilities of Native populations? This question applies in some measure to several other ethnic groups also. The answer seems complicated, depending primarily on one's value system. Utilitarians will usually have a different answer from that of sentimentalists. It is perhaps worthwhile to debate this.


This is a valid question only if two conditions are meet, first there needs to be agreement that native populations and other ethnic groups are themselves guilty of the same crimes at some point in their history so as to not disproportionately place the blame on a specific culture but recognize that some portion of the criminality is common to all human populations and secondly there needs to be a recognition that the current representative of the various groups under discussion are not responsible for the actions of their predecessors. It also is not dependent on ones value system if the objective is to nurture the interest of society collectively without regard to ethnicity. It also does not follow that you have to be blind to continuing issues of bigotry to pursue the issues objectively.

While this may be a side issue of some sort it does hint at the key issue of sensitivity which as I stated earlier is unfortunately irrelevant to actual progress. Sensitivity does not really resolve the issues it simply buries them. While people may choice to live freely as they choice and believe as they wish it does not resolve them from taking responsibility for those choices.
How much easier or harder will it be for others to do research on genetics going forward in native populations? Or diabetes?
Here in lies the problem, if future research is not allow does that mean that the population that refused access to new studies is responsible for the negative impact that will result. You can't have it both ways, you can't expect to benefit from the fruits of a culture you have rejected and hold that culture responsible for the failures of your own culture to developed those things that you desire. Surely it is possible to maintain your cultural identify without rejecting science? There are in fact a great number of people of western European descent that are making the same mistake in so as their religious beliefs are likely to cause them to reject scientific advances that would benefit their children and I would call that immoral.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby CanadysPeak on July 22nd, 2012, 11:54 am 

Wolfhound wrote,

"This is a valid question only if two conditions are meet, first there needs to be agreement that native populations and other ethnic groups are themselves guilty of the same crimes at some point in their history so as to not disproportionately place the blame on a specific culture but recognize that some portion of the criminality is common to all human populations and secondly there needs to be a recognition that the current representative of the various groups under discussion are not responsible for the actions of their predecessors. It also is not dependent on ones value system if the objective is to nurture the interest of society collectively without regard to ethnicity. It also does not follow that you have to be blind to continuing issues of bigotry to pursue the issues objectively."

Granted, except that this specific thread was about European political correctness with regard to Native Americans. The question becomes slightly different in each instance. For example, if Jerusalem Jews were to attempt to use mineral rights deeds to justify excavating the Dome of the Rock, then actions toward Muslims would be of interest, except those are different from the actions of Europeans toward Native American populations. Apart from those specific differences, I would agree that the misdeeds of every group can be acknowledged as relevant.

edit: wrong word
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Ursa Minimus on July 22nd, 2012, 12:45 pm 

Lincoln wrote:Ursus,

Your point is a true, valuable, and pragmatic one. But, once data is taken, it is meant to be analyzed. I do not believe that in the case we are discussing, there was any lying. The data was taken to study diabetes and also schizophrenia and alcoholism.

Years later, the data (lawfully taken with consent) was used to look at different questions. Anybody who doesn't know that data can tell many stories just doesn't understand the concept of data.



The issue for me is not that the data was analyzed, or that anyone did what they considered lying or even deceptive. The issue I addressed is about the clear lack of communication during that process, the conflict that arose because of that lack, and the consequences from that (most likely almost if not completely avoidable) conflict. From what I have read about this particular incident, the researchers made errors, errors that clearly led to psychological distress among their subjects.

That's a bad thing. That is the primary concern of IRBs, to protect human subjects from such harm, and to minimize it when it is unavoidable for the research. Stirring up trouble in a population means something went wrong. Mistakes were made. I would hope most would want to learn from those mistakes, and not claim no mistakes were made... in IRB terms, not in science terms.

Research is rife with these types of incidents. Researchers who blunder in this way make it harder for everyone who follows.

Be glad you don't have to plan your research with regard to the emotional reaction of your subjects. It's a PITA. :)
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Whut on July 22nd, 2012, 1:27 pm 

I don't think this is, or ever was, primarily a matter of Truth. Over a period of time, Christianity was eventually identified by academia to pose a threat to academic power - to me this seems to be the real primary concern. Once this concern was identified, appeals to Truth were used to combat the threat posed (i.e. truth wasn't the end itself). If a belief isn't true, it doesn't seem apparent that it should matter, if that belief poses no genuine threat to one's power.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 22nd, 2012, 5:38 pm 

ronjanec,

I'm not going to dignify that ridiculous response with anything beyond a derisive snort. Snort.

weakmagneto,

Just to clarify before I add a snort to this facet of the conversation. Are you saying that the jury is out on whether Native American's homeland is America? Or are you saying that you accept a non-American origin, but you aren't sure about the dominant Asian origin? Do you think the data supports a European origin with equal probability? Or some sort of Polynesian/Kon Tiki kind of thing?

wolfhnd...

Totally agree about the hypocrisy of some. If you reject science, then don't take antibiotics or bother sterilizing things if you do surgery. Certainly don't do your complaining on the internet. Go back to the pastoralist lifestyle or possibly hunt with sticks and rocks. If you reject evolution, make sure you use pennicilin when you get that new infection. The developed resistance to penicillin isn't an evolved property. Bah! And double bah!

Ursus...

I agree that communication was a problem. But suppose the situation unfolded as it did, but prior to the genetic testing, the tribe/individuals were informed. If they didn't give permission, then if the study was stopped, the result is that a narrow minded and reactionary response (which I'm told was based in a sensitivity to finding any inbreeding plus sensitivity to evidence that contradicted the religious belief of permanent occupation of the land) would stop the advance of knowledge. I'll grant you that valuing the advance of knowledge is a social value and one might make other choices. But knowing the truth or ignoring it doesn't change the objective facts written in the genes. The studies didn't change the past...they merely read the story written in the genes.

But I do understand what you are saying and I even understand from where the sensitivities originated. I just shake my head over them and question if the sensitivities are disparate between indigenous populations and others.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Forest_Dump on July 22nd, 2012, 5:53 pm 

Wow. This is actually a debate I have wanted to get into with weakmagneto and we have been talking about it in pm's but here I seem to have missed it. But I did actually learn a thing or two in catching up. As it is, yes I have been up to my nose in this stuff for many years and there are definitely a number of important points and issues that do come up repeatedly but it is tough for me to know where to begin so maybe I will just throw gas on the fire and see what flares up.

Is there political pressure on this topic? Yes. Huge. And it can definitely be a career killer. Sure the "liberal" media is part of the problem with post-modernism, etc., playing a huge role but ronjanec, surely you aren't trying to suggest the "conservative" media is even close to supporting any form of scientific objectivity? Do they even post stories on human origins, problems with political influence on Biblical archaeology, or anything whatsoever on the values of science beyond the corporate balance sheet (if that - is even their business sections worth a read?) And yes, post-modernism has crept into anthropology to such a degree that, truth be told, I am sometimes reclutant to recommend it to students, etc., anymore even though I once argued that every university student should take the first year courses if for no other reason than they would all be coming into contact with people from different cultures at some point. But then, with debates about how anthropology has been problematic about labelling the "other", some post-modernists do seem to have a bit of a paradox explaining how there can be an "other". Even archaeologists as often as not are part of the problem. And I am a tad pessimistic on this because Friday I saw a professional "dig" in an area I have been working on and publishing on for over 25 years. I suppose my ego wasn't too bothered by the fact that they had not really heard of me (including the director) but they didn't even know the broad outlines of the region's prehistory or for that matter how to dig a square hole - deregulation.

There are certainly a number of origin myths for the origins of the peoples of North America. The most debunked are, of course, Atlantis and direct European origins from across the Atlantic. (By the way, as I recall, the 4% European genetic influence I read about in one study was from inter-breeding since colonialism started. Tough to find 100% pure natives in many places because of the many liasons in history (I was once lectured to by a Mohawk on the topic of his being 100% pure blood - who happened to have blond hair and blue eyes, which is not too uncommon because of the Swedish "influence" back in the 17th century).

But yes, among the origin myths are that First Nations people were a product of special creation in the western hemisphere as guardians of the environment, etc. (Okay, there is a whole other huge debate out there in the literature on that environmental bit.) Some of these people do actively block, or at least try to, any research on Paleoindians, peopling of the New World, etc. Part of it is religious but part of it is their belief that discussion on Asian origins implies a weakening of their land claims, etc., because it implies they too are just immigrants (although, in English common law, as was researched on this topic by a friend of mine who consults for the fed government, time immemorial only goes back to 1044 AD).

However, scientifically, there is no viable alternative to the Asian origins across Beringia. Debates here (probably inflated more by the media and a few researchers competing for grants and attention) are more about the timing and number of "waves", etc. Of course, as Linclon noted, there have also been massive population movements through time including just before contact. That was a rippling out effect that resulted, for example, in peoples like Siouan speakers starting out near the Great Lakes but "now" being iconic representatives of Plains Indians - a product of colonialism every bit as much as the use of horses that were not native to North America having been extinct here since the Ice Age but introduced by the Spanish in Mexico.

But, yes, First Nations people have every right to be distrustful of "white" culture for reasons that have been discussed but of course there are much bigger grievances. Land? And yes, they continue to be screwed over on a continuing basis because they often happen to be living on land some foreign company wants to mine (or build a subdivision or WalMart on, etc.), hunting in forests someone wants for lumber, counting on land claims or treaty money that usually ends up already spent building infrastructure for the previous, drinking water or fishing in streams that end up full of oil or mercury, etc. Or having their kids carted of to Christian schools where they are beaten for speaking their native languages or molested by priests, etc.

And, to be fair, cheated and lied to by archaeologists who want to gain fame and fortune by picking apart their bones (but do the natives even get paid for making those careers?) or even just to get a paycheck for doing the archaeological clearance for the development to proceed (usually done on low-bid basis so the profits come from 1) hiring under-skilled and under-educated "archaeologists" at minimum wage (or even less by paying at a day rate and then setting quotas that require extra time to finish at poor quality); 2) who do the minimum required analysis (and complain that that is ripping off their clients); so that 3) they can report whatever the client wants so they get a repeat customer. There is very little quality control in archaeology particularly since the private sector is under absolutely no pressure topublish anything and, in fact, their reports MIGHT be filed with the local government (who of course varies in political outlook but is almost always under budget pressure anyway) but those reports are often blocked as "proprietary knowledge" and can be inaccessable even to university or native scholars (the difference here may be arbitrary just to make my point - I am not suggesting that natives are not necessarily scholars).

I do know enough about this stuff that it really is an exploding can of worms and one that I scarsely go a day without running into.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Forest_Dump on July 22nd, 2012, 6:59 pm 

By the way, I should note a point or two about the "objective facts" of the genome studies. These are very good and important sources of supporting data BUT they do require some interpretation and it would be difficult to uniequivocally call all of the stuff that is probably true "objective". Now stop and think. When someone, such as in these studies, says that a split between Asians and Natives happened, say, 20,000 years ago, that they actually radiocarbon dated some genes to get that date? No, they are correlating that date with the interpretations archaeologists have been making on other data sets. There are not many native skeletons from that old that are securely dated. Kennewick, for example, is post-Clovis and, although an important old sample(with of course a well known controversial history), Kennewick would have been at least 5-6,000 years AFTER the first colonizing peoples from Asia. But physically it still hadn't diverged much from Asia and looked like a common physical type throughout Eurasia. Which makes it important because, like all similarly dated skeletal samples from North America, shows that the physical differences between recent First Nations people and Asian emerged SINCE Kennewick. Which, unfortunetely (?) makes it even more controversial. But, yes, skeletal studies (some samples, of course, were the product of very shameful "archaeology" which we archaeologists do still pay for) of populations datingmore recently than Kennewick (usually grouped as Archaic (itself a termthat causes some political problems) and Recent Native, etc., to reflect gross or more fine-grained temporal or regional groupings) do show that this evolution from an Asian-like stock did happen in North America so some who like to play with words can and do use these results to argue that Native people did in fact evolve entirely in North America. But they evolved from earliest peoples who we would have to call Asians.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby ronjanec on July 22nd, 2012, 8:00 pm 

Forest,

The conservative media is in my opinion almost nonexistent in our country with the possible exception of Fox news(in certain ways), and of course conservative talk radio.

Yes, there is also the Wall Street Journal, and the Drudge Report, but you are probably not going to find very much of the type of scientific reporting that you were asking me about in any of the sources I just mentioned with the possible exception of again Fox News and maybe the WSJ in a very limited way as compared to the MSM.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 22nd, 2012, 8:09 pm 

Forest...

I'm in an airport and about to board, so not much time. When I say "objective facts," I'm only talking about the fact of whether great grandpaw Chief Whatishisname walked across the Bering Strait or sailed on Kon Tiki or was deposited by space aliens. I know the difference between the story we try to figure out from our data and what really happened. Hopefully they are similar, but they don't have to be.

More when I have time.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby ronjanec on July 22nd, 2012, 8:22 pm 

Lincoln,

The "paranoid" one believes Forest just confirmed some of the things I said earlier about this(thank you oh wise one), so I am going to add another vote to my earlier total, and I am now up to 3 votes for poltical "correctness" being possibly the main reason for your earlier complaint. Snort, snort.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby weakmagneto on July 23rd, 2012, 8:09 am 

I will respond to this tonight...
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Ursa Minimus on July 23rd, 2012, 8:16 am 

Lincoln wrote:Ursus...

I agree that communication was a problem. But suppose the situation unfolded as it did, but prior to the genetic testing, the tribe/individuals were informed. If they didn't give permission...


If they didn't give permission. That assumes failure. "Informing them" is not a conversation, it is not back and forth communication.

Imagine instead the researchers did this:

"When you gave your permission for us to do this research, you said we could do this test. But we understand that the results of this test might not fit with your religious beliefs. We would like to ask you if you can think of some ways we can do our research and pursue science (in ways that will help the health of your people), and not say something that is disrespectful to your traditions and way of life."

(later)

We have the results and here is what we said. Is there anything in there that offends or could offend you or others? Can we re-write it this way, would that be better? How about if we put a statement from you into the paper, and give you a platform to speak to your own views on what we are saying? What if we don't publish the name of your tribe, but rather just say "a native american nation in the southwest", would that help at all?


There are ways to get permission. There are ways to make sure both sides feel respected even if disagreements can't all be resolved. These ways generally involve serious listening along the way, establishing relationships, building relationships and trust. When properly done, you AVOID the escalation of conflict to extreme levels.

Now, if you want to assume failure and denial of consent, then the decision to move forward with dissemination comes down to a cost benefit analysis for science as a whole, imo. Does publishing this, and potentially denying access for N other projects in the future, outweigh what science could learn by spiking this one paper and maintaining access for these and other researchers?

A good old dilemma, where no one wants everything that comes from either option. And the best way to "win" social dilemmas is to avoid them in the first place.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 23rd, 2012, 9:30 am 

Pragmatic and sensible. However, I don't want mythology to ever trump science. Letting the tribe say "we don't believe this" is fine....I'm all for people saying what they believe. I just don't want religion to shut down knowledge. The last time we did that, people got burned at the stake. No...wait a minute...the last time that happened, an oil man was in the White House. Sorry for the temporal mixup.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 23rd, 2012, 9:38 am 

Forest,

Regarding the European traits I was speaking about, it was a couple of clusters of mDNA, separated by considerable distance. However, it was the same mDNA (and a rare one at that) from Europe. This makes the "those explorers of the 1600s were naughty boys" explanation less credible. The clusters were too spread and the mDNA signature was rare in Europe. This means you'd have to multiple origination centers, all from a rare heritage (of order 5% of Europeans). If I understood the data properly (and I always caution people that this understanding doesn't stem from actual expertise), it seems highly improbable that breeding of a couple hundred years ago explains the data.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Ursa Minimus on July 23rd, 2012, 10:06 am 

Lincoln wrote:Pragmatic and sensible. However, I don't want mythology to ever trump science.


And I don't want one scientific project to screw up multiple other scientific projects for decades to come. Tuskeegee still makes it harder to get African Americans to participate in medical research, for an example of how the repercussions can last and last from an incident like this.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Lincoln on July 23rd, 2012, 11:56 am 

Of course. I really do understand where you're coming from.

It does seem to me that there should be some level of control by the experimenter. In this case, a bank of genetic material >>obviously<< can be used to address many questions, not just (for example) diabetes. I'll grant I know nothing about the actual law in this case, but it does seem like their should be some sort of way to write a waiver that says "Genetic material contains all sorts of information. While our current question is XXX, you can expect that other questions might be asked using this material." (Suitably gussied up, of course.)

I'd also complain if I saw fundamentalists suppressing archaeological research because it conflicted with Genesis. You could imagine some descendants of the inhabitants of Israel of 2,000 years ago insisting that archaeology studies being stopped because it might refute Solomon or Abraham or whatever.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby wolfhnd on July 23rd, 2012, 12:12 pm 

Ursa Minimus we don't want insensitivity to the Muslim mythology to interfere with our oil supply or see an increase in terrorist attacks either. My problem is that the practical approach is not in the interest of the believers and we have a moral obligation to break down some of these mythologies. When the mythology becomes a barrier to enhancing the welfare of the believers as it has been with the Christian mythology we should speak out. A good example would be the refusal of some Christian cults to allow blood transfusions. The value of any particular information or benefit we can gain from ignoring the negative influence of a particular myth is of secondary concern to the humanist propagative. Their seems to be an idea that if people feel good about their culture, race, sexual orientation, etc. that the increase in self esteem will be of benefit to the individuals involved and society. In the case of Native Americans it may be true. I can't help thinking however that self esteem should come from a sense of humanity and not any particular culture, race or creed.
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Re: Indigenous myths and archaeology

Postby Forest_Dump on July 23rd, 2012, 7:36 pm 

I suppose a few points are worth making. Archaeology, unfortunately, has long been wrapped up in politics. The Nazis did definitely mess with the archaeological record, including fabricating artifacts, etc., to support their claims of a natural German homeland. People have been killed in nw India over an archaeological site where an important historical Hindu shrine is constructed on top of an older Mogul site and the Archaeological Survey of India has been accused of fudging data. Don't get me started on archaeology in Israel - I actually know very pro-Zionist archaeologists who are very angry with Israel over how they skew archaeological data. There is certainly a history of skewing archaeology in North America for ideological reasons (there is actually a really good book on the history of the Moundbuilders on this very topic) and both Canada and the US have a definite bias for preserving Euroamerican (or Eurocanadian) forts, etc., over native sites (and in many places in the US it is still perfectly legal for anyone to go out and loot Native burials - but not European ones. Very recently there was an article in the local newspaper about China "extending" the Great Wall of China in order to support modern claimsof the natural boundaries of China. The politics in Africa over archaeology are pretty nasty from the archaeology of the Zulu expansion into South Africa, to Greater Zimbabwe, to the archaeology of the slave trade in Africa to now even Timbuktuwhere shrines are being destroyed for religion and politics. And, of course, the Taliban in Afghanistan did destroy those massive Buddhist statues carved into a rock cliff. Archaeology has always been political.

One important point to bear in mind is that some of the questions, like human (or ethnic, etc.) origins are not of interest to everyone. Why would you demand that FN people submit samples for genetic studies, for example, if the results and questions are not really of interest to them? Sometimes people do prefer their own myths to what "we" might come up with. Some FN people are interested in the past (or parts of it) that can be reconstructed by archaeology but not all are nor do I see a reason why they necessarily should be.
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