Lecture 1: Biocultural Approach and the Scientific Method

Anthropology is a Holistic Discipline

  • Comparative
  • Particularistic
  • Relativistic


Four Traditional Divisions

  • Social-cultural anthropology
  • Linguistic anthropology
  • Biological (physical) anthropology
  • Archeology
  • Others such as forensics, medical etc.


Biocultural Approach in Anthropology

  • Culture is all the aspects of human beliefs, behaviors and material culture. Ex. traditions, stories, language etc. It is learned and transmitted by non biological means (non genetic means) though generations.
  • Enculturation is the process by which individuals learn the beliefs of their society. Ex. culture shock.
  • Evolution is the process which involves the change in genetic structure of a population from one generation to the next. Ex. some Europeans were immune to disease during the medieval period (ex. aids). The survivors had genetic resistance to the disease. Need data from the genetic structure of the dead bodies. It contributes to medical research.
  • Biocultural evolution is where biology and culture interact genetically, and continue to interact to this day in the direction of human evolution.
  • Biocultural adaptation is the physiological (biological) or behavioral (cultural) response adjustment made by organisms in response to environmental circumstances. Can be natural or cultural. Ex. glasses. The number of people wearing them increased, but still not favorable.


The Scientific Method

  • Is used for understanding and questioning natural processes. Quantitative and qualitative.
  • Research method. Is the data accumulation. The generation of the hypothesis and testing of the hypothesis. If it is disproved, start over by changing hypothesis to support new data. If it's supported, you have a theory, which comes from years of strongly supported work, not just an idea. Must be testable, a possible explanation, two sided and be 'if, then' format.
  • Hypothesis production/ invention. From personal knowledge, previous research, cross-cultural knowledge, experiment work and study of non-humans for ancestors (mostly primates). Testing involves repeatable experiments. Less common in historical and social sciences.
  • Facts and explanation. We can't pick and choose which facts to explain, that is a representative bias.

Summing UP

  • A theory is a well established and generally accepted explanation (an accepted hypothesis) which has been well supported by testing, explains ALL existing facts and can provide predictions about new data.


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