Long-time readers of this blog will no doubt remember the Guns Germs and Steel kerfuffle , in which it was widely concluded that Anthropologists as a whole hate Jared Diamond because they are jealous of his success as a popular writer.
Today’s New York Times has picked up the story, and while they don’t mention Savage Minds, they do interview previous SM guest blogers, Frederick K. Errington and Deborah B. Gewertz. (You can see all their posts here.)
Times reporter George Johnson attended the “Choices and Fates of Human Societies” seminar at the Amerind Foundation and presents the contest in a somewhat more generous light than some of our readers and critics on the web, seeing it as a battle between “big picture” theories and the focus on the particular:
By the time I left Amerind, I realized that what I had witnessed was a clash of world views. Central to the “cosmology” of Dr. Diamond’s tribe is a principle celebrated throughout the physical and biological sciences — to understand is to simplify and seek patterns.
… For the anthropologists, the exceptions were more important than the rules. Instead of seeking overarching laws, the call was to “contextualize,” “complexify,” “relativize,” “particularize” and even “problematize,” a word that in their dialect was given an oddly positive spin.
Its a formula I’m not entirely happy with (I happen to like grand narratives…), but if the alternative is being a bunch of jealous backbiters, I’ll take the accusation of particularism any day.