“. . . network ideas appear, are then dissipated, and re-emerge again. They have never defined the core concerns of any discipline or research specialism to the extent that they form part of its canon and are seen as fundamental to its ongoing concerns” (Knox et al. 2006: 114).
DURING THE SECOND HALF of 2018 SCIENCE DIALOGUESwill be featuring a series of reports on the steps that have been taken at the Field Museum in Chicago since the early 1970s to promote dynamic network analysis (DYNA) in the social and historical sciences.
The goal of these reports is to prepare the way for writing a book about how networks analysis is currently revolutionizing scientific (and hopefully human) thought about the world we live in and our place in it.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows firsthand the challenges of writing history that this brief assessment highlights the concerns some archaeologists have voiced that “aDNA is unable to account for the complexity and subtleties of human behavior.”
This brief published commentary ends on a hopeful note. In the years ahead, collaborations between archaeologists and experts working in other sciences will “becoming stronger and more balanced.”
Here is what I say at the end of this analysis (somewhat shortened in length):
There are two thoughts I want to leave you with.
My first thought is about scientific responsibility. Pacific Islanders have been dealing with foreigners telling them what to do and how to do it ever since Europeans began sailing around the Pacific in the 16thcentury. Are we now committed to telling them also what was their history? Why would we want to do this? The days of European colonialism are over, aren’t they? Or are they?
The second thought is this one. Call them “populations” or call them “races,” it makes no difference. As modern molecular genetics has now shown us in remarkable detail, we are all 99.9 percent the same. It may be conventional wisdom to think we humans come in different kinds called races, populations and the like. A statistic like this one, however, ought to be enough to convince anyone willing to listen that we don’t come in kinds whatever you want to call them.
Hence the apparent willingness of more than a few geneticists today to use words like populations, migrations and admixture when they are writing about ancient DNA and the past does more than just misinform the rest of us. As reviews of Reich’s book, both pro and con, have sometimes scoldingly observed, when scientists talk this way, they can sound like they are doing racial profiling. Apparently, it can be hard for some folks to see that what my grandfather called hogwashmay not just be something unbelievable. Hogwash can also be words and stories that are socially, politically and, yes, historically misleading. Maybe even dangerous.