Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Oh, The Irony

So, I've been tagged as a 'thogger' - a neologism which adds insult to injury by being the brutal neologising of a not even initially particularly attractive neologism; it apparently means a blogger who makes you think, for those not in the know - both here and here. The appropriate thing to do here, after having thanked those who bestowed such a title - thanks, Russell and Brian: it's always pleasing to find that the people you think are interesting reciprocate - would presumably be to name my own five 'thoggers' (suppresses shudder) and offer some thoughts on what it is to be thought-provoking in this day and age. Given the way in which blogging memes quickly come to resemble pyramid schemes, with everyone desperately rushing round to find someone they can somehow milk their share from, and that I already have a blogroll, I am not going to do the former. If you're on my blogroll and haven't been tagged, consider yourself tagged; I read your blog, which must mean I find it interesting.

The latter is slightly more complicated. Let me offer a brief account of a recent experience as explanation. Yesterday morning, whilst eating my breakfast, I saw a programme on some freeview digital channel or other in which archaeologists from the Smithsonian claimed that some of the first human inhabitants of the American continent were from Europe mostly on the basis that flint tools constructed in a similar to some found in America had been found in southwestern France. I think archaeologists are mostly a total bloody joke anyway, mostly running around digging fragments of pottery and ancient fecal matter up that any half-decent historian could have guessed was there without the use of expensive argicultural machinery, and provides no real new information about any period of the past regardless, but this was ridiculous.

So far as the programme was concerned, it was inconceivable that anyone could have independently arrived at similar techniques for the maunfacture of flint tools, or that such techniques could have passed between various neolithic groups. To be fair to the archaeologists, they had some DNA evidence as well, but this was presented as confirmation of the evidence provided by similar tool manufacture techniques. There was also a whole racist undertone about how the fact that Europeans managed to get America was presented as a triumph of the human spirit, as if slogging across Siberia and Alaska during an ice age were some kind of gentle stroll, and at no point was the possibility of Americans having gone to Europe addressed, despite the fact that it was on the basis of existing Inuit technology that it was claimed that the Europeans could have got across the partially frozen north Atlantic.

Now, I'd guess it's entirely possible the archaeologists were racists, but they must - surely they must, or else archaeologists are even worse than I thought - have realised that there was an enormous hole in their argument, that it is possible for the same technique to be discovered independently in two different places. However, that's not how their ideas were presented.
We could add Adam Curtis' 'The Trap', which must have had game theorists tearing their hair out, and I live with scientists who find the presentation of their subjects in public debate totally laughable. Of course you can't expect people in general to follow the details of complicated and increasingly jargon-filled academic debate, even when they want to, which, most of the time, they won't. However, however... You wonder what the point is if the information presented is so bowdlerised, so emptied of genuine content. This thinking in the public realm, t'aint easy.


El said...

add most of the crap which passes for popular non-fiction at the moment (or at least what we sell).

Rob Jubb said...

Anyone asked you if you know who Barack Obama is recently?