Saturday, August 07, 2004

bombardierin' safari

I'm currently reading The Status Syndrome by the British epidemiologist Sir Michael Marmot.* It's an interesting and well-written book, revealing both the strengths and (to some extent, unintentionally) weaknesses on current social research on health disparities. But, in the pages I'm reading now, Marmot is making a foray into evolutionary psychology, and it continues to amaze me--evolutionary psychology was the subject of my dissertation, mind you--how authors can make all kind of peculiar rhetorical footfaults once put upon the task of trying to convey the pressures of the Pleistocene for popular-science readers. A relatively harmless but still what-was-he-thinking example from Marmot's book, as he tries to draw lessons from the comparisons of the hunter-gatherer lifestyles of the !Kung San and Shoshone:
One big difference is the existence of giraffes. The Shoshone may have gathered a great deal and hunted the occasional rabbit, but the !Kung hunted giraffes. Without B-52 bombers or high-powered rifles, how do you hunt a giraffe? Cooperation with other hunters might be a good start...
Yes, I recognize that males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes. But, even so, if I was assigned the task of solo-hunting a giraffe, I can imagine many modern contrivances that I could see as helping me out, and, yet, a B-52 bomber would not be one of them. Even if I knew how to fly. Can you even operate a B-52 bomber (that is, fly and bomb), without cooperating with someone else? And, even so, can you really bag a giraffe with one?

* Aside: As some readers know, I'm especially fond of the word "marmot", and for some time it's been one of the most-favorite favorites on my enunciation candy sidebar list.

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