Biologist’s View on Species and "Wide worldview"

Culture in Peril would like to plug the latest blog post by Hannah at Culturing Science. Hidden in a very well-researched scientific discussion of central Californian salamanders and invasive species, Hannah considers the biological definition of species: “For sexually reproducing organisms, a species is the group of animals with whom one can exchange genetic material via reproduction, or, in other words, can produce fertile offspring.” Hannah is a biologist (she works in a molecular biology lab in Philadelphia!) and provides us with a very interesting perspective on how a scientist of biology thinks about species–esp. the human species and culture.

Hannah writes, “To distinguish one species from another under this definition, a scientist would need a pretty wide worldview.” She jokingly asks her readers to imagine a transatlantic squirrel breeder-scientist who can discern American and British squirrels–impossible Hannah concludes, “he would need a pretty wide worldview.”

Hannah: Is the cultural scientist unable to ponder the different cultures of the world? Are biologists and cultural anthropologists similarly limited in their respective fields’ analytical studies of species (or different cultural groups)? Let me remind you that cultural anthropology has attempted to explain “Other” cultures through a distinct eco- and bio-logical lens for decades, while a recent NYTimes Science article, which discusses a cozier relationship between Biology and Cultural Heritage vis-a-vis human evolution, seems to indicate biology is only just discovering cultural studies. I am sure Biology will continue to work for a more pragmatic approach to Culture. (Is there already a “cultural biology” under the umbrella term “cultural ecology”?)

I will certainly be looking forward to future posts from Hannah at Culturing Science, www.culturingscience.wordpress.com.

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