About the Name of this blog

This blog's title refers to a Dani fable recounted by Robert Gardner. The Dani live in the highlands of New Guinea, and at the the time he studied them, they lived in one of the only remaining areas in the world un-colonized by Europeans.

The Dani, who Gardner identifies only as a "Mountain People," in the film "The Dead Birds," have a myth that states there was once a great race between a bird and a snake to determine the lives of human beings. The question that would be decided in this race was, "Should men shed their skins and live forever like snakes, or die like birds?" According to the mythology, the bird won the race, and therefore man must die.

In the spirit of ethnographic analysis, this blog will examine myth, society, culture and architecture, and hopefully examine issues that make us human. As with any ethnography, some of the analysis may be uncomfortable to read, some of it may challenge your preconceptions about the world, but hopefully, all of it will enlighten and inform.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Know Of What You Speak


The first and most important thing that should be taught in schools, and that is no longer discussed, is epistemology, i.e. the science of "how do you know what you know."  More and more on facebook, I am seeing completely inflammatory posts, designed to outrage people into taking one side or another.

This is why epistemology is essiential.  before sharing that crap, do some research, from legitimate sources (and FYI, Buzzfeed, The Drudge Report, or the Daily KOS are not legitimate sources, they have a political agenda.)  Find out who is behind the information, and if they have an iron in the fire.  Find out if there are facts to back it up.

The most appalling one I saw recently was a statistic that "82 million American soldiers died to defend this flag."  Until the middle of the 20th century, there weren't even 82 million people in this country, let alone, 82 million who died.  The entire casualty count from WW2 was somewhere around 12 million, and that includes the deaths in the Concentration Camps.  US deaths were only a small fraction of the casualties.  

The deadliest war for Americans was the Civil War, which had more soldier deaths than all of the other wars America fought in COMBINED.  The total number of dead in that war came to about a million.  Therefore, 82 million is total BS, even 8.2 million is BS.  Also, since the South was not figthing to defend the American Flag, they can't be counted either.  A lot of brave soldiers have died to defend this country, but not that many.

And that is the point.  You need to know what you are saying is true before you spout in on FB, or anywhere else.

Also, don't fall for the BS that every story has two sides.  Facts are facts, and if the story is about facts, there will not be two sides.  To go back to the Civil War, there is no actual controversy about why it was fought, it was fought about slavery.  Period.  Not about states rights, not about the government, just about the fact that some people felt that it was their God given right to own other people.  

How do I know this?

I have read the statements of the people involved at the start of the war, Robert E Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and others.  They make the reasons for the war VERY clear.  They state clearly that it was about slavery.  Any other idea is just twisting the story to a specific end.

Similarly, there is no question about these things: we landed on the Moon, Hitler killed 6 million Jews, Global Warming is real, and the Earth is round.

Anyone who wants to dispute these actual facts is living in a world of invention and fantasy.  You can shoot lasers at the mirrors we left on the moon, you can see the meticulous records of the Nazis, you can talk to any ACTUAL climate scientist, and you can get on an airplane and look at the horizon.  

This is the core of epistemology: how do you know what you know?  If you can't answer that, then you don't actually know what you are talking about.

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