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"Dance," the policeman instructed. The girls in front of him, naked from the waist up, obeyed. A tourist's camera panned round to another young woman, also naked and awkwardly holding a bag of grain in front of her. "Dance for me," the policeman commanded.
The young woman giggled, looked shy and hopped from foot to foot. The camera swung back to the others who clapped, swayed and jumped.
This kind of video is the trophy tourists dream of when they set off into the jungles of the Andaman Islands "on safari". The beauty of the forest functions merely as a backdrop. The goal of the trip is to seek out the Jarawa, a reclusive tribe only recently contacted, which is taking the first tentative steps towards a relationship with the outside world.
With behaviorism turning 100 in 2013, a review of those developments, and their implications for other natural sciences and today’s world, seems appropriate. The natural science of behavior can elevate the status of the natural sciences, lead to solving more human problems, reduce susceptibility to superstition and mysticism (both theological and secular), and improve human intellectuality, rationality and emotionality.
Just imagine this: If you were the last Chamorro speaker and you hold the experiences and knowledge of thousands of years of life here in Guam and the Mariana Islands … and there is no one that understands who and what you carry in your inner self.
The Chamorro language is a world language given to the Chamorro people by our creator. It is our responsibility to keep the Chamorro language alive.
A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors—in all likelihood, a couple of dozen—and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh. The cheeseburger couldn’t have existed until nearly a century ago as, indeed, it did not.
Talk is cheap, but scientific value lurks in all that gab. Words cascading out of countless flapping gums contain secrets about the evolution of language that a new breed of researchers plan to expose with statistical tools borrowed from genetics.
Ping! The other day, I got a Facebook friend request in my in box. This is now a relatively rare occurrence – I’m long past the frenzy of those first few Facebook months when friend-finding was more satisfying and addictive than chocolate, and I’m done gorging myself on it all. But, intrigued, I opened it up, to find that this was no ordinary future friend (from the past) – it was a man I’d met while making a film about a tribe from the Sepik Valley in Papua New Guinea. It was a man who was born and raised in a remote hunter-gatherer society, where, to this day, the women spend their time searching out wild sago palms in the swamps to pulp into flour for pancakes, and the men hunt monstrous saltwater crocodiles in tea-colored jungle rivers at night with nothing more than spears. My new Facebook friend no longer joins these hunts – he’s an elder and has managed to find some income in the embryonic Sepik tourist industry – but for many years he was a hunter-gatherer, and now he’s on Facebook!
The Kumeyaay people practice their traditions and revive native crafts in remote areas of Mexico and California as encroaching civilization brings electricity and running water.
Sometime during the 1740s, the Reverend Thomas Bayes made the ingenious discovery that bears his name but then mysteriously abandoned it. It was rediscovered independently by a different and far more renowned man, Pierre Simon Laplace, who gave it its modern mathematical form and scientific application — and then moved on to other methods. Although Bayes’ rule drew the attention of the greatest statisticians of the twentieth century, some of them vilified both the method and its adherents, crushed it, and declared it dead. Yet at the same time, it solved practical questions that were unanswerable by any other means: the defenders of Captain Dreyfus used it to demonstrate his innocence; insurance actuaries used it to set rates; Alan Turing used it to decode the German Enigma cipher and arguably save the Allies from losing the Second World War; the U.S. Navy used it to search for a missing H-bomb and to locate Soviet subs; RAND Corporation used it to assess the likelihood of a nuclear accident; and Harvard and Chicago researchers used it to verify the authorship of the Federalist Papers. In discovering its value for science, many supporters underwent a near-religious conversion yet had to conceal their use of Bayes’ rule and pretend they employed something else. It was not until the twenty-first century that the method lost its stigma and was widely and enthusiastically embraced.