Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Fri Mar 13 2009 - 06:59:27 EDT

Christine Smith wrote:
"In the context of the debate, "human" and "person" has been used interchangeably it seems to me, but the term "person" carries with it much deeper connotations about spirituality, emotions, rationality, etc. The term "human" however, doesn't necessarily  convey these additional concepts - fundamentally, it merely distinguishes us from say, a cat."
It depends on who you ask, e.g. a zoologist or ethologist or anthropologist or psychologist. Are human beings being discussed strictly 'naturalistically,' i.e. through the methods, theories and paradigms of 'natural sciences.' Or are human-social methods, theories and paradigms freely (and actively) being involved to consider what counts as human, almost human, potentially human or not human at all?
David O's application of legal studies and systems is a case in point.
Even in the human-social sciences (what is in North America commonly just called 'social sciences,' distinguishing them from 'humanities') there is debate about this, for example, the Bruno Latour vs. Steve Fuller fiasco in Hong Kong 2002 ( Latour claims that 'actants' (which are not necessarily human) are part of our network society, while Fuller argues for the centrality of human uniqueness as the basis for the social scientific project. Fuller claims (2006) that all monotheistic religions accept the 'anthropic' position, while the non-monotheistic religions he describes as 'karmic,' which is driven by the neo-Darwinian worldview that distinguishes human beings from (other) animals and the rest of nature *only* by 'degree' and not 'kind.'
Of course, using the term 'human person' would immediately solve the problem that Christine raises, while inviting in a major realm of discourse in which zoologists and ethologists are amateurs (and often dreadfully wrong). No need to consult 'society' if a person can or should be 'defined' (a objectively as possible) strictly by their genes, plus "spirituality, emotions, rationality, etc." all of which is subsumed under 'human nature.' Then again, isn't all social science necessarily ideological due to its inescapable reflexivity?
Gregory __________________________________________________________________ Instant Messaging, free SMS, sharing photos and more... Try the new Yahoo! Canada Messenger at

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Received on Fri Mar 13 07:00:05 2009

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