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1.3: What is Biological Anthropology?
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Basic tenets of anthropology:
- Holism: Holism means that a part of something can only truly be understood if examined within relation to the whole of it. For anthropologists, this means that they try to understand humankind through the interrelationships of all aspects of human existence -- for example, human biology has to be examined within the context of human cultures and vice versa. In addition, all of this must be examined within the context of the environment and historical processes. In an effort to be holistic, anthropology is often an interdisciplinary field that crosses over into other fields such as history, geology, and ecology.
- Relativism: Relativism means that judgments, truths, or moral values have no absolutes, and can only be understood relative to the situation or individuals involved. For anthropologists, this means that they accept that all cultures are of equal value and must be studied from a neutral point of view. A good anthropologist must disregard their own beliefs, morals, and judgments when examining another culture. They must, instead, examine each culture within the context of its own beliefs.
- Universalism: Universalism means that whatever the theoretical principle is, it's equally applicable to all. For anthropologists, universalism means that we believe all humans are equal -- in intelligence, complexity, etc.This is in contrast to ethnocentrism, which is the belief that some peoples are more important or culturally/biologically better than other peoples.
- Culture: All humans have culture. Culture is the set of learned behaviors and knowledge that belong to a certain set of people. This is different from genetically hardwired behaviors (such as reflexes) in that they aren't biologically inherited. The most important thing to remember is that culture is learned.
Subfields in Anthropology
- Sociocultural Anthropology
- Biological (or Physical) Anthropology
What is Biological Anthropology?
- Human biology (human biological diversity, genetics, adaptations to environmental stressors, etc.)
- Primatology (non-human primate biology, evolution, behavior, ecology, etc.)
- Paleoanthropology (human origins and human evolution)
- Unit 1: In this unit, you'll learn the basic toolkit you'll need (evolutionary theory) in order to understand the rest of the course. This unit also covers human biology.
- Unit 2: This unit covers primatology.
- Unit 3: This unit covers paleoanthropology.