Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Few Items From the Sept 15th Edition of Science Magazine
1)'Claim of Oldest New World Writing Excites Archaeologists'
A recently discovered stone block from a quarry at Cascajal, outside San Lorenzo, Mexico may have pushed the known date for writing in the New World back to as early as 900 BCE according to this report. This artifact apparently belongs to the Olmec culture who predated the Mayas and Aztecs in Mesoamerica. The artifact has been provisionally assigned to the San Lorenzo period of the Olmec culture (from 1200 BCE to 900BCE). The Toltecs had disappeared by 400 BCE.
2)'Grounding the Planes During a Flu Pandemic ? Studies Disagree'
This is a report about the recent article by John Brownstein and Kenneth Mandi in the Sept 11th edition of PLoS Medicine about how the post 9/11 drop in air traffic seemed to delay the onset of the flu season by 13 weeks. This article puts forward the various counter-arguments and the response that they are "computer models" while "this is empirical evidence".
3)In the 'Books et al' section there is a review of 'Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy'. The author of this review, Romain Wacziarg, states that the model presented in this book appears such that "In some ways, this basic model is a formalization of Marx's dialectical materialism." Well yes and no. The reviewer goes on to note that the authors of the book, who are economists, lay out an hypothesis of when a ruling class will respond to demands from other classes by either a)repression, b)concessions or c)democratization. They argue that the ruling class will follow the later path when the other classes feel that they must have guarantees of the good will of the rulers. The theoretical framework is that of game theory economics.
Yes, it terms that Marx emphasized the role of economic class struggle in the development of political institutions - as, of course, did many others who didn't have to borrow from the superstitions of the Hegelian academy and style it "dialectics". No because the authors of the book, even if they are as innocent of actual facts as Marx ever was lay out a program whereby their hypotheses can be falsified by actual research. this, of course, is "science" in contrast to the "science" of Marx's "scientific socialism" which grew out of the antique conviction that Hegelian philosophy was a "science" and that deductions using its methods of over abstraction deserved the name "scientific".

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