By Andrew P. Vayda
During this collection of essays from the prior 20 years, Vayda makes a speciality of study and clarification concerned about motives of concrete occasions, in particular human activities and the environmental adjustments led to via them.
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Moreover, they attribute to me claims I never made. An example is the claim that the Marings of New Guinea were driven to war by scarcity of meat. For this, Peluso and Watts cite Vayda 1961a, which, written before I ever went to New Guinea, does not even mention Marings. , Vayda 1976: 39–40), I did say that shortage of primary forests may have driven some Maring groups to land encroachments and aggressions against other groups, but I described such forests as resource areas important for much more than only meat from hunted animals (see also chap.
15; Walton 2004) and of medical diagnosis, especially by expert physicians (Patel et al. 2005; Magnani 2001: chap. 4). 36 Pressures, psychological as well as practical, to reach conclusions quickly must also be taken into account (cf. Ask and Granhag 2005 on the need for cognitive closure as a source of confirmation bias in criminal investigations and Groopman 2007b: 169 ff. on the occurrence of this in medical diagnoses). However, errors or bad explanations, as well as the sources of the errors in the failure to obtain and consider the evidence for additional causal possibilities, are recognized in these fields and remedies are sought.
Here are just four examples of research questions illustrating this with regard to diverse explananda: Asking whether the etiology of modern-day anorexia nervosa has parallels in the causes of holy women’s self-starvation in medieval times (Bell 1985); asking whether generalizations, derived from cases extending from the 1990s back to the French Revolution, about how war, sectarianism, and terrorism can be caused by the adoption of electoral politics in countries before various other democratic institutions have been established are applicable to contemporary Iraq (Mansfield and Snyder 2005, 2005/2006); asking whether causal models of soil degradation that have been found to apply in the Sahel are applicable also in other regions where rural impoverishment may be causing farmers to overuse marginal lands (Lüdeke et al.