Friday, March 7, 2014

Thomas Headland's Work

Dr. Headland lecturing on kinship in 1995

Thomas Headland is a Senior Anthropology Consultant with SIL International, in Dallas, Texas. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Hawaii. He has published twelve books and over 100 scholarly articles. His latest articles were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 12, 2011, (second author Harry Greene) and in Science on March 11, 2011 (lead author Kim Hill).

He is the world’s expert on indigenous hunter-gatherer populations in the Philippines.

Headland's major publication, compiled with his wife Janet Headland, was published online in version 2.0 in January, 2011. Titled Agta Demographic Database: Chronicle of a Hunter-Gatherer Community in Transition, it contains a mammoth 4,000-page population chronicle of all members of an Agta Negrito people in the Philippines. In addition, data tables are available that can be downloaded without charge. This compilation is based on the Headlands' more than 48 years of demographic research on the Agta people, and they consider the sharing of these data their most significant contribution to science.

Headland's specialties are hunter-gatherer societies, tropical forest human ecology, and Philippine Negritos. From 1962 to 1986 he and his wife, Janet Headland, served under SIL in the Philippines, where their three children were born and raised. Janet collaborates with Tom in all of his research. Janet and Tom continue to make field research trips among the Agta Negritos in the Philippines including trips in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010.

Dr. Headland has been an elected Fellow of the American Anthropological Association since 1993. He has loved anthropology passionately since a child. While anthropologists and some Christians see him as an oxymoron, he claims he has never had a minute of conflict between his love of anthropology and his Christian faith.

Dr. Headland was asked to investigate charges of professional misconduct by a prominent anthropologist who had been particularly vocal in opposition to missionary work in general and the Summer Institute of Linguistics in particular. One charge involved the introduction of smallpox to an indigenous Amazon population. Tom’s investigation showed the smallpox had been introduced through a child of missionaries rather than by the anthropologists. Tom’s integrity in clearing the name of his vocal critic earned him respect from many secular anthropologists. Tom stressed the importance of quality and integrity as professional scientists in our calling as Christians in science. More details on Tom’s work can be found on his website.

Related reading: Dr. Charles Kraft, Why Few Christians Are Cultural Anthropologists; Talking on Facebook About Biblical Anthropology; Biblical Anthropologists Discuss Darwin

1 comment:

  1. Off topic a bit but interesting:

    "They were fascinating times," says Dr Finlay."As part of that reading, I stumbled on the fact that we all inherit pieces of retroviral DNA in our genomes," he says. "They are part of our genomic structure. In fact eight per cent of our genome is contributed by retroviruses, whose strategy is to insert their DNA into our DNA," he says."To discover that we share particular retroviral sequences with chimps, gorillas, orang-utans, gibbons and other primates, was to me extraordinary, because it was an overwhelming demonstration of common ancestry.""I've spent a bit of time writing and trying to spread these ideas in church circles. I decided we need a book so people can really appreciate the compelling nature of the evidence," says Dr Finlay.Finlay is himself a Christian and believes that there are excellent theological reasons why the evolution of the created order should be acceptable to all Christians."This book was the result and was extended into other areas, like jumping genes that make up another 40 per cent of our DNA and have just been accumulating there over our evolutionary history.""Jumping genes are like tiny little parasites that insert themselves into our DNA and every now and again they copy and paste. Some cut and paste. Again we share millions of those with chimps and other primates," he says. "And this is even more interesting because we share some with rats and mice, bats and whales. It enables us to develop very extensive evolutionary family trees."He says it is the same logic in cancer research, because jumping genes are increasingly implicated in cancer. They also establish how you can map out the development of cancers."You can work out the evolution of cancers, by looking at how cancer cells express genetic markers. They indicate, for example that most cancers are monoclonal. The cells might share a single mutation, so you know they came from a single cell in which that mutation occurred."

    Read more at:


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