Anchiornis: Foot Feathers Confuse Bird Evolution Story

first_imgThe paper on Anchiornis huxleyii was published in Nature,1 along with a News article about it in the same issue by Lawrence Witmer.2  In addition, popular reports were printed by the BBC News, Live Science and Science Daily.    The popular reports are focusing on Xing Xu’s claim that this fossil removes the last argument that birds could not have evolved from dinosaurs because this fossil gets rid of the “temporal paradox” – the fact that the alleged “feathered dinosaurs” were all younger in the fossil record than Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird.  Anchiornis has been assigned to strata dated 1 to 10 million years earlier than Archaeopteryx, effectively removing that objection.    Other than that, this fossil is confusing.  It has long feathers on all four legs – even on the hind feet.  The feathers get shorter closer to the body.  Scientists can’t figure out if the feathers allowed the creature to fly or glide.  If not, what function did they perform?    The animal had elongated hind legs.  It seems that foot feathers would have interfered with flying and with walking on the ground.  Some modern birds have feathered feet but not long, pennaceous feathers.  Based on this new discovery, and on the previous fossils Microraptor gui (11/16/2005, 03/27/2007), and Pedopenna (feather-foot; see New Scientist 19 Feb 2005), evolutionary biologists are trying to piece together a story of feathers first evolving on the extremities and then moving inward toward the body.  That begs the question of what the feathers evolved for in the first place.  The authors try to explain,Extensive feathering of the pes [foot] is also seen in some modern birds, and serves an insulating or protective function.  In most cases the feathers are not organized into a coherent planar surface as in Microraptor, Pedopenna and Anchiornis, which indicates that the pedal feathers of these fossil taxa may have differed from those of extant birds in having an aerodynamic function.  This would imply that a four-winged condition played a role in the origin of avian flight, as suggested by previous studies, although this conclusion is not universally accepted.  However, the significant differences noted above between the large pedal feathers of Anchiornis and those of Microraptor suggest that these feathers might have been less aerodynamically effective in Anchiornis than in Microraptor.It would seem that going from four wings to two wings represents devolution, not evolution, unless two wings are shown to be more efficient for flying.  Even so, the sudden emergence of a four-winged animal would seem improbable for natural selection.  Anchiornis adds to the puzzle by causing doubt that the feathers were aerodynamically effective.  Yet distal feathers don’t seem to provide much of an insulating or protective function.  Why would natural selection produce structures as complex as feathers for no purpose?  Witmer explained,More to the point, it now looks as if we’ll have to accept that avian evolution indeed went through – at the risk of overstatement – a four-wing stage, only to eventually lose the long foot feathers.  What this means for the evolution of the avian flight stroke is now an open question.  Likewise, we’ll need to seriously consider how these otherwise seemingly very adept and agile runners (Anchiornis has extremely long and slender hindlimbs) could manage with long feathers on their feet.What does Anchiornis mean for evolutionary history?  “The presence of a troodontid in the earliest Late Jurassic indicates that all groups of derived theropods had originated by this time,” the paper said.  The common ancestor of these groups (Troodontidae, Dromaeosauridae and Avialae) therefore remains to be discovered earlier in the fossil record.  Witmer took it as a plug for evolutionary theory that similarities in early representatives of these groups (e.g., the foot feathers) shows that paleontologists are converging on the common ancestor.  “It’s getting hard to tell members of one group from another,” he said.  “On the bright side, in this year of Darwin, that fact provides a comforting affirmation of the evolutionary prediction that species in different groups will become increasingly similar as we approach their common origin.”1.  Hu, Hou, Zhang and Xu, “A pre-Archaeopteryx troodontid theropod from China with long feathers on the metatarsus,” Nature 461, 640-643 (1 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08322.2.  Lawrence M. Witmer, “Palaeontology: Feathered dinosaurs in a tangle,” Nature 461, 601-602 (1 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/461601a; Published online 30 September 2009.This is an opportunity to compare hype with fact.  The news media and the discoverers are all chirping that they have an example of bird evolution here.  A transitional form between dinosaurs and birds has been found, and now the naysayers need to bow at the feet of the Charlie idol and admit they were wrong.  It should be noticed that the Darwinists did not predict finding a dino-chicken with long feathers on its feet.  What is this thing?  Look at the predictions they had made.  The ancestor of birds either learned to fly from the ground up (cursorial) or the tree down (arboreal).  The cursorial hypothesis appears down and out if this animal had anything to do with it.  Witmer just wondered how this animal could manage to run with feathers on its feet.  Put some long feathers on your feet and see if it helps your takeoff.  The arboreal hypothesis might still be a contender, but it is 09/06/2007 for the convoluted tale).    There remains no clear picture of the evolution of flight – particularly of powered flight and all the systems required to support it.  There are only an assortment of odd, extinct creatures that paleontologists try to sort into man-made categories.  Remember that it’s not just the taxonomic categories that assume evolution; it’s the geological categories and the dating methods.  Evolutionary paleontology has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Since the outcome is never in doubt, every find becomes part of the ever more complex story of evolution.  They insulate their story from falsification by contorting any and all data to fit the story somehow.  It is not science.    All right then, what are creationists saying?  Creationists do not accept the dating scheme, the millions of years, the creative power of natural selection, or the phylogenetic stories.  The strata diagram in the paper shows alternating bands of andesite, shale, siltstone, agglomerate and tuff.  To accept the column, one has to believe that only one kind of material was deposited for many tens or thousands of years (longer than all human history), then another kind for more thousands of years, then another, then a repeat of the first type of material, over and over.  Alternative mechanisms could allow for these layers to be deposited rapidly.  The time interval between Anchiornis and Archaeopteryx and the other creatures could therefore be so small as to make them contemporaneous.  These are questions evolutionists never ask because they are married to the Geologic Column.  The whole Darwin story would collapse if it were called into question.  Evolutionists need to get off the Lyellian bandwagon and recognize the paradigm-shaking powers of catastrophism.  It could rewrite the history of the Liaoning deposits.    Anchiornis, then, represents another species that went extinct among a majority of past species that went extinct.  It was not evolving into something better.  If anything, it was evolving downward.  Combine this with what we know about the Cambrian Explosion, the young material in dinosaur soft tissue, and the capacities for rapid geological change in catastrophes, and it is the Darwinists who need to explain themselves, not their critics.  Hint: every time you find a Darwinist begging the question in his or her story, stop them right there.  Say, “Excuse me, I do not accept that assumption.  What do you mean there were ten million years between those two strata?  Prove it.  Were you there?  I do not accept your line that this was a transitional form on the way to birds.  Don’t you realize that taxonomists classified the maniraptorans and troodontids based on evolutionary assumptions that dinosaurs and birds are related by common ancestry?  I do not accept those assumptions, therefore I do not accept the classification scheme and the story built on it.”  Make them explain their story from first principles using observations and testable data.  Then ask the hard questions: “Do you realize how many beneficial mutations would be required to make a feather out of a scale or piece of fuzz?  How can you possibly believe it happened?  Don’t you know that birds have exquisitely designed bones and wings and respiratory systems for powered flight?  Have you seen a hummingbird or eagle?  You expect me to believe that some dinosaur fell out of tree and gave rise to the cormorant and falcon?  How is that even remotely imaginable, given the complexity of DNA codes and proteins and biochemical systems?  A few oddball species interpreted within your scheme are not convincing.  There should be thousands upon thousands of transitions showing every step along the way if your story were true.  Why don’t you admit with anti-creationist Stephen Jay Gould that the presence of systematic gaps in the fossil record is the trade secret of paleontology?  Come back when you can trade in facts, not dredge up isolated oddballs to force-fit into an increasingly implausible tale.”(Visited 67 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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Surface Pro 3: Meet Microsoft’s New Tablet Hybrid

first_imgWhat it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … The low range of the Intel-based Surface 3 tablets starts with a Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage for $799 and increases from there. The most expensive Surface 3 will release with a Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage. See the full specs and prices below.Core i3 – 4 GB RAM – 64 GB Storage – $799Core i5 – 4 GB RAM – 128 GB Storage – $999Core i5 – 8 GB RAM – 256 GB Storage – $1,299Core i7 – 8 GB RAM – 256 GB Storage – $1,549Core i7 – 8 GB RAM – 512 GB Storage – $1,949It’s clear from the specs and price points that Microsoft is not looking to directly compete with Apple’s iPad or various Android tablets. At 12-inches, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is more the size of a laptop than a tablet. For decades, Microsoft’s bread and butter has been building the Windows operating system for PCs, and the Surface Pro family is essentially how Microsoft (re)imagines the evolution of PC; at first blush, Surface 3 doesn’t look to compete in the more mobile-centric world of tablets. The Windows Pro 3 series ships with Windows 8.1, the company’s latest operating system for PCs and Microsoft Surface devices. Earlier this year, Microsoft released an update to Windows 8.1 that allowed it to run on a variety of hardware, from low-end chips and small amounts of RAM all the way up to the top of consumer grade hardware specifications.The Surface 3 comes with a thinner TypeCover with an improved trackpad which is 68% larger than in the previous version of Surface keyboards. Tags:#Microsoft#PC#Surface#Surface 3#Surface Pro#tablet#Windows 8#Windows 8.1 The Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technology dan rowinski Related Posts Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagement At Microsoft, the PC never really dies. Like a hydra, it just grows more heads.Microsoft unveiled a new line of Surface Pro tablets on Tuesday designed to catch the eye of business users everywhere. Microsoft wants to push the message that Surface Pro 3 is both a tablet and a laptop, designed for the needs of both consumption and productivity.“This is the tablet that can replace your laptop,” said Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate VP of Surface, at a launch event in New York City.The Surface Pro 3, which goes on sale today, features a 12-inch touchscreen tablet/computer and is relatively thin and light at 9.1 millimeters and a weight of 800 grams. The Surface Pro 3 comes with a stylus pen and the kickstand from previous versions of the Surface; the kickstand features a new “friction” hinge to accommodate angles between 22 and 150 degrees, while the stylus is designed to look and feel like a real pen and translates handwritten content into digital font script.last_img read more

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Resident certificate row in Itanagar

first_imgAfter a year of intermittent unrest over the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong people who settled from present-day Bangladesh in the 1960s, organisations in Arunachal Pradesh are now worried by the State government’s alleged plan to grant permanent resident certificate (PRC) to six indigenous groups that are not classified as Scheduled Tribes in the State.On Friday, a newly formed group called the United Arunachal Indigenous People’s Forum organised a rally in Itanagar asking Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein to either quit or withdraw their “commitment” to issue the certificates to the six non-Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe (non-APST) communities.These communities — Deori, Sonowal Kachari, Moran, Mishing, Adivasi and Gorkha — live in the Lekang circle of Arunachal Pradesh’s Namsai district and the Vijaynagar circle of Changlang district.Land ownershipThe forum and other NGOs such as the Nyishi Ethnic Students of Arunachal Pradesh pointed out that non-APSTs cannot be given PRC or land possession certificates in violation of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873, which prohibits possession of land and entry without permit by people not belonging to the State. The government said Mr. Khandu and Mr. Mein have not made any promises to grant PRCs to the non-APST communities. The government will examine the issue only after receiving the report from the Joint High Power Committee, Minister Bamang Felix said.last_img read more

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a month agoChelsea striker Abraham: Great doing this with your mates

first_imgChelsea striker Abraham: Great doing this with your matesby Paul Vegasa month agoSend to a friendShare the loveChelsea striker Tammy Abraham is delighted to be playing with his academy teammates in the first-team.Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori joined Abraham on the scoresheet in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Wolves.”It’s great doing it with your mates,” said Abraham. “We have scored 11 goals and they have all been from academy English players.”We are all delighted. The manager believes in us. We just have to keep taking our chances.” About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your saylast_img read more

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Video: Watch ESPN’s E:60 Special On Ohio State Running Back Ezekiel Elliott

first_imgEzekiel Elliott and Urban Meyer pose for a picture.ESPNBetween J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, we still don’t know who will start at quarterback for Ohio State. There is no doubt, however, who will be getting the rock from the backfield. Running back Ezekiel Elliott might have been Ohio State’s best offensive player during the amazing run of post-season wins against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon, totaling 696 yards (9.16 yards per touch) and scoring eight touchdowns in those three games.Before becoming an Ohio State star, Elliott dominated as a three-sport star at John Burroughs High School in St. Louis. Elliott was the subject of ESPN’s latest E:60 special, which aired earlier this evening. It has been posted online by executive producer Andy Tennant. Ohio State fans who missed this are going to want to set aside the next 20 minutes for this fantastic feature. [ESPN]last_img read more

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Usher Features On UNCF An Evening Of Stars

first_imgActor-comedian Anthony Anderson, co-star of NBC’s Guys With Kids, hosts the 34th annual United Negro College Fund An Evening of Stars Educating our Future Presented by Target.The show premieres nationwide on Saturday, January 26 (check local listings for stations and times) and airs on BET Networks on Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. EST. The nationally televised variety show focuses public attention on America’s need for more African American college graduates and UNCF’s work getting students to and through college.The show features Grammy-Award winner and founder of the Usher’s New Look Foundation, Usher, presenting a four-year college scholarship to Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school senior, Ammon Lyle. Additionally, superstars Steve Harvey, Kevin Hart and Chaka Khan will present scholarships to deserving college and college-bound students.The national audience will be electrified by performances and appearances by some of the hottest names in entertainment including Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, Charlie Wilson, Keyshia Cole, Trey Songz, Tyrese Gibson, Melanie Fiona, Eric Benet, Tracee Ellis Ross, Keenan, Ivory Wayans and many more.“I hope everybody tunes in and donates from the bottom of their hearts and the bottom of their pockets,” said Anderson. “Unfortunately, over 60,000 students apply for scholarships and financial aid every year and UNCF is able to award scholarships to just 15,000 who need help going to college. That’s why I’m a part of what UNCF is doing and I’m here for the long run.”“UNCF is delighted that stars like Usher, Anthony Anderson, Steve Harvey, Yolanda Adams, Kevin Hart and Chaka Khan have agreed to make our cause their cause,” said UNCF president and CEO Michael L. Lomax , Ph.D., “performing for the UNCF An Evening of Stars national audience and introducing UNCF’s “rising stars” — the high-achieving students who, thanks to UNCF, are getting the education they need to compete in the 21st century economy. The country is facing a crisis in African American education, and UNCF, BET and our galaxy of rising and established stars are determined to do something about it.”“We are very excited to be a part of this inspirational night,” says BET Networks Chairman and CEO Debra Lee . “Historically black colleges and universities hold a special and important role in the African American community and we are honored to help raise funds and awareness to support the education of the next generation of leading African American professionals.”UNCF, the country’s largest and most effective minority education organization, supports the education of more than 60,000 students each year. A recent study by UNCF’s Patterson Research Institute showed that UNCF’s 38 member historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) out-perform many non-HBCUs at enrolling and graduating low-income students. UNCF’s largest scholarship program, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, has a 90 percent graduation rate among its 13,000 low-income minority students, a rate significantly higher than the national college graduation rate.
UNCF An Evening of Stars, formerly the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars, first aired in 1979, and since that time has become one of the longest-running and most successful televised events in U.S. history. Over its 34-year history, UNCF An Evening of Stars has raised more than $200 million that has helped hundreds of thousands of students attend college and graduate. In recent years, UNCF An Evening Of Stars has featured a who’s who of remarkable talent, including Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Chaka Khan, Ne-Yo, Nancy Wilson, Beyonce, Anita Baker, Jill Scott, Whoopi Goldberg, Fantasia, Joss Stone, Jennifer Hudson, Michael Bolton, Natalie Cole, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Hall and Oates, Ziggy Marley, Maroon 5, and scores of others. UNCF An Evening of Stars received NAACP Image Awards for its 2006 tribute to Stevie Wonder, its 2008 tribute to Smokey Robinson and its 2010 tribute to Lionel Richie. Learn more about UNCF An Evening of Stars at www.UNCF.org.Source:PR Newswirelast_img read more

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William Shatner Jann Arden first Indigenous NHL player among 125 appointments to

first_imgAdvertisement Armstrong, who says she is “thrilled and honoured” with the recognition, remembers a time when she had to fight with editors and publishers to cover the issue she has dedicated her career to.Canadian journalist, filmmaker and human rights activist Sally Armstrong will be made an Officer of the Order of Canada. (Andy Hincenbergs/ CBC)She broke the story of how women were being gang-raped during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia for Homemaker’s magazine, bringing an issue she says was ignored into the spotlight. Twitter Advertisement Login/Register With: Advertisement LEAVE A REPLY Cancel replyLog in to leave a comment Facebook Canada’s newly minted Governor General, Julie Payette, has announced 125 appointments to the Order of Canada in a list that includes famous faces such as William Shatner and Jann Arden as well as two former Supreme Court justices and the Catholic priest Father John Walsh.Since its inception in 1967, almost 7,000 people from all walks of life have been invested into the Order of Canada. This year’s nominees will be awarded their honours at ceremonies to take place later in the year. Dates have not been set.Journalist and documentary filmmaker Sally Armstrong, who also happens to be the mother of CBC host Peter Armstrong, will be made an Officer of the Order for her groundbreaking work “highlighting human rights and the struggles of women in the world’s conflict zones.”last_img read more

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Press bodies say need to reexamine OSA

first_imgNew Delhi: A group of press bodies on Thursday expressed concern over the government threatening The Hindu newspaper with action under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for publishing articles on the Rafale deal based on documents stolen from the Defence Ministry, and said the legislation needs to “re-examined”.In a joint statement, Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps and Press Association said, “We feel it is time that the Official Secrets Act as well as law on defamation need to be re-examined given the potential of their misuse against the Fourth Estate.” Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!The government on Wednesday told the SC documents related to Rafale aircraft deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry and the petitioners seeking a review of its verdict dismissing all pleas against the purchase of the jets relied upon those documents. The Attorney General also submitted in the apex court that the documents on the deal relied on by the petitioners were marked secret and classified, and therefore, are in violation of the Official Secrets Act. Also Read – Encounter under way in Pulwama, militant killedHe had also sought dismissal of the review petitions and perjury application as they relied on stolen documents and said that today’s The Hindu report on Rafale amounts to influencing hearing in apex court and is itself contempt of court. “We, the undersigned journalist organisations express deep concern over the statements made by the Attorney General of India insinuating that reports on the Rafale deal published in The Hindu newspaper were based on documents stolen from the Ministry of Defence,” the joint statement said. The Attorney General’s statements made in open court suggesting that the publication of such reports and the documents “imperiled national security and therefore should be deemed as criminal, has the potential of sending out a chilling effect to one and all in the media,” the statement claimed. The implications and ramifications of the statements made by the top most legal officer of the government are not only for the media but also for the sources of information that journalists rely on, the press bodies said. The Editors Guild of India also unequivocally condemned Attorney General’s remarks before the Supreme Court pertaining to the documents based on which the media had reported on the Rafale deal, saying any attempt to use the Official Secrets Act against the media is as “reprehensible” as asking journalists to disclose their sources. The Guild, in a statement, also urged the government to refrain from initiating any action that might undermine the media’s freedom and independence.last_img read more

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From doctors across borders

first_imgOnce again, India and Pakistan stood at the brink of war over Kashmir, and have only just begun to tone down the posturing and threats. With nuclear weapons uncomfortably close at hand, almost 2 billion people in the region face the risk of nuclear catastrophe. For well over three decades now, multiple simulations and projections have suggested that an India–Pakistan nuclear escalation could lead to millions of deaths in the region, rivaling past great famines. The consequences of a nuclear exchange of any magnitude could affect generations to come. Kashmir has proved to be an especially intractable political predicament for the two countries. As Arundhati Roy wrote in her 2017 novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, the confrontation over Kashmir is “a perfect war—a war that can never be won or lost, a war without end”. Also Read – A special kind of bondThe threat of war is a matter of urgent public health concern. Health workers have a duty to speak out and plead for peace. Why would these two populous and proud nations risk disaster by such brinksmanship? The region is one of the poorest in the world with human development ranking for India and Pakistan standing at 130 and 150, respectively, in 2018. An estimated 40 per cent (59 million) of the world’s stunted children and 53 per cent (27 million) of all wasted children live in south Asia, and 34 per cent of the population has no access to sanitation. Investments in health and education remain less than 4 per cent and 3 per cent of respective gross domestic product (GDP) in the region. Yet successive governments and military establishments have escalated military spending—in 2017, it was US$64 billion in India and $11 billion in Pakistan. Also Read – Insider threat managementPerhaps the greatest disappointment is the jingoism and warmongering that have gripped both countries, with some reckless parts of the media baying for blood. We have witnessed almost hysterical calls for retribution after the deplorable suicide bombing in Pulwama, Kashmir, on Feb 14, 2019, that killed 40 Indian soldiers. Perhaps the current escalation of air and ground skirmishes along the military Line of Control (the de facto India–Pakistan border) was inevitable. But civil society representatives and activists have been silenced. Contrarian views, including calls for peace, have been ridiculed and shouted down. With the release by Pakistan of the downed Indian air force pilot on March 1, 2019, temperatures have begun to cool somewhat, yet the situation remains extremely tense. We call upon the governments, political parties, mass media, and civil society in India and Pakistan to step back from the edge of conflict and to exercise constraint. The real causes of conflict in the region—important contributing factors to instability and the rise of extremism—include rampant poverty, inequalities, illiteracy, and lack of investment in human capital. Pakistan has lost more than 60 000 lives in fighting domestic terrorism in its tribal areas and Baluchistan, costing its economy at least $120 billion. Economic losses to the region are massive and simply unsustainable. It has been estimated that an additional terrorist incident per million persons reduces GDP per capita growth by about 1.5 per cent. These resources could have been spent on human development, religious harmony, and the promotion of grassroots democracy. Political leaders in both countries must move away from conflict and pursue diplomacy, dialogue, and the promotion of person to person contact and engagement between civil society representatives and youth. There is no conflict that cannot be resolved at the negotiating table. As the two countries once again stare into an abyss of disaster, we fervently call for peace, pragmatism, and the prevention of further violence. (The authors are: Dr. Arun Mitra, Vice President, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development; Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Center of Excellence in Women and Child Health, The Aga Khan University, Karachi 75500, Pakistan (ZAB); and Dr. Arun Mitra, Zulfiqar A Bhutta and Richard Horton, The Lancet, London, UK (RH). The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more

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A metaphor for capitalism

first_imgIs there a Marxist position on fashion? Maybe not a “position” as such – though some Marxists have also been notable fashionistas (and others, distinctly scruffy dressers). However, a Marxist approach can reveal quite a lot. Fashion is (arguably) unique to and a characteristic of our species. Some other creatures adorn, advertise, or conceal themselves by “wearing foreign objects.” But in no case (as far as is known) is there any significant social transmission or evolution of habit. And clothing – its wearing and manufacture – is peculiar to humanity. Also Read – A special kind of bondHuman self-ornamentation goes back a long way. Anthropologists have speculated on its social purpose but, while materials or ornaments depend on what is locally available or can be procured from further afield, only in very few cases is there any clear evidence of the environmental or functional determination of the precise detail of body adornment. In other words, this seems to be just “fashion.” This seems likely to have been the case also for most of human history. With the emergence of class societies, including slavery and feudalism, fashion took on a new role, as a marker of social status. Different professions or craft guilds – from clergy to cobbler – distinguished and identified themselves through dress. Sometimes, as in royal courts from Ancient Regime France to Regency Britain, this could take an extreme form. The dress became an essential element of the “rules of behaviour” – emphasising and maintaining social distinctions. But within capitalism, fashion takes on a whole new character. Marx saw fashion as a dynamo as well as a product of capitalism. Clothing was central to the industrial revolution; textile manufacture inaugurated the factory system in Britain with adults and children labouring in appalling conditions spinning cloth made from cotton produced by slaves on the other side of the Atlantic. The market for the product was driven not just by need, but by fashion. Also Read – Insider threat managementEsther Leslie, a Marxist analyst of modern culture, describes how Marx saw fashion as a metaphor for capitalism. In Capital, Marx wrote of “the murderous, meaningless caprices of fashion” linked to the general anarchy of capitalist production. Capitalism requires constant novelty – not just in the mode of production, but in products themselves – in order to maintain sales and profits. Alongside “normal” business cycles and changes due to external factors such as the weather, “fashion, and the sudden placing of large orders that have to be executed in the shortest possible time” leads to precarious work; periods of “inhuman toil” alternating with starvation – a situation which intensified with the development of railways and telegraphs. Marx quotes a manufacturer whose customers travel every fortnight from Glasgow, Manchester, and Edinburgh to the wholesale warehouses supplied by his factory “and give small orders requiring immediate execution, instead of buying from stock as they used to do.” Not much has changed – except that the production process has been globalised and is dominated by finance capital. Its excesses are manifested in episodes such as the collapse of Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2013, where in appalling conditions and on starvation wages, workers sweated producing fashion items for Benetton, The Children’s Place, Cato Fashions, Joe Fresh, and Walmart. Some 1,134 garment workers were killed and 2,500 maimed. Clothing accounts for 79 per cent of total exports from Bangladesh; 43 per cent of US clothing workers are paid below the minimum wage and illegal low pay and long hours are rife in the British textile industry. Fashion is not only exploitative of people; it is hugely destructive of the planet. Agrochemicals – pesticides and fertilisers – account for 77 per cent of the cost of raw cotton production in Kenya. Critics point to the way that expensive haute couture is inseparable from the wasteful and exploitative mass production and consumption of “cheap” fashion items, worn for a short time and then discarded. And fashion has, in parallel with and intimately connected to its economic role as a vehicle for profit and exploitation, a cultural and ideological function. Marx had a particular reason to be aware of the distinctions of dress. Having often had to pawn his own coat, he could not gain admittance to the British Library without redeeming it. Its use-value was not just keeping Marx warm; it was also a signifier of respectability without which he would have been denied access. Marx gave the name “rag-proletariat” (lumpenproletariat) to the poorest sections of the working class, immediately identifiable by their clothing. “White-collar” workers don’t get their hands – or clothes – dirty. They signify their distance from manual workers in their dress. Dress remains a signifier of social class distinctions and is sometimes inverted; the practice of going without a tie (or often, even a collar), unheard of a few decades ago, is normal among academics and increasingly tolerated among financial executives; it is often the lowest-paid workers (security, attendants) who are required to wear a uniform. Ironically, the dress is becoming a marker of prestige and power between institutions as well as within them. As Julie Burchill declared: “Satellites preen, superpowers dress down.” Fashion is not just clothes. All fashion has its “derivatives” – shoes, bags, and accessories, which are great profit makers. Plus, of course, the multibillion-dollar hair and beauty product industry. Tansy Hoskins, in her book Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion, shows how capitalism “stitches up” its consumers as well as its workers and its raw materials – today not just in clothing but in pretty much every other commodity imaginable, from cars to the latest iPhone or other “must-have.” Fashion is central to capitalism’s underlying philosophy of “planned obsolescence” – the “systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals.” And it is central also to capitalism’s ability (so far) to ride out its crises by super-exploitation of both workers and consumers. Fashion is the ultimate vehicle for alienation, reification, and commodity fetishism, persuading us to think that we “belong” – when we don’t – or to think that we’re “different” – when we’re not. “Fashion is a total system” and, says Leslie, far from being an aberration, it is at the core of capitalism and provides “a lens through which to explore it.” Hoskins declares: “As an illustration of how capitalism operates, fashion is perfect. Inequality and exploitation are straight out of the past. “Just as Queen Victoria wore dresses stitched by seamstresses who went blind in the candlelight, so today’s society it-girls now wear dresses stitched by Romanian sweatshop workers paid 99 pence an hour.” Fashion allows exploitation to pretend to be something else, when in fact the beating heart of the fashion industry is not creativity but profit. “To understand this, you need to look no further than the writings of Marx and Engels, more than a century ago.” Today, fashion attempts “to persuade us to buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have produced by people and processes we prefer not to think about, to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t know.” Under socialism, it is likely there will continue to be “fashions” – in dress and in much else. Some of us may still remain “dedicated followers of fashion.” But fashion will no longer be dictated by the owners and managers of capital and subordinated to profit.(Courtesy: Morning Star. The source of this article is Marx Memorial Library)last_img read more

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