The impetus for forming the SAS lay in changes that have occurred in the American Anthropological Association (AAA). The AAA, founded in 1902, is the largest professional organization for anthropologists in the world. It was founded as a scientific society and was so regarded by most of its membership for most of its history. Nominally, it still is one. In recent years, however, a substantial portion of its membership has rejected the idea that anthropology can be or should be a science. At the same time, the AAA has grown numerically and reorganized. Instead of a single decision-making body it has become an association of constituent societies, called “sections” and “interest groups.” In the process it has delegated to sections control over the portions of the annual meetings that fall within their respective areas of substantive interest. One consequence of these changes has been that many anthropologists whose methods are more clearly those of the physical sciences have dropped away and either formed or joined independent scientific societies, such as the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and Society for American Archaeology. Another consequence was that in 2004 a substantial group of more scientifically oriented panels that had been proposed for the annual meetings of the AAA was rejected for lack of an interested section. It then became clear to many who remained in the AAA that while there were organized bodies arguing strongly against scientific methods and values, there was no equivalent voice dedicated to arguing for them. SAS was then formed to support scientific research within the American Anthropological Association and to create a bridge between the American Anthropological Association and anthropologists and others outside of it who shared their concerns.
For more information about the history of the Society for Anthropological Sciences, please see: