BOOK: Creatures of Cain: The Hunt for Human Nature in Cold War America

A recently published book of possible interest to followers here is Creatures of Cain: The Hunt for Human Nature in Cold War America by Erika Milam (Princeton University Press, 2019):


Publisher’s description After World War II, the question of how to define a universal human nature took on new urgency. Creatures of Cain charts the rise and precipitous fall in Cold War America of a theory that attributed man’s evolutionary success to his unique capacity for murder. Drawing on a wealth of archival materials and in-depth interviews, Erika Lorraine Milam reveals how the scientists who advanced this “killer ape” theory capitalized on an expanding postwar market in intellectual paperbacks and widespread faith in the power of science to solve humanity’s problems, even to answer the most fundamental questions of human identity. The killer ape theory spread quickly from colloquial science publications to late-night television, classrooms, political debates, and Hollywood films. Behind the scenes, however, scientists were sharply divided, their disagreements centering squarely on questions of race and gender. Then, in the 1970s, the theory unraveled altogether when primatologists discovered that chimpanzees also kill members of their own species. While the discovery brought an end to definitions of human exceptionalism delineated by violence, Milam shows how some evolutionists began to argue for a shared chimpanzee-human history of aggression even as other scientists discredited such theories as sloppy popularizations. A wide-ranging account of a compelling episode in American science, Creatures of Cain argues that the legacy of the killer ape persists today in the conviction that science can resolve the essential dilemmas of human nature.

Milam was interviewed about her research on the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, and she wrote an essay for Aeon based on her book.

[Amazon|Powell’s|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound]

On the bookshelf: Evolution, anthropology, geology, philosophy of paleontology, and early 20th century activism for birds


The following titles are some of the books I have been reading or have recently obtained that readers here are likely to find of interest. Ordering links follow the descriptions of each book, but I recommend also checking your local bookstore or library!

Efram, Sera-Shriar (ed.), Historicizing Humans: Deep Time, Evolution, and Race in Nineteenth-Century British Sciences (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018, 320 pp.) ~ The publiher’s description reads: “A number of important developments and discoveries across the British Empire’s imperial landscape during the nineteenth century invited new questions about human ancestry. The rise of secularism and scientific naturalism; new evidence, such as skeletal and archaeological remains; and European encounters with different people all over the world challenged the existing harmony between science and religion and threatened traditional biblical ideas about special creation and the timeline of human history. Advances in print culture and voyages of exploration also provided researchers with a wealth of material that contributed to their investigations into humanity’s past. Historicizing Humans takes a critical approach to nineteenth-century human history, as the contributors consider how these histories were shaped by the colonial world, and for various scientific, religious, and sociopolitical purposes. This volume highlights the underlying questions and shared assumptions that emerged as various human developmental theories competed for dominance throughout the British Empire.” Readers interested in Darwin specifically will want to check out chapter 6 – Gregory Radick on “How and Why Darwin Got Emotional about Race.” Radick delves into Darwin’s writing in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) as a means to understand Darwin’s thoughts on human evolution and suggests that Expression provides more evidence in Darwin’s mind of man’s animal ancestry than what he offered in On the Origin of Species (1859) or The Descent of Man (1871). Order Historicizing Humans: Amazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Kieran D. O’Hara, A Brief History of Geology (Cambridge University Press, 2018, 274 pp.) ~ “Geology as a science has a fascinating and controversial history. Kieran D. O’Hara’s book provides a brief and accessible account of the major events in the history of geology over the last two hundred years, from early theories of Earth structure during the Reformation, through major controversies over the age of the Earth during the Industrial Revolution, to the more recent twentieth-century development of plate tectonic theory, and on to current ideas concerning the Anthropocene. Most chapters include a short ‘text box’ providing more technical and detailed elaborations on selected topics. The book also includes a history of the geology of the Moon, a topic not normally included in books on the history of geology. The book will appeal to students of Earth science, researchers in geology who wish to learn more about the history of their subject, and general readers interested in the history of science.” Order A Brief History of GeologyAmazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Peter R. Grant and B. Rosemary Grant, 40 Years of Evolution: Darwin’s Finches on Daphne Major Island (Princeton University Press, 2014, 432 pp.) ~ One of the very first books I read about evolution when the topic grabbed me as a teenager was The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (1995), which told the story of the Grants’ lengthy study of finches on the Galapagos islands. Jump two decades later and their research in the field continues, as they describe in this newer book. From the publisher: “Renowned evolutionary biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant have produced landmark studies of the Galápagos finches first made famous by Charles Darwin. In How and Why Species Multiply [2008], they offered a complete evolutionary history of Darwin’s finches since their origin almost three million years ago. Now, in their richly illustrated new book, 40 Years of Evolution, the authors turn their attention to events taking place on a contemporary scale. By continuously tracking finch populations over a period of four decades, they uncover the causes and consequences of significant events leading to evolutionary changes in species. The authors used a vast and unparalleled range of ecological, behavioral, and genetic data–including song recordings, DNA analyses, and feeding and breeding behavior–to measure changes in finch populations on the small island of Daphne Major in the Galápagos archipelago. They find that natural selection happens repeatedly, that finches hybridize and exchange genes rarely, and that they compete for scarce food in times of drought, with the remarkable result that the finch populations today differ significantly in average beak size and shape from those of forty years ago. The authors’ most spectacular discovery is the initiation and establishment of a new lineage that now behaves as a new species, differing from others in size, song, and other characteristics. The authors emphasize the immeasurable value of continuous long-term studies of natural populations and of critical opportunities for detecting and understanding rare but significant events. By following the fates of finches for several generations, 40 Years of Evolution offers unparalleled insights into ecological and evolutionary changes in natural environments.” Order 40 Years of EvolutionAmazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Tessa Boase, Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women’s Fight for Change (Aurum Press, 2018, 336 pp.) ~ Women’s suffrage in Britain began in 1918, when certain woman over the age of 30 were granted the right to vote, but the effort to reach such a point had begun decades earlier. Social historian Tessa Boase tells the story of how the women’s suffrage movement was intertwined with the movement to protect British birds. The publisher’s description: “When Mrs Pankhurst stormed the House of Commons with her crack squad of militant suffragettes in 1908, she wore on her hat a voluptuous purple feather. This is the intriguing story behind that feather. Twelve years before the suffragette movement began dominating headlines, a very different women’s campaign captured the public imagination. Its aim was radical: to stamp out the fashion for feathers in hats. Leading the fight was a character just as heroic as Emmeline Pankhurst, but with opposite beliefs. Her name was Etta Lemon, and she was anti-fashion, anti-feminist – and anti-suffrage. Mrs Lemon has been forgotten by history, but her mighty society lives on. Few, today, are aware that Britain’s biggest conservation charity, the RSPB, was born through the determined efforts of a handful of women, led by the indomitable Mrs Lemon. While the suffragettes were slashing paintings and smashing shop windows, Etta Lemon and her local secretaries were challenging ‘murderous millinery’ all the way up to Parliament. This gripping narrative explores two singular heroines – one lionised, the other forgotten – and their rival, overlapping campaigns. Moving from the feather workers’ slums to the highest courtly circles, from the first female political rally to the first forcible feeding, Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather is a unique journey through a society in transformation. This is a highly original story of women stepping into the public sphere, agitating for change – and finally finding a voice.” Order Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple FeatherAmazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Peter Ward, Lamarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics Is Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018, 288 pp.) ~ “In the 1700s, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck first described epigenetics to explain the inheritance of acquired characteristics; however, his theory was supplanted in the 1800s by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection through heritable genetic mutations. But natural selection could not adequately explain how rapidly species re-diversified and repopulated after mass extinctions. Now advances in the study of DNA and RNA have resurrected epigenetics, which can create radical physical and physiological changes in subsequent generations by the simple addition of a single small molecule, thus passing along a propensity for molecules to attach in the same places in the next generation! Epigenetics is a complex process, but paleontologist and astrobiologist Peter Ward breaks it down for general readers, using the epigenetic paradigm to reexamine how the history of our species–from deep time to the outbreak of the Black Plague and into the present–has left its mark on our physiology, behavior, and intelligence. Most alarming are chapters about epigenetic changes we are undergoing now triggered by toxins, environmental pollutants, famine, poor nutrition, and overexposure to violence. Lamarck’s Revenge is an eye-opening and controversial exploration of how traits are inherited, and how outside influences drive what we pass along to our progeny.” Order Lamarck’s RevengeAmazon, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Adrian Currie, Rock, Bone, and Ruin: An Optimist’s Guide to the Historical Sciences (MIT Press, 2018, 376 pp.) ~ I’ve read lots of books about dinosaurs and paleontology over the years, but this one suggests to not necessarily take everything a paleontologist says for granted. From the publisher: “The ‘historical sciences’—geology, paleontology, and archaeology—have made extraordinary progress in advancing our understanding of the deep past. How has this been possible, given that the evidence they have to work with offers mere traces of the past? In Rock, Bone, and Ruin, Adrian Currie explains that these scientists are ‘methodological omnivores,’ with a variety of strategies and techniques at their disposal, and that this gives us every reason to be optimistic about their capacity to uncover truths about prehistory. Creative and opportunistic paleontologists, for example, discovered and described a new species of prehistoric duck-billed platypus from a single fossilized tooth. Examining the complex reasoning processes of historical science, Currie also considers philosophical and scientific reflection on the relationship between past and present, the nature of evidence, contingency, and scientific progress. Currie draws on varied examples from across the historical sciences, from Mayan ritual sacrifice to giant Mesozoic fleas to Mars’s mysterious watery past, to develop an account of the nature of, and resources available to, historical science. He presents two major case studies: the emerging explanation of sauropod size, and the ‘snowball earth’ hypothesis that accounts for signs of glaciation in Neoproterozoic tropics. He develops the Ripple Model of Evidence to analyze ‘unlucky circumstances’ in scientific investigation; examines and refutes arguments for pessimism about the capacity of the historical sciences, defending the role of analogy and arguing that simulations have an experiment-like function. Currie argues for a creative, open-ended approach, ’empirically grounded’ speculation.” Order Rock, Bone, and Ruin: AmazonPowell’s, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.

Two new books centered on evolution and the human species

Here are two new books centered on evolution and the human species that readers here may be interested in:


Philip Lieberman, The Theory that Changed Everything: “On the Origin of Species” as a Work in Progress (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), 232 pp.

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Publisher’s description Few people have done as much to change how we view the world as Charles Darwin. Yet On the Origin of Species is more cited than read, and parts of it are even considered outdated. In some ways, it has been consigned to the nineteenth century. In The Theory That Changed Everything, the renowned cognitive scientist Philip Lieberman demonstrates that there is no better guide to the world’s living—and still evolving—things than Darwin and that the phenomena he observed are still being explored at the frontiers of science. In an exploration that ranges from Darwin’s transformative trip aboard the Beagle to Lieberman’s own sojourns in the remotest regions of the Himalayas, this book relates fresh, contemporary findings to the major concepts of Darwinian theory, which transcends natural selection. Drawing on his own research into the evolution of human linguistic and cognitive abilities, Lieberman explains the paths that adapted human anatomy to language. He demystifies the role of recently identified transcriptional and epigenetic factors encoded in DNA, explaining how nineteenth-century Swedish famines alternating with years of plenty caused survivors’ grandchildren to die many years short of their life expectancy. Lieberman is equally at home decoding supermarket shelves and climbing with the Sherpas as he discusses how natural selection explains features from lactose tolerance to ease of breathing at Himalayan altitudes. With conversational clarity and memorable examples, Lieberman relates the insights that led to groundbreaking discoveries in both Darwin’s time and our own while asking provocative questions about what Darwin would have made of controversial issues today, such as GMOs, endangered species, and the God question.

This book is reviewed, along with three other new titles about Darwin, in the Times Literary Supplement, and the author of said review discusses it for the TLS podcast.  And a so-so review from Publisher’s Weekly.


Kostas Kampourakis, Turning Points: How Critical Events Have Driven Human Evolution, Life, and Development (New York: Prometheus Books, February 2018), 384 pp. 

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Publisher’s description Critical historical events–or “turning points”–have shaped evolution and continue to have a decisive effect on individual lives. This theme is explored and explained in this lucid, accessible book for lay readers. The author argues that, although evolution is the result of unpredictable events, these events have profound influences on subsequent developments. Life is thus a continuous interplay between unforeseeable events and their decisive consequences. As one example, the author cites the fusing of two chromosomes, which differentiated the human species from our closest animal relatives about 4 to 5 million years ago. This event was not predictable, but it had a profound effect on the evolution of our species thereafter. By the same token, certain unpredictable circumstances in the past enabled only Homo sapiens to survive to the present day, though we now know that other human-like species also once existed. The author contrasts such scientific concepts grounded in solid evidence with prevalent misconceptions about life: specifically, the religious notion that there is a plan and purpose behind life, the widespread perception that intelligent design governs the workings of nature, the persistent belief in destiny and fate, and the attribution of an overly deterministic role to genes. This excellent introduction for laypersons to core ideas in biology goes a long way toward dispelling such misconceptions and presents current scientific research in clearly understandable, jargon-free terms.

Again, this book is reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly.

BOOK: Darwinism, Democracy, and Race: American Anthropology and Evolutionary Biology in the Twentieth Century

This new book of possible interest to readers would be a good one to request your academic library purchase, as it is a hefty price, as one of the co-authors notes in this list of what you could purchase instead for the same price.


John P. Jackson Jr. and David J. Depew, Darwinism, Democracy, and Race: American Anthropology and Evolutionary Biology in the Twentieth Century (New York: Routledge, 2017), 252 pp.

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Publisher’s description Darwinism, Democracy, and Race examines the development and defence of an argument that arose at the boundary between anthropology and evolutionary biology in twentieth-century America. In its fully articulated form, this argument simultaneously discredited scientific racism and defended free human agency in Darwinian terms. The volume is timely because it gives readers a key to assessing contemporary debates about the biology of race. By working across disciplinary lines, the book’s focal figures–the anthropologist Franz Boas, the cultural anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, and the physical anthropologist Sherwood Washburn–found increasingly persuasive ways of cutting between genetic determinist and social constructionist views of race by grounding Boas’s racially egalitarian, culturally relativistic, and democratically pluralistic ethic in a distinctive version of the genetic theory of natural selection. Collaborators in making and defending this argument included Ashley Montagu, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Lewontin. Darwinism, Democracy, and Race will appeal to advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and academics interested in subjects including Philosophy, Critical Race Theory, Sociology of Race, History of Biology and Anthropology, and Rhetoric of Science.

ARTICLE: ‘Darwin was Wrong.’ The International Media Coverage of the Oreopithecus’ Reinterpretation (1956–1959)

An article in a 2016 issue of the journal Centaurus looks at an interesting moment in the history of evolutionary thought:

‘Darwin was Wrong.’ The International Media Coverage of the Oreopithecus’ Reinterpretation (1956–1959)

Clara Florensa

Abstract ‘Darwin was wrong’ was a headline that made news around the world in March 1956. Johannes Hürzeler, a Swiss palaeontologist, had just made public his theory that Oreopithecus bambolii, a fossil thus far classified as an extinct Old World monkey, was in fact a 12-million-year old hominid. That was 10 million years (!) older than the oldest hominids accepted at the time. Two years later he unearthed a complete skeleton of Oreopithecus in Italy. The echo of this discovery in the media was enormous yet the newspaper coverage in different western countries followed distinctive patterns. This paper will show these differences and point out possible explanations that go far beyond scientific disagreement. It will be argued that the press is a privileged source for comparing simultaneous reactions to the same scientific fact around the globe and for helping us discover national and supranational patterns of scientific discourse while linking them to their contexts. This paper also highlights the role of the news pieces as ‘supports of knowledge.’ Just like bones or scientific articles, news items circulate prompting in turn the circulation of other ‘supports of knowledge’ such as fossil remains or scientists.

The whole issue is devoted to articles on the construction of prehistoric knowledge.

ARTICLE: Darwin’s body-snatchers?

This short article in the journal Endeavour takes a creationist claim about Darwin to task:

Darwin’s body-snatchers?

John van Wyhe

Abstract For decades creationists have claimed that Charles Darwin sought the skulls of full-blooded Aboriginal Tasmanian people when only four were left alive. It is said that Darwin letters survive which reveal this startling and distasteful truth. Tracing these claims back to their origins, however, reveals a different, if not unfamiliar story.

ARTICLE: The Ascent of Man and the Politics of Humanity’s Evolutionary Future

A new article in the history of science journal Endeavour might interest readers here:

The Ascent of Man and the Politics of Humanity’s Evolutionary Future

Erika Lorraine Milam

Abstract Throughout the twentieth century, contemporary understandings of evolutionary theory were tightly linked to visions of the future freighted with moral consequence. This essay traces the origins and legacy of this scientific commitment to a universal family of man in postwar evolutionary theory, and elaborates how evolutionary scientists sought to reframe the politics of human evolution by claiming that the principles governing the physical past of humanity differed fundamentally from those that would matter in the coming decades, centuries, or even millennia. Education and public engagement embodied the moral importance of actively participating in the creation of that better, future world.

ARTICLE: Darwin and the Ethnologists: Liberal Racialism and the Geological Analogy

New in Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences:

Darwin and the Ethnologists: Liberal Racialism and the Geological Analogy

Suman Seth

Abstract Toward the end of The Descent of Man, Darwin made a striking assertion. “I would as soon be descended,” he claimed, from a “heroic little monkey” than from a “savage” who practiced torture and infanticide, treated “wives like slaves,” and was indecent and superstitious. These lines have been often quoted but rarely analyzed. I argue here that they provide a means for following Darwin’s thought as he grappled with contemporary ethnological evidence that seemed—if today’s “savages” were to be taken as models for primeval humans—to work against his theory of sexual selection as it applied to humankind. In addition to explicating what I suggest is a crucial element of Descent, this paper has three aims, all of which help us better understand the relationships between ethnology and Darwinian thought. First, to offer a selective intellectual history of British ethnology between 1864 and 1871, focusing on those texts that Darwin deemed most problematic for his arguments. Second, and as a result, to better specify Darwin’s views on race by comparing him not to his opponents, but to his like-minded peers, a group I term “liberal racialists.” Third, to explore the utility of what I term the “geological analogy,” a mid-nineteenth-century version of the comparative method (which substituted study of “less developed” peoples today for humans in much earlier periods). Where liberal ethnologists deployed the geological analogy consistently, Darwin would be much more selective, denying its application at times in favor of analogies to lower animals. He would thus save his theoretical suppositions by denying that contemporary “lower” races, with their depraved morality, could serve as appropriate models for our apparently more decent, yet more animalistic forebears.

ARTICLE: Biologist Edwin Grant Conklin and the idea of the religious direction of human evolution in the early 1920s

New in Annals of Science:

Biologist Edwin Grant Conklin and the idea of the religious direction of human evolution in the early 1920s

Alexander Pavuk

Abstract Edwin Grant Conklin, renowned US embryologist and evolutionary popularizer, publicly advocated a social vision of evolution that intertwined science and modernist Protestant theology in the early 1920s. The moral prestige of professional science in American culture — along with Conklin’s own elite scientific status — diverted attention from the frequency with which his work crossed boundaries between natural science, religion and philosophy. Writing for broad audiences, Conklin was one of the most significant of the religious and modernist biological scientists whose rhetoric went well beyond simply claiming that certain kinds of religion were amenable to evolutionary science; he instead incorporated religion itself into evolution’s broadest workings. A sampling of Conklin’s widely-resonant discourse suggests that there was substantially more to the religion-evolution story in the 1920s US than many creationist-centred narratives of the era imply.

BOOK: How Evolution Shapes Our Lives: Essays on Biology and Society

A couple of years ago, Princeton University Press published the huge volume, The Princeton Guide to Evolution (out in paperback in February 2017), which provides a large overview of evolutionary biology, as a science and its relationship to human society (you can read the introduction here). Now the press has condensed a variety of chapters that address evolution as it relates to human society into a shorter book.


Jonathan B. Losos and Richard E. Lenski, eds., How Evolution Shapes Our Lives: Essays on Biology and Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 416 pp.

Publisher’s description It is easy to think of evolution as something that happened long ago, or that occurs only in “nature,” or that is so slow that its ongoing impact is virtually nonexistent when viewed from the perspective of a single human lifetime. But we now know that when natural selection is strong, evolutionary change can be very rapid. In this book, some of the world’s leading scientists explore the implications of this reality for human life and society. With some twenty-three essays, this volume provides authoritative yet accessible explorations of why understanding evolution is crucial to human life—from dealing with climate change and ensuring our food supply, health, and economic survival to developing a richer and more accurate comprehension of society, culture, and even what it means to be human itself. Combining new essays with essays revised and updated from the acclaimed Princeton Guide to Evolution, this collection addresses the role of evolution in aging, cognition, cooperation, religion, the media, engineering, computer science, and many other areas. The result is a compelling and important book about how evolution matters to humans today. The contributors are Dan I. Andersson, Francisco J. Ayala, Amy Cavanaugh, Cameron R. Currie, Dieter Ebert, Andrew D. Ellington, Elizabeth Hannon, John Hawks, Paul Keim, Richard E. Lenski, Tim Lewens, Jonathan B. Losos, Virpi Lummaa, Jacob A. Moorad, Craig Moritz, Martha M. Muñoz, Mark Pagel, Talima Pearson, Robert T. Pennock, Daniel E. L. Promislow, Erik M. Quandt, David C. Queller, Robert C. Richardson, Eugenie C. Scott, H. Bradley Shaffer, Joan E. Strassmann, Alan R. Templeton, Paul E. Turner, and Carl Zimmer.

You can read the first chapter here.

BOOK: Darwin’s Sciences

This new book is so far my favorite Darwin book this year. Darwin’s Sciences (full title: Darwin’s Sciences:  How Charles Darwin voyaged from rocks to worms in his search for facts to explain how the earth, its geological features, and its inhabitants evolved) does not offer some new groundbreaking thesis about Darwin’s life, work, or legacy, but rather pulls together a lot of information about the various branches of the natural sciences Darwin studied into a detailed and readable account. An introduction looks over Darwin’s life, and then chapters on geology, zoology, botany, and the social sciences give an overview of Darwin’s studies and major publications, utilizing his journals, correspondence, and autobiography to place things in context. The bibliography for this book is in itself a treasure of references and Darwin scholarship. While I have only read into the chapter on zoology (note that each page has about perhaps twice the text as most other books, with a small font size), I recommend Darwin’s Sciences for anyone interested in a more than superficial look at what Darwin accomplished in science.


Duncan M. Porter and Peter W. Graham, Darwin’s Sciences (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), 264 pp.

Publisher’s description A complete scientific biography of Darwin that takes into account the latest research findings, both published and unpublished, on the life of this remarkable man. Considered the first book to thoroughly emphasize Darwin’s research in various fields of endeavor, what he did, why he did it, and its implications for his time and ours. Rather than following a strictly chronological approach – a narrative choice that characteristically offers an ascent to On the Origin of Species (1859) with a rapid decline in interest following its publication and reception – this book stresses the diversity and full extent of Darwin’s career by providing a series of chapters centering on various intellectual topics and scientific specializations that interested Darwin throughout his life. Authored by academics with years of teaching and discussing Darwin, Darwin’s Sciences is suited to any biologist who is interested in the deeper implications of Darwin’s research.

Chapter 1, the Introduction, can be read online here.

BOOK: The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us

Alice Roberts, The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us (New York: Heron Books, 2015), 418 pp.

Publisher’s description In this compulsively readable book, Dr. Alice Roberts lays out the miraculously strange way in which the human body grows from a chemical (DNA) into a living, sentient being. A longtime professor and well-known TV presenter, Dr. Roberts is also an author of unusual ability, capable of synthesizing complex ideas and packing dense scientific information into lucid, beautiful prose. Bringing together the latest scientific discoveries and drawing on interviews with scientists from around the world, Dr. Roberts illustrates that our evolution has resulted in something that is awe-inspiring yet far from perfect. Our embryonic development is a quirky mix of new and old, with strokes of genius alongside accommodated glitches and imperfections that are all inherited from distant ancestors. For instance, our development and evolutionary past explains why, as embryos, we have what look like gills, and as adults we suffer from back pain. This is a tale of discovery, about ourselves and our environment, that explores why and how we have developed as we have, looking at the development of human physiognomy through the various lenses of embryology, genetics, anatomy, evolution, and zoology. It combines the remarkable set of skills Alice Roberts possesses as a medical doctor, anatomist, osteoarchaeologist, and writer. As Richard Dawkins put it, the reader emerges from her book “entertained and with a deeper understanding of yourself.”

ARTICLE: Going the whole orang: Darwin, Wallace and the natural history of orangutans

A new article in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (in press and free to download):

Going the whole orang: Darwin, Wallace and the natural history of orangutans

John van Wyhe and Peter C. Kjærgaard

Abstract This article surveys the European discovery and early ideas about orangutans followed by the contrasting experiences with these animals of the co-founders of evolution by natural selection, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. The first non-human great ape that both of them interacted with was the orangutan. They were both profoundly influenced by what they saw, but the contexts of their observations could hardly be more different. Darwin met orangutans in the Zoological Gardens in London while Wallace saw them in the wild in Borneo. In different ways these observations helped shape their views of human evolution and humanity’s place in nature. Their findings played a major role in shaping some of the key questions that were pursued in human evolutionary studies during the rest of the nineteenth century.

BOOK: The Great Human Journey: Around the World in 22 Million Days

Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, The Great Human Journey: Around the World in 22 Million Days (Piermont, NH: Bunker Hill Publishing, 2013), 48 pp. Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne.

Wallace and Darwin, the Museum Mice from the Halls of the American Museum of Natural History, are off on another adventure! It’s amazing what you can find in a museum and how far you can travel in a small time machine made from a yoghurt cup! Have you ever wondered where we humans all came from and how there came to be so many of us? The answers, as our two mice will show you, lie everywhere including in our own DNA. So there is the Big Picture of The Great Human Journey from the middle of Africa to Australia, America and Asia and then there’s the Tiny (really tiny) Picture too of molecules and cells that we can trace inside ourselves and our Genome like long strings of letters that tell us where we came from and who our ancestors were, and where they were when and how they got there! In their 22 Million Day Journey our intrepid mice, Wallace and Darwin, trace the biggest genealogy of all and find that all humans are 85% African and only 15% from the rest of the world! That is if you start counting our Genes – all 25,000 of them give or take an overlap! We took all this with us on our long walks from East Africa to Australia and from Australia to Asia and Europe between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago. 35,000 years later it only took us a few thousand years more to get from Alaska to Chile! We took our sweet time creating cultures and civilizations as we went. And we did it without GPS! And we even know we wore clothes 170,000 years ago. How? Because Lice too have DNA. It is amazing what our genes can tell us and what the genes of other species tell us too! Mitochondrial DNA we inherit from our mothers tells us where they have been. And from the tiny threads of our Y chromosomes we inherit from our fathers we can tell where they have been too. And then there’s the Rats! They followed us in our canoes and boats and stayed on islands with us where we can trace their journeys too. Wallace and Darwin have appeared in two previous adventures: Bones, Brains and DNA: The Human Genome and Human Evolution [2007] and Brain: A 21st Century Look at a 400 Million Year Old Organ [2010]. Their creators Tattersall, DeSalle and Wynne have plans to send them on further excursions in The Tree of Life and The Anatomy of Evolution. Stay tuned!

ARTICLE: Monkeys into Men and Men into Monkeys: Chance and Contingency in the Evolution of Man, Mind and Morals in Charles Kingsley’s Water Babies

From the Journal of the History of Biology:

Monkeys into Men and Men into Monkeys: Chance and Contingency in the Evolution of Man, Mind and Morals in Charles Kingsley’s Water Babies

Piers J. Hale

Abstract The nineteenth century theologian, author and poet Charles Kingsley was a notable populariser of Darwinian evolution. He championed Darwin’s cause and that of honesty in science for more than a decade from 1859 to 1871. Kingsley’s interpretation of evolution shaped his theology, his politics and his views on race. The relationship between men and apes set the context for Kingsley’s consideration of these issues. Having defended Darwin for a decade in 1871 Kingsley was dismayed to read Darwin’s account of the evolution of morals in Descent of Man. He subsequently distanced himself from Darwin’s conclusions even though he remained an ardent evolutionist until his death in 1875.

Talking about apes

Oregon Zoo, Portland

Patrick with an orangutan at the Oregon Zoo last November

I had an interesting exchange with the young man pumping my gas this morning.

Attendent: Hey, why do you have a picture of me on your car?

Me: What?

Attendent: The zoo sticker with the gorilla on it, looks like me.

Me: Oh, that’s an orangutan.

Attendent: Same thing.

Me: Not really…

Attendent: Well, they live in different places.

Me: Yes, gorillas in Africa and orangutans in Indonesia. They’re both apes, along with humans and chimpanzees.

Attendent: Monkeys, right?

Me: Apes and monkeys are different; apes don’t have tails.

Attendent: How would I know something like that?

Me: Did you ever take a biology course in high school?

Attendee: I never finished any of my classes. Maybe that’s why I’m pumping your gas and you’re teaching me about apes and monkeys. [gas pumping stops]

Link 182 (actually, about 40)

Now that I’m back from Texas (sister-in-law’s wedding)…

… let’s see what I’ve missed. Here are some links:

National Fossil Day is tomorrow, October 13th. Check here for events.

For the next edition of The Giant’s Shoulders, get your entries in by October 15th!

Homologous Legs: This Week in Intelligent Design – 12/10/10

Point of Inquiry (podcast): PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney – New Atheism or Accommodation?

USA Today/Jerry Coyne: Science and religion aren’t friends

Bad Astronomy: Creationists still can’t seem to evolve

Speaking of creationists, Comfort clowns passed out copies of the faux-Origin inn Texas at a Dawkins lecture. They posted some photos online, take a look at this one. The book now has “As seen on CNN” on the cover:

Evangelism at the Richard Dawkins event (The Wortham Center)

Dawkins was on Bill Maher

The Sensuous Curmudgeon: Discovery Institute Targets African Americans & Discovery Institute Demands Accurate Quotes

Sandwalk: The Casey Luskin Lesson Plan on Teaching the Controversy

Please be patient, I am evolving as fast as I can!: Damed by their own words

Carnival of Evolution #28 – Featuring Sandwalk

Playing Chess with Pigeons: The Rush to ignorance tour continues

Laelaps: When Pseudo-Crocs Walked Tall

So Simple a Beginning: 150 years of Darwin, from UCI Libraries

From the Hands of Quacks: Mind & Body: The Philosopher’s Body as a Subject

The beauty of Darwin

Did you know that Noah himself went out to catch birds? From a church in Texas on my trip:

NYT/Natalie Angier: Moonlighting as a Conjurer of Chemicals

Ether Wave Propaganda: Is There a Conflict of Interest between STS and History of Science?

AHA: Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson at Howard University

History of Science Centre’s blog: The Forgotten

Whewell’s Ghost/Evolving Thoughts: The historical way to do science

Whewell’s Ghost (@beckyfh): Yes, histories of science are worth reading! & David Willetts and the history of science

@beckyfh: Chronometer from HMS Beagle (91st object in British Museum’s History of the World in 100 Objects) info/podcast

PACHSmörgåsbord: Popular History of Science for the American G.I.

The Species Seekers: This is the Great Age of Discovery

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Great minds gloomy about humans’ future

American Scientist: The 95% Solution (about informal science education). Also, from Physics Today: The evolution of the science museum

Why Evolution Is True: The Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History (more about the funder of this exhibit and religion and other thoughts here, here, here, and here. PZ chimes in here and here.)

Periodic Tabloid: Making Connections: “The Big Picture” and the History of Science

Charlie’s Playhouse: Does Steven Pinker have kids? He should. & New podcast with Kate at Parenting Within Reason!

Quodlibeta: Doubting Darwin’s Doubt

Times Archive Blog (from 2009): Did Charles Darwin stick pins into babies?

Creationist quote-mining occurs in games, too!

In my previous post I shared a link to NCSE’s images of an intelligent design vs. evolution from the banana-toting, Darwin-bashing creationist Ray Comfort. Here’s one of the images, showing a card from the game that uses this quote:

“Scientists conced that their most cherished theories are based on embarassingly few fossil fragments and that huge gaps exst in the fossil record.”

A citation is given, that’s a good step: Time magazine, November 7, 1977. So, what is this quote in reference to? What’s the context. The quote comes from an article titled “Puzzling Out Man’s Ascent” (all online, thanks Rob Igo, for the link) and here is where it falls:

These developments, probably more than any others, hastened the differentiation between man and earlier hominids. Explains Anthropologist Charles Kimberlin (“Bob”) Brain of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, South Africa: “Meat eating and hunting were important factors. If you remained a vegetarian, the necessity for culture was not nearly as great.” Richard Leakey too believes that hunting helped to make emerging man a social creature. Says he: “The hominids that thrived best were those able to restrain their immediate impulses and manipulate the impulses of others into cooperative efforts. They were the vanguard of the human race.”

Still, doubts about the sequence of man’s emergence remain.

Scientists concede that even their most cherished theories are based on embarrassingly few fossil fragments, and that huge gaps exist in the fossil record. Anthropologists, ruefully says Alan Mann of the University of Pennsylvania, “are like the blind men looking at the elephant, each sampling only a small part of the total reality.” His colleagues agree that the picture of man’s origins is far from complete.

Perhaps no one is trying harder to fill in the blanks than Richard Leakey. Picking up where his father Louis left off at his death in 1972, Richard—with his Lake Turkana discoveries —has already moved to the forefront of modern anthropology. Now he is reaching out to coordinate research throughout East Africa and taking the lead in sorting and assembling the thousands of fragments of evidence that may someday reveal the secrets of man’s origins.

Oh, the article discusses human evolution, not evolution of life on earth generally. Gee, Ray, do you think you could have clarified that? And, it’s not like any work in paleoanthropology has occurred over the last three decades.

Beware, quote-mining occurs in games, too! More important, do I have to give up my brain?


New book of interest, The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff, comes out in November. Richard has a blog for the book, and he tweets @RichardConniff

Rush Limbaugh “tackles evolution” – here’s a sneak peek:

RUSH: Of course creationism is — but Darwinism is faith, too. That’s my whole point. Darwinism is presented as absolute science, inarguable science, and it’s faith as well. CALLER: It is science. It is science, Rush. There’s a lot of evidence — RUSH: Well, then I’m going to say creationism is a science, intelligent design is a science. If you say my faith isn’t a science, I’m going to say yours isn’t.

And again!

Niles Eldredge: How Systematics Became “Phylogenetic” [pdf]

Nature: The Lost Correspondence of Francis Crick (review)

Whewell’s Ghost (@beckyfh): Government funding for ‘pure’ research: an extremely brief and gappy history

Whewell’s Ghost (Will Thomas): Good History and the Virtue of Sisyphus

All You Need to Know About Dinosaurs, courtesy of the ICR

NCSE shares: images of an intelligent design vs. evolution board game from Ray Comfort – go to their Facebook page; Darwin and Scopes in new poll on knowledge of religion; and a Blast From the Past video, “The Case of the Texas Footprints”:

Dinosaur Tracking: The Dinosaurs of Industry

Laelaps: Giraffes – Necks for food or necks for sex?

Paleontology and history of science blogger Mike Bertasso looks like he’s back to blogging since summer is over…

Kele’s Science Blog: Personal Beliefs’ Impact Upon the Synthesis

Read More

Darwin and Gender: Darwin, Henrietta and Tennyson & Female Censorship?

David Quammen: Being Jane Goodall

Info on a (potentially free) book about the postal Darwin (stamps, that is), here

Down the Cellar: Shoehorning science: Darwin and group selection

Darwin has “manly notebooks”

JF Derry: Rich Pickings (about Darwin and whether or not he had Victorian sensibility) & Wars of the Words

The Bubble Chamber: Is Sam Harris on to something? Can science answer moral questions?

Another video, “About the British Geological Survey | 175 years of geoscience”:

And to end, I thoroughly enjoyed this tweet from @theselflessmeme:


ARTICLE: Darwin’s progress and the problem of slavery

From the October 2010 issue of Progress in Human Geography:

Darwin’s progress and the problem of slavery

James Moore

Abstract Legendary as a ‘genius’ out of time, Charles Darwin is said to have revolutionized our understanding of life on earth by explaining nature-history as the purposeless product of directionless variation naturally selected through a chancy struggle for existence. Yet, whatever may be deduced from his theory of natural selection as understood today, Darwin himself was not bound by any such conclusions. His vision of nature-history, for all its haphazardness, was directional, meliorative and hopeful. In the 1830s he went out of his way to develop privately a subversive theory of human evolution, and he pursued the subject with tenacity for three decades before publishing The descent of man in 1871. Underpinning his research was a belief in racial brotherhood rooted in the greatest moral movement of the age, for the abolition of slavery. Darwin extended the abolitionists’ common-descent image to the rest of life, making not just the races, but all races, kin. Human slavery, however, did not evolve into or out of existence. To Darwin it was a ‘sin’ to ‘expiate’ by moral action, and the Origin of species was written with a view towards undermining slavery’s creationist ideologues, most notably the Harvard professor Louis Agassiz. Intractable slavery collided with Darwin’s post-Christian progressivism in the US Civil War, clouding his hopes for humanity, but the Northern victory in 1865 enabled him to carry ‘the grand idea of God hating sin and loving righteousness’ into The descent of man, where the driving of formerly enslaved races out of existence is naturalized as a byproduct of historical progress in which ‘virtue will be triumphant’ at last.

New and Forthcoming Darwin & Evolution Books

First up (chuckle chuckle):

Secrets of the Sixth Edition by Randall Hedtke:

Darwins On the Origin of the Species was originally released in 1859, and by 1872, the sixth and last edition was published, becoming the defining text for evolutionists. This controversial work has become the foundation of modern textbooks for scientific studies in origins, though Darwin himself expressed deep doubts about his own speculations and suppositions. Secrets of the Sixth Editionby Randall Hedtke exposes the critical flaws of this landmark book by using Darwin’s own words against him. Provides an examination of Darwins research and the faulty basis of his scientific writings. Filled with extensive documentation looking at the fatal flaws in Darwins assumptions. Addresses strategies for possible changes to curriculum to address weaknesses in the evolutionary hypothesis. Take an insightful look at Darwins work and its inaccuracies from a fresh and logical perspective. You will discover the often ignored reasoning behind his own abandonment of some of the core mechanisms of evolution later in his life, though they remain unchallenged pillars of unquestioning science today. This informative and east-to-read study boldly declares the powerful truth that only biblical creation can explain. [Randall Hedtke has read, written, and taught about the controversy of creation-evolution for decades. The basis for much of the Secrets of the Sixth Edition were originally formed in a series of essays originally published in the Creation Research Society Quarterly.]

Now to more serious books:

Emma Darwin: A Victorian Life by James D. Loy and Kent M. Loy:

After Charles Darwin’s world-changing HMS Beagle voyage, he found a loyal protector and editor when in 1839 he married Emma Wedgwood (1808–1896) as he sought to document his naturalist and revolutionary scientific ideas. The authors (James is an anthropologist at the University of Rhode Island; Kent is a freelance writer) give us the family’s life from the viewpoint of the “lively and outspoken” Emma, as derived from two volumes of her letters and daily notations. The events they describe include the family’s campaigns against slavery and vivisection. Darwin became increasingly agnostic while Emma was religious (their passel of children were spiritually indifferent), but they lived in mutual respect and upper-class comfort through much of the Victorian era. In spite of Emma’s concentration on her children and extended family, she passionately followed politics and global concerns such as the American Civil War and Irish unrest. The authors’ casual diagnosis of physical and mental ailments mildly mars an otherwise excellent portrait of the English elite during the age of British scientific discovery.

Literature After Darwin: Human Beasts in Western Fiction 1859-1939 (Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-century Writing and Culture) by Virginia Richter:

What makes us human? Where is the limit between human and animal? Is the human species the contingent result of blind evolutionary processes? These pressing questions haunt literature in the wake of Darwin’s shocking claim that humans and apes are descended from a common ancestor. Anxiety concerning the status of humankind is a central theme in Victorian and modernist fiction, ranging from ‘ape narratives’ (e.g. the Tarzan series) to fantastic encounters with missing links, primeval men and ‘races of the future’. All are pervaded by the spectres of degeneration and dehumanisation as well as by apocalyptic visions of the end of humankind. The exploration of these existential anxieties and their various literary expressions stands at the centre of this study which offers detailed and original analyses of a broad range of literary texts, covering the period between the publication of the Origin of Species and the beginning of the Second World War.

Evolutionary Restraints: The Contentious History of Group Selection by Mark E. Borrello:

Much of the history of the evolutionary debate since Darwin has focused on the level at which natural selection occurs. Most biologists acknowledge multiple levels of selection—from the gene, the trait, and the organism, to the family, the group, and  the species. However, it is the debate about group selection that Mark E. Borrello focuses on in Evolutionary Restraints. Tracing the history of biological attempts to determine whether selection could lead to the evolution of fitter groups, Borrello takes as his focus the British naturalist V. C. Wynne-Edwards, who proposed that animals could regulate their own population levels and thereby avoid overexploitation of their food and other resources. By the mid-twentieth century, Wynne-Edwards became the primary advocate for group selection theory, and precipitated a debate that engaged the most significant evolutionary biologists including Ernst Mayr, John Maynard Smith, G.C. Williams and Richard Dawkins. The resultant interpretations and arguments bled out into broader conversations about population regulation, environmental crises, and the evolution of human and animal social behavior. Evolutionary Restraints illuminates both the process of science and the role of controversy in the process. From its origins in Darwin’s own thinking, this debate, Borrello reminds us, remains relevant and alive to this day.

Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology by Alister McGrath:

There remains a widespread perception that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection marked the demise of any viable Christian natural theology – most notably, that of William Paley. But did Darwinism really shake such fundamental beliefs to the core? Or did Darwin’s “dangerous idea” instead serve to transform and illuminate our views on the relation between the natural world and the divine? Darwinism and the Divine presents a detailed examination of the implications of evolutionary thought for natural theology, from the publication of On the Origin of Species more than a century-and-a-half ago through to the present day. Integrating and extending the latest scholarly research from across a wide variety of disciplines, world-renowned theologian Alister E. McGrath first explores the forms of natural theology that emerged in England from the late 17th century until 1850, showing us how these views were affected by the advent of Darwin’s theories. McGrath offers the most detailed account of the intellectual background to William Paley’s natural theology currently available, and offers an informed assessment of the impact of Darwin on such approaches. He then considers how Christian belief has adapted to Darwinism, and whether there is a place for design both in the world of science and the world of theology. Journeying well beyond On the Origin of the SpeciesDarwinism and the Divine offers a scholarly and thought-provoking consideration of the co-existence of natural theology with Darwinism in today’s world.

Evolution Before Darwin by Pietro Corsi:

In many people’s minds, biology was mired in confusion and superstition until Darwin came, and then there was light. But evolutionary ideas have a long history, and moreover to this day, in France, Lamarck is revered as Darwin’s great predecessor, not as ‘the man who got it wrong’. Evolution was a topic of much debate in France, and also to a lesser extent in Germany and in Italy. Early in the 19th century, geology was all the rage, while arguments about time and the nature of species – were they created, did they change with time – was much discussed. So why did a Darwin appear in England? And moreover why at the end of the 1850s? And why was the response and public take-up of evolutionary ideas so rapid and positive? These are the questions Pietro Corsi considers in this book. He describes the debates in France, Germany, and Italy surrounding Lamarck’s ideas about changing species, against the backdrop of changing political climates (the defeat of Napoleon and its aftermath). And while Continental Europe was convulsed by the 1848 revolutions, and Italy was in the throes of unification, in England perceptions of evolutionary ideas shifted from being associated with dangerous Continental radicalism and atheism, to part of reform and progress. Corsi shows how intellectual opinion shifted in England, driven by such figures as Baden Powell (grandfather of the founder of the boy scouts), and fierce debates on science and religion. The intention of this book is not to undermine Darwin, whose accomplishments as an individual require no justification, but to put him and his work in historical context, and more pertinently in the context of social, political, and intellectual developments in Britain and the Continent. This is an extraordinarily rich and novel discussion involving the history of the development of perhaps the single greatest idea in the life sciences, written by one of the foremost scholars in the field.

Charles Darwin and the Question of Evolution: A Brief History with Documents (The Bedford Series in History and Culture) by Sandra Herbert:

The publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859 is widely regarded as a turning point in knowledge of the natural world. But Darwin’s theory of natural selection was not developed in a vacuum; rather, it represents the culmination of an enormous shift in scientific and popular opinion on the subject of species mutability from the late eighteenth century onward. Through her insightful introduction and engaging collection of documents, Sandra Herbert examines this era of scientific thought and the startling discoveries that led Darwin and others to the conclusion that life has evolved. A wide range of documents from over a dozen authors — including letters, illustrations, scientific tracts, and excerpts from Darwin’s own notebooks and On the Origin of Species — offer a fascinating glimpse into this crucial era of scientific thought. Thoughtful document headnotes, questions for consideration, a chronology, and a selected bibliography provide students with additional context and pedagogical support.

Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards: Philosophical Essays on Darwin’s Theory (Prometheus Prize) by Elliot Sober:

Sensitive to the ways in which Darwin’s outlook differed from that of many biologists today, the main topics that are the focus of this book-common ancestry, group selection, sex ratio, and naturalism-have rarely been discussed in such penetrating detail.

From Man to Ape: Darwinism in Argentina, 1870-1920 by Adriana Novoa and Alex Levine:

Upon its publication, The Origin of Species was critically embraced in Europe and North America. But how did Darwin’s theories fare in other regions of the world? Adriana Novoa and Alex Levine offer here a history and interpretation of the reception of Darwinism in Argentina, illuminating the ways culture shapes scientific enterprise. In order to explore how Argentina’s particular interests, ambitions, political anxieties, and prejudices shaped scientific research, From Man to Ape focuses on Darwin’s use of analogies. Both analogy and metaphor are culturally situated, and by studying scientific activity at Europe’s geographical and cultural periphery, Novoa and Levine show that familiar analogies assume unfamiliar and sometimes startling guises in Argentina. The transformation of these analogies in the Argentine context led science—as well as the interaction between science, popular culture, and public policy—in surprising directions. In diverging from European models, Argentine Darwinism reveals a great deal about both Darwinism and science in general. Novel in its approach and its subject, From Man to Ape reveals a new way of understanding Latin American science and its impact on the scientific communities of Europe and North America.

The Victorian Reinvention of Race: New Racisms and the Problem of Grouping in the Human Sciences (Routledge Studies in Modern British History) by Edward Beasley:

In mid-Victorian England there were new racial categories based upon skin colour. The ‘races’ familiar to those in the modern west were invented and elaborated after the decline of faith in Biblical monogenesis in the early nineteenth century, and before the maturity of modern genetics in the middle of the twentieth. Not until the early nineteenth century would polygenetic and racialist theories win many adherents. But by the middle of the nineteenth century in England, racial categories were imposed upon humanity. How the idea of ‘race’ gained popularity in England at that time is the central focus of The Victorian Reinvention of Race: New Racisms and the Problem of Grouping in the Human Sciences. Scholars have linked this new racism to some very dodgy thinkers. The Victorian Reinvention of Race examines a more influential set of the era’s writers and colonial officials, some French but most of them British. Attempting to do serious social analysis, these men oversimplified humanity into biologically-heritable, mentally and morally unequal, colour-based ‘races’. Thinkers giving in to this racist temptation included Alexis de Tocqueville when he was writing on Algeria; Arthur de Gobineau (who influenced the Nazis); Walter Bagehot of The Economist; and Charles Darwin (whose Descent of Man was influenced by Bagehot). Victorians on Race also examines officials and thinkers (such as Tocqueville in Democracy in America, the Duke of Argyll, and Governor Gordon of Fiji) who exercised methodological care, doing the hard work of testing their categories against the evidence. They analyzed human groups without slipping into racial categorization. Author Edward Beasley examines the extent to which the Gobineau-Bagehot-Darwin way of thinking about race penetrated the minds of certain key colonial governors. He further explores the hardening of the rhetoric of race-prejudice in some quarters in England in the nineteenth century – the processes by which racism was first formed.

The Species Problem: A Philosophical Analysis (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology) by Richard A. Richards:

There is long-standing disagreement among systematists about how to divide biodiversity into species. Over twenty different species concepts are used to group organisms, according to criteria as diverse as morphological or molecular similarity, interbreeding and genealogical relationships. This, combined with the implications of evolutionary biology, raises the worry that either there is no single kind of species, or that species are not real. This book surveys the history of thinking about species from Aristotle to modern systematics in order to understand the origin of the problem, and advocates a solution based on the idea of the division of conceptual labor, whereby species concepts function in different ways – theoretically and operationally. It also considers related topics such as individuality and the metaphysics of evolution, and how scientific terms get their meaning. This important addition to the current debate will be essential for philosophers and historians of science, and for biologists.

Hosts of Living Forms (Penguin Great Ideas) by Charles Darwin:

Charles Darwin transformed our understanding of the world with the idea of natural selection, challenging the notion that species are fixed and unchanging. These writings from “On the Origin of Species” explain how different life forms appear all over the globe, evolve over millions of years, become extinct and are supplanted. “Great Ideas” – Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves – and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives – and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are.

The Darwinian Tourist: Viewing the World Through Evolutionary Eyes by Christopher Wills:

In The Darwinian Tourist, biologist Christopher Wills takes us on a series of adventures–exciting in their own right–that demonstrate how ecology and evolution have interacted to create the world we live in. Some of these adventures, like his SCUBA dives in the incredibly diverse Lembeh Strait in Indonesia or his encounter with a wild wolf cub in western Mongolia, might have been experienced by any reasonably intrepid traveller. Others, like his experience of being hammered by a severe earthquake off the island of Yap while sixty feet down in the ocean, filming manta rays, stand far outside the ordinary. With his own stunning color photographs of the wildlife he discovered on his travels, Wills not only takes us to these far-off places but, more important, draws out the evolutionary stories behind the wildlife and shows how our understanding of the living world can be deepened by a Darwinian perspective. In addition, the book offers an extensive and unusual view of human evolution, examining the entire sweep of our evolutionary story as it has taken place throughout the Old World. The reader comes away with a renewed sense of wonder about the world’s astounding diversity, along with a new appreciation of the long evolutionary history that has led to the wonders of the present-day. When we lose a species or an ecosystem, Wills shows us, we also lose many millions of years of history. Published to coincide with the International Year for Biodiversity, The Darwinian Tourist is packed with globe-trotting exploits, brilliant color photography, and eye-opening insights into the evolution of humanity and the natural world.

Evolutionary Mythology in the Writings of Kurt Vonnegut: Darwin,Vonnegut and the Construction of an American Culture by Gilbert McGinnis:

This research monograph is an important contribution to the study of the author, Kurt Vonnegut and the great evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin. The book examines Darwin s influence on the American culture that were Vonnegut’s major focus and interest and the source of his importance as a major American writer of the later half of the 20th century. This book is relevant in its attempt to understand, in Vonnegut s novels, how Darwin s theory of evolution functions as a cosmogonic myth that is widely accepted in order to explain why the world is as it is and why things happen as they do, to provide a rationale for social customs and observances, and to establish the sanctions for the rules by which Vonnegut s characters conduct their lives. Moreover, this book deals with how and why Kurt Vonnegut s fiction represents the changing human image resulting from Darwinism. The author discovered and developed his literary theory of Evolution as a Mythology from the novel Galapagos (Kurt Vonnegut,1985). McInnis persuasively developed theory suggests changes to the American (and English) literary landscape with a new and dynamic way to interpret literature, something the literary field has not seen since since Jean-Francois Lyotard described his ideas on narrative in his essay, the Postmodern Condition, published in Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction in the early 1980s.

Lincoln and Darwin: Shared Visions of Race, Science, and Religion by James Lander:

Born on the same day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were true contemporaries.  Though shaped by vastly different environments, they had remarkably similar values, purposes, and approaches. In this exciting new study, James Lander places these two iconic men side by side and reveals the parallel views they shared of man and God. While Lincoln is renowned for his oratorical prowess and for the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as many other accomplishments, his scientific and technological interests are not widely recognized; for example, many Americans do not know that Lincoln is the only U.S. president to obtain a patent. Darwin, on the other hand, is celebrated for his scientific achievements but not for his passionate commitment to the abolition of slavery, which in part drove his research in evolution. Both men took great pains to avoid causing unnecessary offense despite having abandoned traditional Christianity. Each had one main adversary who endorsed scientific racism: Lincoln had Stephen A. Douglas, and Darwin had Louis Agassiz. With graceful and sophisticated writing, Lander expands on these commonalities and uncovers more shared connections to people, politics, and events. He traces how these two intellectual giants came to hold remarkably similar perspectives on the evils of racism, the value of science, and the uncertainties of conventional religion. Separated by an ocean but joined in their ideas, Lincoln and Darwin acted as trailblazers, leading their societies toward greater freedom of thought and a greater acceptance of human equality. This fascinating biographical examination brings the mid-nineteenth-century discourse about race, science, and humanitarian sensibility to the forefront using the mutual interests and pursuits of these two historic figures.

Until Darwin, Science, Human Variety and the Origins of Race by B. Ricardo Brown:

Until the publication of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, the prevailing theory on ‘the species question’ was that humans were made up of five separate species, created at different times and in different places. This view – known as the ‘polygenic theory’ – was particularly favoured by naturalists of the early nineteenth century ‘American School’ as it provided a scientific justification for slavery. Darwin’s Origin demolished this view. This work fills a gap in recent studies on the history of race and science. Focusing on both the classification systems of human variety and the development of science as the arbiter of truth, Brown looks at the rise of the emerging sciences of life and society – biology and sociology – as well as the debate surrounding slavery and abolition.

Evolutionary Theory and the Creation Controversy by Oliver Rieppel:

Evolutionary theory addresses the phenomenon of the origin and diversity of plant and animal species that we observe. In recent times, however, it has become a predominant ideology which has gained currency far beyond its original confines. Attempts to understand the origin and historical development of human culture, civilization and language, of the powers of human cognition, and even the origin of the moral and ethical values guiding and constraining everyday life in human societies are now cast in an evolutionary context. In “Evolutionary Theory and the Creation Controversy” the author examines evolutionary theory from a historical perspective, explaining underlying metaphysical backgrounds and fundamental philosophical questions such as the paradoxical problem of change, existence and creation. He introduces the scientists involved, their research results and theories, and discusses the evolution of evolutionary theory against the background of Creationism and Intelligent Design.

ARTICLE: Did Darwin change his mind about the Fuegians?

From the journal Endeavour:

Did Darwin change his mind about the Fuegians?

Gregory Radick

Abstract Shocked by what he considered to be the savagery he encountered in Tierra del Fuego, Charles Darwin ranked the Fuegians lowest among the human races. An enduring story has it, however, that Darwin was later so impressed by the successes of missionaries there, and by the grandeur they discovered in the native tongue, that he changed his mind. This story has served diverse interests, religious and scientific. But Darwin in fact continued to view the Fuegians as he had from the start, as lowly but improvable. And while his case for their unity with the other human races drew on missionary evidence, that evidence concerned emotional expression, not language.

Darwin/evolution issue of The American Biology Teacher

The February 2010 issue of The American Biology Teacher has much on Darwin and evolution:

From the President

Do You Believe in Evolution?

Guest Editorial, William F. McComas

Where is the “Origin” in the Origin of Species?

Experience Millions of Years, Larry Flammer

Here’s a relatively concrete activity to teach the large numbers representing evolutionary deep time.

Were Australopithecines Ape—Human Intermediates or Just Apes? A Test of Both Hypotheses Using the “Lucy” Skeleton, Phil Senter

Mainstream scientists often claim that australopithecines such as the specimen nicknamed “Lucy” exhibit anatomy intermediate between that of apes and that of humans and use this as evidence that humans evolved from australopithecines, which evolved from apes. On the other hand, creationists reject evolution and claim that australopithecines are “just apes.” Here, a point-by-point visual comparison with the skeletons of a chimpanzee, “Lucy,” and a human is presented in order to evaluate both claims, treating them as testable hypotheses. The results support the hypothesis that australopithecines are anatomically intermediate between apes and humans. Classroom applications of this test of hypotheses are also discussed.

Charles Darwin’s Botanical Investigations, Suzanne M. Harley

Charles Darwin’s botanical studies provide a way to expose students to his work that followed the publication of On the Origin of Species. We can use stories from his plant investigations to illustrate key concepts in the life sciences and model how questions are asked and answered in science.

Darwin’s “Imaginary Illustrations”: Creatively Teaching Evolutionary Concepts & the Nature of Science, Alan C. Love

An overlooked feature of Darwin’s work, is his use of “imaginary illustrations” to show that natural selection is competent to produce adaptive, evolutionary change. When set in the context of Darwin’s methodology, these thought experiments provide a novel way to teach natural selection and the nature of science.

Education’s Missing Link: How Private School Teachers Approach Evolution, Michael W. Schulteis

Over 5 million students and 28,000 schools are consistently marginalized or left out of statistics that describe evolution and science education. Although they are relatively few in number compared with their public school counterparts, the millions of students and hundreds of thousands of teachers in private schools need to be counted in research about teaching and learning in the biology classroom. Assumptions have been made about how teachers in these often religious schools teach evolution, but do we have verifiable data? Could teachers in these schools be similar to those in public schools in their teaching of evolution, or is there a silent undercurrent that has not been detected? It is the purpose of this study to reveal more about this underrepresented segment of the population of science teachers.

Florida Teachers’ Attitudes about Teaching Evolution, Samantha R. Fowler, Gerry G. Meisels

A survey of Florida teachers reveals many differences in comfort level with teaching evolution according to the state’s science teaching standards, general attitudes and beliefs about evolution, and the extent to which teachers are criticized, censured, disparaged, or reprehended for their beliefs about the teaching of evolution.

PopGen Fishbowl: A Free Online Simulation Model of Microevolutionary Processes, Thomas C. Jones, Thomas F. Laughlin

Natural selection and other components of evolutionary theory are known to be particularly challenging concepts for students to understand. To help illustrate these concepts, we developed a simulation model of microevolutionary processes. The model features all the components of Hardy-Weinberg theory, with population size, selection, gene flow, nonrandom mating, and mutation all being demonstrated in the simulations. By using this freely available computer model, students can develop and test hypotheses with replicated virtual experiments. Because the model is an agent-based simulation, there is biologically realistic variability in the results. Students using the model see results both numerically and graphically and these are reinforced by an animation of the virtual fish in the simulated experiment.

The Power of Natural Selection: A Guided Investigation of Three Case Studies, William Beachly

I describe a quantitative approach to three case studies in evolution that can be used to challenge college freshmen to explore the power of natural selection and ask questions that foster a deeper understanding of its operation and relevance. Hemochromatosis, the peppered moth, and hominid cranial capacity are investigated with a common algebraic formula that illustrates the application of mathematics in biology.

A Lesson on Evolution & Natural Selection, Anthony D. Curtis

I describe three activities that allow students to explore the ideas of evolution, natural selection, extinction, mass extinction, and rates of evolutionary change by engaging a simple model using paper, pens, chalk, and a chalkboard. As a culminating activity that supports expository writing in the sciences, the students write an essay on mass extinction. All activities are geared for high school biology and perhaps introductory college biology classes. With little modification, activities 1 and 2 can be used successfully in middle school and perhaps in the higher elementary grade levels.

Evolution & Phylogenetic Analysis: Classroom Activities for Investigating Molecular & Morphological Concepts, Wilfred A. Franklin

In a flexible multisession laboratory, students investigate concepts of phylogenetic analysis at both the molecular and the morphological level. Students finish by conducting their own analysis on a collection of skeletons representing the major phyla of vertebrates, a collection of primate skulls, or a collection of hominid skulls.