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.

Order through Powell’s City of BooksOrder through

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.

BOOK: Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life

A new title from Princeton University Press might be of interest to readers of this blog:


Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life

by Enrico Coen

Princeton University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0691149677

Cells to Civilizations is the first unified account of how life transforms itself–from the production of bacteria to the emergence of complex civilizations. What are the connections between evolving microbes, an egg that develops into an infant, and a child who learns to walk and talk? Award-winning scientist Enrico Coen synthesizes the growth of living systems and creative processes, and he reveals that the four great life transformations–evolution, development, learning, and human culture–while typically understood separately, actually all revolve around shared core principles and manifest the same fundamental recipe. Coen blends provocative discussion, the latest scientific research, and colorful examples to demonstrate the links between these critical stages in the history of life.

Coen tells a story rich with genes, embryos, neurons, and fascinating discoveries. He examines the development of the zebra, the adaptations of seaweed, the cave paintings of Lascaux, and the formulations of Alan Turing. He explores how dogs make predictions, how weeds tell the time of day, and how our brains distinguish a Modigliani from a Rembrandt. Locating commonalities in important findings, Coen gives readers a deeper understanding of key transformations and provides a bold portrait for how science both frames and is framed by human culture.

A compelling investigation into the relationships between our biological past and cultural progress, Cells to Civilizations presents a remarkable story of living change.

Consilience Conference: Evolution in Biology, the Human Sciences, and the Humanities


Consilience Conference: Evolution in Biology, the Human Sciences, and the Humanities
April 26-28, 2012 | St. Louis, MO

For details, see conference website:

About the Conference:

Speakers at this conference are all top researchers in biology, the social sciences, or the humanities. All the speakers know the level of consensus in their fields and can recognize major changes taking place, identify the major unsolved problems, and point toward future directions of research. They can all also discuss relations among at least two of the three areas (biology, the social sciences, and the humanities).

The conference features morning and afternoon sessions for each of three days. Each session contains one speaker from biology, one from the human sciences, and one from the humanities. We’re aimed at maximizing the interaction among the three areas.

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are invited to submit poster proposals.

E. O. Wilson will deliver the Keynote address.

Q: How many historians does it take to change a light bulb?

A: There is a great deal of debate on this issue. Up until the mid-20th century, the accepted answer was ‘one’: and this Whiggish narrative underpinned a number of works that celebrated electrification and the march of progress in light-bulb changing. Beginning in the 1960s, however, social historians increasingly rejected the ‘Great Man’ school and produced revisionist narratives that stressed the contributions of research assistants and custodial staff. This new consensus was challenged, in turn, by women’s historians, who criticized the social interpretation for marginalizing women, and who argued that light bulbs are actually changed by department secretaries. Since the 1980s, however, postmodernist scholars have deconstructed what they characterize as a repressive hegemonic discourse of light-bulb changing, with its implicit binary opposition between ‘light’ and ‘darkness,’ and its phallogocentric privileging of the bulb over the socket, which they see as colonialist, sexist, and racist. Finally, a new generation of neo-conservative historians have concluded that the light never needed changing in the first place, and have praised political leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher for bringing back the old bulb. Clearly, much additional research remains to be done.

[This is from historian David Leeson, shared on Facebook]

Glenn Beck on Darwin

Beck: “I am not a history teacher.” No shit, Sherlock.

On his program today, Beck espoused the anti-evolutionist claim that Darwin is somehow responsible for racism; he seems to imply that Darwin can be traced to the practice of slavery in America. Slavery, however, was an institution that predated Darwin’s birth and one which he was revolted by (during the Beagle voyage and, as some historians have argued, led to his developing a theory of evolution with common descent). He surprises his viewers with the historical connection between abolitionist Wedgwood with his famous image “Am I Not a Man and a Brother? and his grandson Charles Darwin. Darwin was…. wait for it… “the father of modern-day racism.” Yes, a famous abolitionist had a famous racist for a grandson. But, Darwin was himself a passionate abolitionist, and any claims of racism must be taken in context of the time he lived.

In the beginning of this segment (at this link), Beck urged his viewers to go out and read and get the information for themselves. Why, then, Beck, do you depend on misleading anti-evolutionist propaganda about Darwin and don’t go out and read about it for yourself? Here’s two suggestions: Voyage of the Beagle and Darwin’s Sacred Cause.

Darwin was a rich man… yadadadadadada!

From CNN (11 Aug 2010):

Online database reveals estates of Marx, Darwin

London, England (CNN) — A collection of wills reveals Karl Marx died a poor man and Charles Darwin left behind a large estate, an ancestry website said Wednesday.

The England and Wales National Probate Calendar, 1861-1941, reveals the value of more than 6 million estates, including some left by famous people.

It was published online Wednesday for the first time by


Darwin, by contrast, left a personal estate worth 146,911 pounds (around 13 million pounds today) — $232,000 ($20.5 million today) — when he died in 1882, the website said.

Protection for Wallace’s Birthplace

Kensington Cottage in Usk, Wales, the birthplace of naturalist and co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection Alfred Russel Wallace, is in danger of missing its chance of being an historically-appreciated building.

George Beccaloni of the Alfred Russel Wallace Memorial Fund is urging folks to contact Mr. Philip Hobson ( of CADW, the Welsh organisation that gives legal protection to historic buildings, to share your thoughts on the historical, cultural, and scientific importance of saving the home from possible redevelopment in the future. CADW has previosly denied the place a spot of the protected buildings list on the grounds that it has been altered too much, but George disagrees. For more information, see and

Texas Textbook Talk

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times-Free Press, March 16, 2010

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times-Free Press, March 16, 2010

Last night I attended a talk put on by the Columbia Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State at the Multnomah Arts Center in Portland. The speaker was Steven K. Green, of Willamette University in Salem. An historian and professor of law, Green is the Director of the Center for Religion, Law & Democracy and author of The Second Disestablishment: Church and State in Nineteenth-Century America. His talk addressed the textbook issue in Texas:

The battle in Texas over social studies textbooks has been so fierce it has gained national attention. The majority on the Texas Board of Education questions the concept of the separation of church and state and is making numerous changes to the textbooks to reflect this view. Texas is such a large purchaser of textbooks that it influences textbooks across the nation. Professor Green, who has both a PhD in American History and a law degree, recently went to Texas to testify at the Texas Board of Education hearings. He will share his perspective on this important issue with us.

It was interesting to hear about this issue – the “simplifying & sanitizing of our history” – from someone involved, from someone who has argued with dentist-turned-head-of-board-of-education Don McLeroy (at least he is now no longer part of it, although still pushing his revisionist agenda). It was interesting to hear about largely creationist tactics being employed, like the quote-mining of significant American figures in history, making their statements sound as if they advocated for a “Christian nation” (Green had another term for this, not quote-mining, but I can’t recall what it was).  One question that came up was whether or not, in this digital age and access to information online and e-books, the decisions in Texas would really affect all that much what goes on in other states regarding textbooks.

Steven K. Green (photo by Don Domenigoni)

Steven K. Green (photo by Dan Domenigoni)

Today there is a rally in Austin, TX, “Don’t White Out Our History,” against the changes being made to the curricula standards. If you know anyone near there, let them know.

A rather large crowd, apparently (photo by Don Demonigoni)

A rather large crowd, apparently; you can see me on the right, sitting down with my arm up in the air (photo by Dan Demonigoni)

One benefit to me moving to Portland is that I can enter into established freethinking/skeptic/humanist/secular communities, many of which are easy to stay informed about through In Bozeman, despite the history of science-minded students, paleontology students, and others who despised pseudoscience, a community was lacking. Paleo students began a skeptic group, but nothing happened with it besides hosting a lecture by Kevin Padian about intelligent design (and I was out of the state at the time). Other Bozemanites have recently revived a freethinker group, but I was too busy in my last semester at MSU to get involved with meetups or film showings.

So, Portland, thank you.

Long time ago = nonexistent

Dayton, Tennessee, High School, June 1925 (Photo: Smithsonian)

From John F. Ptak of Ptak Science Books (blog/Twitter):

For fun I called the Dayton School Admin asking if any of the orig Dayton HS bldg (Scopes’) existed. “Never had a high school here” said one person. Another came on line and agreed. Nope, no HS. “But John Scopes taught there in that HS” said I. “Oh” she said, “that was in 1925″. Me:”Does that mean it didn’t exist??” She: “That was a long time ago”. That, sir, is delicious.

BOOK: The Ethnography of Charles Darwin: A Study of His Writings on Aboriginal Peoples

The Ethnography of Charles Darwin

The Ethnography of Charles Darwin

The Ethnography of Charles Darwin: A Study of His Writings on Aboriginal Peoples by Charles de Paolo, a professor of English at Manhattan Community College, the City University of New York,  is to be published in February 2010. From the publisher:

Because of his stature as one of the great minds of the nineteenth century, Darwin and his work have been examined from almost every conceivable angle. As a result, there has been much critical disagreement on his thoughts regarding the dignity of man, particularly of aboriginal peoples. This book attempts to reconcile the prevailing dual visions of Darwin as racist and as humanitarian. By consolidating Darwin’s fragmentary ethnographic writings, the text charts his switch from early resignation regarding the victimization of native tribes to advocacy for their plight on the basis of demographic, biological, and behavioral evidence. While recognizing the differences between modern Europeans and primitive communities, Darwin developed a firm belief in the dignity of man and ultimately viewed the exploitation of aboriginal peoples as morally indefensible.

Latest Issue of Museum History Journal

The January issue of Museum History Journal (Vol. 2, No. 1) includes:

Wax Bodies: Art and Anato my in Victorian Medical Museums — Samuel J. M. M. Alberti

Narrativity and the Museological: Myths of Nationality — Donald Preziosi

Matter of Fact: Biographies and Zoological Specimens — Taika Dahlbom

Frederic Ward Putnam, Chicago’s Cultural Philanthropists, and the Founding of the Field Museum — Paul D. Brinkman

*Book Reviews*

Museum Skepticism: A History of the Display of Art In Public Galleries by David Carrier — reviewed by Bruce Robertson

Museums in Motion: An Introduction to the History and Functions of Museums, second edition by Edward P. Alexander and Mary Alexander — reviewed by Suzanne M. Fischer

Return to Alexandria: An Ethnography of Cultural Heritage, Revivalism, and Museum Memory by Beverley Butler — reviewed by Tiffany Jenkins

All Creatures: Naturalists, Collectors, and Biodiversity, 1850 – 1950 by Robert E. Kohler — reviewed by Charlotte M. Porter


Earliest known photographic portraits of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, celebrating the bicentennial of their births on February 9, 2009

If anyone has access to this journal, please let me know…

Top museum perpetuates Dawin myth

Keep that in mind
Originally uploaded by Arsie Says

After reading John van Wyhe’s piece for the Guardian about Darwin myths earlier this year, in particular the often quoted phrase about species, I thought I would share this. The brand spanking new facility for the California Academy of Sciences just opened, and I came across this photo of that phrase – “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change” – cemented on the floor of some part of the museum.

Oh no, terrible twos… and grad life.


Originally uploaded by darwinsbulldog

Patrick has got an attitude all his own. Here he is upset because he does not want to get into pajamas. Being on campus 6 days a week, I miss him. And I know he misses me, but sometimes he doesn’t act like it…

So far graduate school is good. Busy, but good. All classes have a tremendous amount of reading, but what is doing history without having to read alot? I enjoy my Early America class, particularly because of the professor. So far we’ve read Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Studies in Environment and History) by Alfred Crosby and a book about the Indian conquest of Europe, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Historical Methods is fine; the reading assigned by Campbell is very dry so far, but the books are not meant to entertain, but to teach us how different historians through time have constructed their histories (all our readings focus on French history, and I am looking forward to reading The Pasteurization of France by Bruno Latour in November). Our semester project is to prepare an annotated bibliography and prospectus (proposal) for a research paper, but we are not actually writing the paper (I am hoping to relate thi to Tyndall); maybe that will come in the spring in Historical Writing. My Public History class is different (taught by a philosopher of science) – we are learning about oral histories, museology, among other things. We have to pick a public policy issue, research it historically, relate it to that issue as it has happened regionally (in Montana or northern Rocky Mountain region), and attempt to provide a solution within a 10-15 page paper. I think I have decided to tackle the creation/evolution issue, and to relate it to the eruption in Darby, Montana in 2004. David Quammen, as the Stegner Chair at MSU, also does a reading seminar each semester with history graduate students. Three books, three meetings (with dinner at his home). The theme this semester is whether or not memoirs can be taking seriously by historians. First up is a memoir about McCarthyism, called Scoundrel Time, then James Watson’s The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, and finally Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, about his time spent in Paris (can you guess which of the three I am looking forward to reading?). As for the Tyndall project, see here.

Okay, back to reading Fernand Braudel’s On History. Just thought I would give an update…

In Defense of Beagle

Dale Husband decided that the HMS Beagle Project was A really stupid way to honor Darwin:

Why is this idea stupid? Because you can accomplish a lot more scientific research with a modern ship dealing with present day biological issues rather than merely reenacting Darwin’s voyage. Science is not about taking the road already traveled, but going down a previously untraveled path to see what might be found. I will not contribute a dime to such a dubious project. Indeed, I think it is a SCAM!

Check out the comments in the post for folks coming to the defense of the HMS Beagle Project, from the likes of Karen, Kevin, Bora, Michael, and more.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Bern Dibner (Born 18 Aug 1897; died 6 Jan 1988). Ukrainian-American engineer and science historian. Dibner worked as an engineer during the electrification of Cuba. Realizing the need for improved methods of connecting electrical conductors, in 1924, he founded the Burndy Engineering Company. A few years later, he became interested in the history of Renaissance science. Subsequently, he began collecting books and everything he could find that was related to the history of science. This became a second career as a scholar that would run parallel with his life as a businessman. He wrote many books and pamphlets, on topics from the transport of ancient obelisks, to authorative biographies of many scientific pioneers, including Volta, inventor of the electric battery, and Roentgen, discoverer of the X ray. [namesake for the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology]

William Henry Hudson (Died 18 Aug 1922; born 4 Aug 1841). English (born in Argentina of American parents) author, naturalist and ornithologist. His interest in nature started in his youth when he studied the local flora and fauna in Argentina, where he was born of American parents. After moving to England (1869) he published onithological works including Argentine Ornithology (1888-1899) and British Birds (1895). He followed these with popular books on the English countryside, including Hampshire Days (1903) and Afoot in England (1909). His work helped foster the back-to-nature movement of the 1920s to 1930s, and he was a founder member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.