I. WHAT IS ANTHROPOLOGY?
Anthropology is the study of humans in all places and at all times. The term itself comes from the Greek (anthropos=man, logos=the study of). Both literate and non-literate peoples are of interest to anthropologists. The field includes many aspects of sociology; however, anthropology reaches much more deeply into prehistory, the humanities, and the physical sciences. Anthropologists study modern humans and their direct ancestors whom we will refer to as hominids.
Anthropology is a recent discipline originating a little more than a hundred years ago. The first course in the field was offered at the University of Rochester (New York) in 1879.
Modern anthropology has its roots in the European expansion and colonization of the New World. The appearance, beliefs, and customs of the Indigenous peoples in the Americas excited European intellectuals in the Age of Discovery. Reports of the 'savages' challenged the thinkers of the Enlightenment to formulate rudimentary theories about what distinguishes humans from the animals. The contact with native peoples forced examination of the very issue of what it means to be human. It took a papal bull in 1537 to declare that "the Indians are truly men."
If you saw the motion picture, The English Patient, you saw the many references to Herodotus, The Histories. Sales of that ancient book increased dramatically after release of the film. The written work by Herodotus was literally, an inquiry. Written in the fifth century B.C.E., it was one of the first historical accounts in the ancient world.
Inquiry is what anthropology is about. It is a search, an investigation into what we are now, from whence we came and how we got to be the way we are today.
III. EMERGENCE OF CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY
A crucial stimulus to many early anthropologists came from The Golden Bough. Some comprehensives survey of world mythology and religion written by the Scottish scholar, Sir James Frazier. He inspired a generation of anthropologists to go out into the world to do fieldwork and develop the methodology that has established anthropology as a rigorous scientific endeavor.
That interest came at an opportune time. At the beginning of this century the perception was that indigenous peoples were changing and that many faced extinction. This was nowhere more true than in America where Native American Indians were rapidly fading into legend. Ethnography, the study of culture flourished as a result. The Yanomamo of Venezuela and Brazil have captured popular attention in our time as the last large unacculturated people on earth when reported in Chagnon's The Fierce People.
IV. PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
Physical anthropology focuses on the place of man in nature. It emerged as a search into the ancestry, development, genetic, and other characteristics of the human species. In contrast, social or cultural anthropology examines the way in which people live.
Physical anthropologists view humans as a biological phenomenon, dissection our species with all the tools of anatomy, physiology, and zoology. For much of this century, they have concentrated on the way physical traits differ from population to population. Ultimately they seek evidence of our origins and the way humanity has come to populate the Earth.
Much about our past has been learned since Darwin's Origin of Species was published in 1859. Neandertals, Cro-Magnon, and the first 'Pithecanthropus erectus' were found in succeeding decades. The Taung child was found in 1924 and 'Lucy' by Johanson in 1974. The methodology, the number of fossil finds, and the body of knowledge about human evolution has grown enormously since Darwin. New finds in anthropology now are frequent and often become headline news.
IV. FRAUD AND DEBATE
Anthropology has had its share of controversy both within the discipline and with critics outside of the field. Some cynics have said that 'anthropologists dig up bones so they can hit each other over the head with them!'
The discipline's most notorious fraud is the well-known Piltdown Hoax, a cleverly crafted assembly of an antiquated cranium and the jawbone of an orangutan. It was not fully dismissed until absolute dating tests around 1950 revealed it to be just trickery.
The evolutionary model for human origins has been vigorously debated. Milford Wolpoff (University of Michigan) is the proponent of the Multiregional Hypothesis. A different model is the Population Replacement Hypothesis proposed by Christopher Stringer (Natural History Museum in London). Both are articulate and powerful thinkers and each can cite compelling evidence for their case. The rancorous debate continues amongst their supporters and critics.
Cultural anthropology has had its own debates. Some fifty years after her pioneering work was published, Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa was challenged by both methodological and factual grounds by Derek Freeman, igniting a controversy that still has not been resolved in any definitive way.
Cultural anthropologists doing fieldwork at times have been at odds with missionaries and the people being studied. Native American Indians no longer tolerate indiscriminate digging by anthropologists.
Dispute with 'creationists' who oppose the theory of evolution is an ongoing contentious issue. Article 1.7 examines this issue in depth.
My own view is that the debates in anthropology reflect the intellectual vigor of the discipline. Discussion and difference of opinion are the price we pay for inquiry in the broadest possible sense.
..... CJ '99
Four distinct branches or sub fields of anthropology are recognized in current textbooks. There are also other more specialized fields which we will mention as we go along.
I. Physical Anthropology is the study of people from a biological perspective. In its work, it draws liberally from the biological and physical sciences. A. One of its broad interests is in evolution and human origins. The study of fossils is paleontology. More specific to our interests here is the study of the fossils of modern humans and human ancestors, namely paleoanthropology. While we are at it, let us mention two other terms so that we can agree on their meaning now. Hominids, a term we will use frequently, refer to modern humans (Homo sapiens), the Neandertals, Homo erectus, and the many Australopithecines/Paranathropus. They are our most direct ancestors. 'Lucy' is the most famous of the Australopithecines. Hominoid is a more inclusive term for all the hominids and their closest primate relatives, the apes (gorilla, chimpanzee, orangutan, and gibbon).
B. A second area of interest to physical anthropologists is human variation. This is an examination of how and why physical traits vary around the world.
Measuring human physical characteristics-anthropometry-was the main research activity of the first anthropologists early in the 1800s. A major focus for the early anthropometrists was the skull. Cranial capacity, jaw structure, the angle of the brow, and other criteria were analyzed in great detail. Although the focus and application of physical anthropology have changed from its early days, anthropometry remains a useful research tool for paleontologists engaged in the search for the origins of the humans species. Variations in skeletal shape and bone structure are vital clues to our prehistoric roots
Some obvious traits are skin color, body size, and eye color. Less obvious, but more easy to quantify are biochemical traits such as blood type and genetic differences. Late in this course we will look at human adaptability to extremes of heat, cold, and altitude.
C. Primatology is a third broad area of study. Jane Goodall has achieved world fame for her study of the chimpanzee at Gombe in Africa. The late Diane Fossey (Gorillas in the Mist) studied the mountain gorilla. Least well known, and still active, is Birute Galdaikas who works to rehabilitate captured orangutan in Borneo.
Primates are studied for their implications in evolution and the insights they provide into human behavior. They are our closest relatives and as such have had a crucial role in medical research. Nearly a million rhesus monkeys were used in the research for the polio vaccine. Today, many primate species are endangered and such a study would be impossible
Research on primate social behavior in the 1960s by the Harlows has important implications for human psychological development. Infant rhesus monkeys raised without maternal warmth and comfort revealed a wide range of abnormal behaviors: they would sit and stare, were inadequate parents, and were often aggressive. Maternal care is important for proper emotional development in monkeys as it is in humans.
Studies of primates have also given insight into the incest taboo, a world wide cultural universal amongst human societies that restricts mating with close relatives. Observation of anthropoids reveals that many primates have an inhibition against mating with close kin. Thus our feelings about incest that we relate to law, religion, genetics and psychology may be a part of a more universal embedded inhibition shared with other primates.
Forensic anthropology is a specialized area of physical anthropology. It is the identification of human remains for legal purposes. Teeth are especially important for several reasons. They tend to be the most enduring body part, as in a burial or a plane crash. Teeth contain many details, especially when they have been restored. This brings up another reason for the importance of teeth: dental records are extremely common. Here in Illinois, they must be retained for at least ten years after the patient's last dental visit. Sorry, forensic dentistry is not a part of this course.
Dental anthropology is a major focus in this course. Very briefly it is the study of teeth as recorded in casts of living mouths or as seen in the skulls of archaeological and fossil collections. A subsequent section will formally introduce this subject to you.
This completes our discussion of physical anthropology. The next three sub fields of anthropology are considered to be cultural anthropology. Even for the physical anthropologist, a knowledge of cultural anthropology is considered important.
Culture is believed to date back at least to the origin of the earliest stone tools, some 2.5 million years ago. As hominids appear closer to us in time, the evidence for culture increases. This is evident as stone tools become more complex, fire is harnessed, and as hominids spread out of Africa into more challenging environments. With the arrival of modern humans about 40,000 years ago, the pace of cultural evolution overtook that of biological evolution. With domestication, metallurgy, and population growth, the rate of culture change has steadily increased at an exponential rate. The pace of cultural change today is now driven by technology. The Internet, personal computers, and compact discs were undreamed of just a couple decades ago. Your challenge when you leave school will be to continue to adapt new ideas, methods, and know-how into your life.
Some anthropologists think that we live in a modern, changing world equipped with Stone Age bodies. These ideas have spawned new disciplines such as evolutionary psychology, evolutionary medicine, and medical anthropology--which we will mention late in this article.
II. Archaeology is the study of human cultures and behavior through material remains--called by some material culture. Some authors call archaeology the science of rubbish! The archaeologist is interested in how people live their daily lives, how people understand the world around them, how they adapt to the surrounding environment, and how and why cultures change. Answers do not 'leap out' from the artifacts: developing a theory or picture from the physical evidence is a painstaking process.
We usually associate archaeology with prehistory--before written history, but some of archaeology's most spectacular finds involve writing. One is the famous Rosetta stone, found in 1799 by Napoleon's troops in Egypt. Written in hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek, it made possible translation of ancient hieroglyphic text. Another 'find' from 1947 is the Dead Sea Scrolls, many of which are now on display at the Shrine of the Book museum in Israel. Written nineteen hundred years ago, they contain much of the earliest text of books in the Hebrew Bible. Other texts give crucial insight into religious life in 100 AD.
Archaeology is no stranger to unusual personalities. 'Indiana Jones' of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark has a real life counterpart in Vendyl Jones, a self-trained adventurer in search of the Ark of the Covenant. Sir William Flinders Petrie discovered that pottery types could be dated according to the layers in tells (mounds) where they are found. He also was the first European to measure the pyramids. An old man with a full white beard and blazing blue eyes, he did his work wearing a ballerina's frilly tutu, thus sparing himself from stoning by local religious fanatics.
Technology has been incorporated successfully into many aspects of modern archaeology. Landsat satellite images have located ancient Indian roadways in the American southwest. Radiocarbon C14 and other absolute dating techniques have made date in time much more precise than was possible a few years ago. Use of this technique revealed the famed Shroud of Turin to be a medieval fraud. (My note: the Shroud of Turin again made a world news comeback in April 1998; it is now on public display.)
The 'Iceman' mummy found in the Italian Alps a few years ago was dated at 5,000 years using C14 absolute dating. After years of political and scientific wrangling, it is now on display in northern Italy.
Some archaeologists literally study garbage. The most famous of this genre of study is the well-known Arizona Garbage Project. What we discard tells much about our lives. As an aside, the researchers found that hot dogs after thirty years in a dump were still edible. Does that say something about what is in hot dogs?
One final cautionary note: archaeologists primarily study material culture, not fossils. That is the province of the paleontologist. While we have mentioned writing and historic events here, do remember that archaeology is the one scholarly area that systematically focuses on prehistoric cultures.
III. Linguistics is the discipline that studies speech and language. Linguistic anthropology studies contemporary human languages as well as ones from the past. What relevance does it have for us here?
Anthropologists regard language as 'conservative'. It is retained by people when they move. They may move to new areas, adopt new foods, take to guns and horses, but their language stays with them. Vocabularies are the clues, much as words in the English language today contains many cognates from Latin, German, and French. Linguistics is useful worldwide, but it has been especially valuable in tracing the migrations of prehistoric Native American Indians. Navaho and Apache Indians are considered to be Athabascan--Indians who migrated to the south from Western Canada and who retained their linguistic origins as a New World immigrant group more recent than the 'first Americans' who came across from Siberia 12,000 years ago.
IV. Ethnology concentrates on the cultures of the present. It is the study of human behavior as it can be seen, experienced, and discussed with those who live in a particular culture.
Ethnology is the study of many cultures from a comparative perspective. Earlier we briefly remarked about the incest taboo. The observation that it is a cultural universal is based on a cross-cultural perspective--the study of all known cultures.
The intensive study of a single culture is called an ethnography.
Napoleon Chagnon's study of the Venezuelan Yanomamo mentioned earlier is a classic in contemporary ethnographic study. It was not an easy task. He lived for five years amongst the Yanomamo as a participant observer.
The study of culture in its indigenous setting is difficult and challenging. Contemporary anthropology asks us to be culturally relativistic. This means to look at each culture in its own right and to step beyond your own personal bias, which we call ethnocentrism.
People in many cultures consider it appropriate to have more than one wife (or husband) at the same time. Many prefer to marry a first cousin--illegal here in Illinois. Some people eat dogs and cats: when tourists get off the plane in Hong Kong, the Cantonese guide will tease by telling them that they will 'soon have a new meaning to the term hot dog!' Do you get it?
Within cultures there are many subcultures. For example, within mainstream American culture, the Old Order Amish in Pennsylvania is a subculture. They intrigue us because they eschew telephones and automobiles, yet seem to embody the best of what we admire: close family ties, integrity, and hard work. Did you see the Harrison Ford film, Witness?
There are subcultures in dentistry and especially in dental schools. When I teach freshmen dental students, I find them earnest and innocent. They respond strongly to messages of life success and learn very well off of prepared handouts. They are strongly focused on what they are to learn and have a defined goal: a degree and a state license to practice.
College students, in contrast, are more eclectic and much more liberal in outlook. Rote learning doesn't work, but discussion does. Students in an orthodontic program exhibit distinctively sub cultural traits. Can you discern them in this class?
This course will be primarily physical anthropology, but will make frequent references to the three cultural disciplines that we have described: archaeology, linguistics and ethnography. The subfields of anthropology are not mutually exclusive: in practice, they tend to overlap a good deal. That overlap or sharing is best illustrated by a new, emerging field, that of medical anthropology.
It can best be described as the study of the interaction between culture, health, and disease In anthropology, we call this biocultural evolution. As we conclude this unit, consider this vignette about an Italian-American community living in Roseto, Pennsylvania. Thirty years ago, medical researchers went there to study a contradiction in medical logic: Rosetans seemed virtually immune to heart attack. The men smoked and drank wine freely after days working in slate quarries. Evening meals were laden with large quantities of Italian food rich in fat: they fried their sausages and browned their meatballs in lard. Yet, their hefty bodies contained very healthy hearts.
The reason was cultural. It was a close-knit community that showed that people are nourished by other people. Recently, that closeness has faded and heart attacks occur as they do elsewhere. Similar effects have been verified in Israel and Borneo. Biology and culture interact; therefore, much of human adaptive change is a product of biocultural evolution.
Park, M. Biological Anthropology. Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1996.
Relethford, J. The Human Species. Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1997.
Stewart, R., ed. Ideas that Shaped the World. San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1997.
I. The Concept of 'Deep Time'
The unifying theme of this course is evolution. An immense amount of time was necessary for the evolution of life on earth. Historically, the great age of the earth was only slowly appreciated. When geology became a systematic science, the incredible age of the earth was fully revealed. With that understanding, evolution became not just a possibility, but a necessity in order for life on earth to adapt to a restless and changing planet.
Understanding the great span of time for life on earth will illustrate the possibilities and requirements for evolutionary diversity.
Let us first compare the age of the earth to the twenty-four-hour day. We will assume the age of the universe is about 15 billion years.
Consider the following: if we imagine the time since the origin of the universe as a calender year, the imprint of life on earth would begin on September 25th. Dinosaurs would emerge on December 24th . Humans, latecomers upon the scene would at last arrive on the final day, December 31st.
We present here linear time in three dioramas.
The first diorama covers 4.5 billion years, the approximate age of the earth itself.
The second diorama covers 4.5 million years of hominid evolution. It is a story of bipedalism and brains.
Finally, the last diorama covers 45,000 years to include the last of the great 'Ice Ages' of the Pleistocene, the modern peoples of the Upper Paleolithic, the last of the Neandertals, and finally, the events of the Holocene.
II. Earth History Diorama
The earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago. How did life begin? According to the 'soupy mix theory' suggested by Urey and Miller, the first building amino acids emerged for the early atmosphere of ammonia, methane, nitrogen, steam, and lightening. Others think that life arose from heat-loving archaeobacteria or perhaps from outer space by way of meteorites. The Murcheson Meteorite of Australia is cited for this theory.
Cyanobacteria appear and begin to produce oxygen. For nearly two billion years, bacteria rule the earth. The earliest organisms reproduce by cloning; change is possible only by mutation. Stromatolytes document the earliest imprint of life on earth some 3.6 billion years ago. Photosynthesis makes sunlight a source of energy.
Organisms with functionally differentiated internal parts including mitochondria, sexual reproduction, the exchange and recombination of DNA lead to runaway complexity. Multicellular organisms and the sexual exchange of genetic information open new possibilities. True runaway evolution begins.
With the beginning of the Cambrian, a riot of body diversity appears. The body plans of today's major phyla had their beginnings in the Cambrian explosion.
As life flourishes in the sea and invades the land, great waves of successful species flourish and fade away. Extinctions and environmental change drive along evolution. Five major extinctions are known; they are at once loss and opportunity. A progression of vertebrate life flourish: the fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Primates and ultimately we emerge after the fifth extinction 65 million years ago.
III. Hominid Diorama
This diorama begins late in the Cenozoic era in the Pliocene epoch. It is a time of larger mammals, climactic cooling and mountain building. Hominid origins begin in the Pliocene.
Hominid origins are known only from Africa. The first group of 'gracile' Australopithecines include anamesis, afarensis, and africanus.
The second group is the 'robust' hominids identified as Paranthropus from both east and south Africa. Some persist into the Pleistocene, living contemporaneously with early Homo. Their name comes from their powerful chewing capability and the massive size of their cheek teeth. The 'robust' hominids appeared to have been side branches.
In the third group is Homo habilis, 'handy man' is the first of the hominids associated with stone tools of the Oldowan type. They have an increased brain capacity compared to the chimp-like brains of the Australopithecines and Paranthropus.
Hominids in the first three groups are known only from Africa. But, Homo erectus of group four is taller, bigger brained, and now literally 'walks out of Africa' to colonize new territories in Europe, West Asia, and East Asia. Homo erectus is now known as heidelbergensis in Europe and ergaster in Europe (but retains the name erectus in east Asia). These are the first users of fire and their distinctive Acheulian tool kit.
Group five are the Neandertals. They possessed a more diverse tool kit known as Mousterian. Their brain size overlaps ours; in Europe, they became a distinctive adaptation to the cold of the late Pleistocene. They are contemporaneous with modern humans; the nature of their disappearance is a major debate in anthropology.
Modern humans comprise group six. They appear suddenly in Europe with a rich artistic tradition, and an inventive and diverse material culture. With modern humans, cultural evolution overtakes biological evolution. The origin of modern humans, like all of the hominids appear to be in Africa.
IV. Modern Human Diorama
This diorama begins in the late Pleistocene during the last great glaciating. In Europe, the Neanderthal present with robust skeletons, a high frequency of skeletal injuries, intentional burials occasionally with grave goods, worn anterior teeth, and all having strong brow ridges.
Modern humans burst upon the scene with blade tools, painting, sculpture, elaborate burials, a broadened subsistence base and abstract engravings. The first cave/rock art is known from Australia, where also the tradition survives today. As the Ice Ages come to a close, humans enter the New World.
At 11,000 ya, the climate changes and the megaphone die out. Human subsistence changes to a more broad-based diet in anticipation of revolutionary changes in human life.
People begin to herd their animal prey instead of hunting them. Farming with domesticated plants increases the harvest. The environment is intentionally altered. Culture is transformed.
Metallurgy begins; this initiates new technology and social stratification with enormous changes in culture. Agricultural surplus leads to life in cities, with urbanization comes science, mathematics, a mercantile class, armies, money, and congested traffic.
Population increased exponentially as exploration, industrialization, and the information age finds us as we are today. Where to next?
..... CJ '99
I. HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The origin of evolutionary thought has had a long, well-documented history. Like human culture, it went through many stages, each one laying the groundwork for the next. And then, in the nineteenth century, like many roads coming together in a central intersection, the idea of evolution was the inevitable result. Here we will briefly trace those historical steps leading to the independent development of the theory of evolution by two naturalists, Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin.
II. FOUR INTELLECTUAL HURDLES TO THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION
There were four serious barriers to acceptance of the theory of evolution.
(1) The age of the Earth. There were, of course, the two creations accounts in the Bible. Variations of these accounts appear also in Babylonian mythology. Incidentally, most societies on earth have creation stories and many begin with 'In the beginning . . . ' The great depth of time you accept as fact was not conceived of even a few hundred years ago.
(2) Possibilities of change. For many reasons, species were considered fixed. After all, dogs give birth to dogs, not cats. Species were considered immutable. Yet, domesticated plants and animals were testimony to change. Pigeon fanciers could easily produce new varieties in a few generations through selective breeding.
(3) Scripture as absolute truth. Before the printing press, the Church controlled the Book. But after printing made books cheaper and more people were literate, religious authority diminished as learning became more secular.
(4) Knowledge of the world was limited. Exploration, discovery, development of the natural sciences all flourished as European expansion entered previously unknown regions of the earth. This provided a flood of new knowledge about the world. It was an exciting time.
III. THE ORIGINS OF EVOLUTIONARY THOUGHT
Darwin's theory of evolution wasn't just his idea. He didn't just roll out of bed one day and proclaim it. For Darwin, it came only after years of agonizing thought on his own observations and the thinking of others. We owe much of the theory's origins to clergymen.
(1) Archbishop Ussher of Ireland. If the Earth had a Grand Designer, when did He create it? Based on careful calculation of the generations in the Bible, Ussher determined that the year of creation was 4004 B.C. Subsequently this date was inserted into the authorized versions of the Bible, and before long it acquired the infallibility of Scripture itself.
Barely had Ussher made this announcement, a critic came forward. Ussher was off by a few hours! Another cleric of that time, James Lightfoot of Cambridge University came up with the exact day and time: the moment of creation was 9:00 A.M. on October 23rd. Sceptics may scoff at this time and date, but an IDEA was born: a way to date the age of the earth.
(2) The Great Chain of Being. The 'great chain' was a concept dating from Aristotle which placed life in an ascending order with man as the highest of the animals, just below the gods. It assumed that all the possibilities in nature already did exist. This viewpoint-inspired searches for the 'missing links'. An inventory of God's creation was necessary and collectors provided an abundance for natural scientists to examine. The flood of new discoveries caused problems One was--how to classify living things. The other was--what about those things we call fossils. How did they fit in?
(3) Classification and its implications. The concept of species was first clearly defined by John Ray, an ordained minister at Cambridge University. But it was the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus who established binomial nomenclature which we use today. The system brought order out of the chaos by classifying animals by their most basic characteristics.
Linnaeus took another bold step: he classified humans amongst the animals. This defied conventional thought that humans, made in the image of God, should be separate and distinct from the animals. Over his lifetime, the Linnaeus classification grew in succeeding editions from 142 pages to twenty-three hundred pages.
The Chain of Being assumed that species were fixed at did not change. Now late in his life, Linnaeus had doubts about the fixity of species. His system of classification implied that closely related species had a common descent. Evolutionary change could explain relatedness in his classification system. You think this way in everyday life. When you meet two persons who are very similar, you assume that they are siblings-and have the same parents. The evolutionary implications of systematics (classification) has the same implications.
In France, intellectual thought was changing. The universe was increasingly viewed as one of change . . . another step toward evolutionary thinking.
But how could it occur? The prolific Frenchman Comte de Buffon, who wrote a 44-volume natural history, provided two important clues. One was that he calculated the age of the earth at 70,000 years based on the time that it took for the earth to cool. That increased the possible time for species to change. He also suggested a mechanism for evolution: Environment was the external agent of change just as people were the agents of change in domesticated animals. Buffon did not come to a good end: he was forced to recant his heretical ideas. In the French revolution, his remains were exhumed and scattered; has son was guillotined. And a bad day for us is being caught in expressway traffic?
(4) Geology and the antiquity of the earth. We owe the concept of 'deep time', the realization of the true antiquity of our planet to the geologists. The testimony of the rocks, the various layers of different kinds of sediments--river gravels, sands. Marine limestones--that they encountered, one layer beneath another indicated that these layers, or strata, had been laid down over long periods of time.
James Hutton, trained as a physician, became the father of geology. A Scotsman and a rigorous thinker, he demanded logical explanations for natural phenomena. He originated the modern theory that the forces operating to change the surface of the earth had been operating in the same manner and at the same rate over a very long period of time. He perceived a world with 'no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.' Geologic forces were gradual with the forces at work long ago that we see today: ceaseless uplifting and wearing down of the earth. Now Ussher's 6000 years and Buffon's 70,000 years has been extended to a vastly longer time, another idea to facilitate the possibility of species change and evolution.
(5) Uniformitarianism and catastrophism. One way to explain anomalies in the landscape was by dramatic events--by catastrophe. Sea bed fossils in mountains, large rocks in open plains, and caves were explained by the Great Flood. This thinking meshed with the Bible's account of Noah. If you think these ideas are from the dustbin of history, modern day 'creationists' firmly believe that the Grand Canyon was fashioned in a few weeks.
Hutton proposed uniformitarianism as a natural way for geological events to take place. What we see now taking place on the earth has always taken place. The processes are slow and our lives are short. The earth is indeed older than we think. Given enough time, a remote possibility can become near certainty.
(6) Environment, species change, and the origin of life. Expanding beyond Buffon who said that environment was the 'agent of change', Jean Baptiste Lamarck postulated that as environment changed, animal activity changed. Through use and disuse, body parts became altered. Part of this we do accept today and we know it as adaptation. Don't weight lifters employ this principle? Use a muscle and its gets bigger. Lamarck was the first to stress the importance of interactions between organisms and their environment in evolution. Lamarck also coined the term biology.
Lamarck went a step farther. He said that such changes are heritable. This theory is known as 'inheritance of ACQUIRED characteristics.' A giraffe stretching its neck and passing that greater length to offspring is a Lamarckian example. It is not accepted today. As a hypothesis, the hypothesis that animal features acquired during life can be passed on to offspring is well constructed. It can be tested, verified or refuted.
Has it been tested? Weismann cut off the tails of mice for 22 generations and kept getting tails. Jewish boys have been circumcised for thousands of years, but their male offspring keep getting foreskins. People keep having haircuts and have children who still need haircuts. This evidence refutes the hypothesis.
Later, with developments in microscopy and embryology, the germ plasm theory was articulated. It says that germ cells which we know as ova and spermatocytes are a distinct and separate cell line from somatic cells. They separate early on in embryogenesis. Their genetic content is passed on whether or not body parts are mutilated, exercised, or removed.
Another problem of the time was the origin of life. As you read this, you are thinking of origins deep in time billions of years ago. That is a recent idea: until the middle of the last century, it was a common belief that smaller organisms could originate spontaneously from mud or organic matter. One famous experiment was growing little 'beasties' from dirty underwear. Reproduction of large animals had been understood for a long time, but it remained for Pasteur and Tyndale to demonstrate that life arises from life. Consider the implication that anything alive had to come from something alive. A way to explain diversity was to accept 'deep time' and the great antiquity for origins of life on earth.
(7) The fossil problem. Early naturalists had found fossil sea shells in strata in mountains far above the sea while identical shells were found alive in contemporary seashores. For a time, Noah's flood seemed a satisfactory explanation. Fossil bones of creatures unlike any living were a further problem. Were they jokes of nature? Was God playing tricks on us?
A wealth of fossil bones uncovered in Paris inspired Georges Cuvier to reassemble the bones with startling realism. Mammoths, giant reptiles, and other large creatures with only a vague resemblance to modern forms went on display. People loved it.
Furthermore, they appeared in layers, suggesting that some layers were sea beds, that others recorded a time of dry land with freshwater lakes whose sediment retained the bones of land animals. Where one ended, the other began. Cuvier showed that extinction was an important contribution because it opened the way for fossils to be used as historical markers in the geological record .
These dramatic new ideas about life on Earth, its origin and development were crucial in Darwin's theory of evolution. He would live in a time when the earth was seen as millions of years old that fossils were accepted as reality, and the close similarities between different species would be noticed by embryologists and comparative anatomists. It was also understood that characteristics would be passed on by inheritance.
Mendel, unknown to Darwin, would unlock the puzzle of inheritance. Unlike Darwin, however, Mendel would remain in obscurity until our century when he was rediscovered. The stage was set for Darwin to make a crucial step: a mechanism for evolution, which was natural selection. In another twist of fate, that idea would come from a clergyman-turned economist. We will treat that story separately.
..... CJ '98
Campbell, B and Loy, J. Humankind Emerging 7th ed. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers, 1996.
Edey, M. and Johanson, D. Blueprints, Solving the Mystery of Evolution. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc, 1989.
Feder, K. Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries 2nd ed. Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1996.
Relethford, J. The Human Species. Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1997.
Searles, H. Logic and Scientific Method. New York: Ronald Press, 1956.
Turnbaugh et al Understanding Physical Anthropology and Archaeology, 6th ed. Minneapolis/St. Paul: Westview Publishing Company, 1996.
Strickberger, M. Evolution 2nd ed. Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1996.
I. WHAT IS DENTAL ANTHROPOLOGY?
Dental Anthropology is the study of teeth in a perspective beyond clinical science. That perspective includes the study of dental growth, theories on dental origin, primate dentition, and population variation. The first comprehensive review of research on primate dentition was a 108-page treatise by Krogman in 1927. That document comprised an entire issue of the Journal of Dental Research and was the first step toward recognition of dental anthropology as a sub field within the discipline.
While preparing to revise this article for 1998, a colleague asked me; "just what is dental anthropology? What do dental anthropologists do? Here is a brief answer to that question.
(1) Genetically controlled variables such as tooth crown size and morphology are used to trace phylogenetic relationships and historic trends in size, shape, and number of teeth.
(2) Crown wear and dental pathology give clues to dietary and cultural behavior.
(3) Gross and microscopic defect analyses reflect disease and dietary stress.
(4) Intentional cultural modifications of teeth (dental scarification) reflect society and culture of people, both present and past.
(5) Bite marks, distinctive patterns of occlusion and wear, missing and filled teeth, and radiographic landmarks make teeth pivotal in many cases of forensic identification.
(6) The comparative anatomy of teeth provides crucial evidence for systematics (classification) and determining biological relatedness.
(7) There is sexual dimorphism in crown diameters. In modern humans, there is a 10% difference in standing height, a 20% difference in weight, and a 30% difference in weight. In most living populations, lower canines show the greatest dimorphism, up to 7.3%, followed by the upper canines.
The best understanding of dental anthropology's perspective is gained by tracing its historical background. Many of the core ideas in the field were developed by people you should know.
II. THE EMERGENCE OF DESCRIPTIVE DENTAL SCIENCE
The foundations of dental science in general can be traced to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when Pierre Fauchard and John Hunter made basic observations on the number of human teeth. This was an issue hotly debated at the time. Why such a seemingly silly debate? Aristotle had said that females supposedly had a greater number of teeth than males.
Also, there were studies of components of teeth, tooth eruption, terminology, and descriptive anatomy. In the nineteenth century development of microscopy and cell theory brought study of the micro structure of teeth. The names of some of these pioneers are known to every dental student: Retzius, Tomes, and Carabelli.
The rise of zoological systematics (Linnaeus in 1735) stimulated paleontologists and comparative anatomists to study teeth more closely. Until Darwin, evolution was not widely accepted and the notion those living humans came from 'lower life forms' was unknown. Tooth form and function in different species were seen as homology and analogy but without an evolutionary perspective.
III. FROM DARWIN TO GREGORY: THE EMERGENCE OF EVOLUTIONARY THEORY
The emergence of evolutionary theory with its tenets of natural selection, common descent, importance of variation steered research into evolutionary studies of teeth. Comparative odontology (study of teeth) now examined tooth form among fossil and living vertebrates.
Workers paid more attention to variation in tooth size and morphology among sub fossil and living populations. By the turn of the century, articles appeared that dealt with racial variation in molar cusp number, supernumerary cusps, hypodontia, and hyperdontia.
Although most anthropological attention focused on tooth size and form, John Mummery studied caries (tooth decay) rates in prehistoric British populations. His landmark study was published in 1870. He reported that the increase in caries rates through time was attributable to an ever increasing reliance on softer, more highly processed foods.
Late in the nineteenth century Henry Fairfield Osborn elaborated upon Edward Drinker Cope's ideas of mammalian teeth and proposed a 'theory of trituberculy' which sought to explain the evolution of multi cusped teeth in mammals from the simple conical teeth of reptiles. Osborn subsequently related the theory to the human dentition in 1907. (My note: this topic is covered extensively in unit 3.1.)
William King Gregory published his seminal work, The Origin and Evolution of the Human Dentition in 1922. This project represented the culmination of efforts in comparative odontology during that period. That work was first published as a series of articles in the Journal of Dental Research in 1921. His comparative studies of fossil hominoid and hominid dentitions were lasting contributions to the field.
In particular he noted certain dental morphology similarities, in particular the Dryopithecus (Y-5) pattern of the lower molars, indicated phylogenetic connections between the Miocene apes, living apes and humans. (My note: Gregory was a world-renown paleontologist whose long life bridges the time-span from Darwin to our own time. He died at age 94 in 1970.)
He also characterized non-metric traits as low characters (primitive) or as high characters (modern). In this effort he anticipated contemporary methods of cladistics (the grouping of animals according to the derived traits they share). Primitive and derived traits are useful in disentangling evolutionary history.
IV. BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS: 1920-1939
Ales Hrdlicka, known for many contributions to physical anthropology was a pioneer of dental anthropology. His now classic papers on shovel-shaped incisors described a characteristic of upper incisors that reminded him of a 'coal shovel.' Hrdlicka had access to the diverse collections of the National Museum of Natural History. From his work with those specimens he reported the close similarity between Asians and American Indians and their decided difference from European and African populations in the frequency and degree of shoveling expression. Asians and American Indians had the shoveling trait; North American whites and blacks did not. This dental character was one of the earliest identified that clearly demonstrated the Asian origins of native Amerindians.
Hrdlicka also used tooth size of the first and second molars to assess the relationships of fossil and living apes, fossil hominids, and recent humans. As curator of physical anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, Hrdlicka's strength was in his comparative studies of primate and human dentitions. (My note: Hrdlicka was quite an accomplished person. Trained as a physician, he became interested in anthropometry and rose to prominence in anthropology. He founded the Journal of Physical Anthropology in 1918.)
Thomas Draper Campbell published his Dentition and Palate of the Australian Aboriginal as a monograph based on his PhD thesis. It covered a wide array of dental topics, including observations of upper and lower molar cusp number, upper premolar and molar root number, and the Carabelli trait. He noted that shovel-shaped incisors were NOT a trait seen in Australian aborigines. Campbell, an Australian influenced another figure well known in orthodontics, P. R. Begg, noted for his studies of proximal wear and mesial migration of posterior teeth in the Australian Aborigine.
Wilton Marion Krogman (1927) published the first comprehensive review of research on primate dentition. It was obvious to Krogman that dental anthropology included the study of dental growth, theories on dental origin, primate dentition and population variation.
J.C.M. Shaw (1931), inspired by Campbell made observations of South African Bantu dental features. This work and that of Campbell were pioneer studies that provided a baseline for future comparative work in human dental anthropology, some of which we will cite shortly.
Articles in dental anthropology were scarce in the period from 1918 to 1940. The American Journal of Physical Anthropology published only about one article a year on teeth. (My note: by the mid-1990s, the AJPA was publishing an average of twenty papers a year on teeth.) A few other dental publications are worth noting here.
An important article during this period was by Rufus W. Leigh, an instructor at the Army Dental School. He demonstrated how societies which practiced different subsistence strategies varied in terms of crown wear, alveolar abscesses, and periodontal disease. A basic lesson of this paper published in 1925, was that adoption of an agricultural economy carries with it a major cost in terms of dental health. These observations confirm and extend the findings of John Mummery mentioned earlier in this article. Similar observations have emerged from studies at the Dickson Indian Mounds in Illinois, where a transition from a food foraging life way to one based on maize (corn) resulted in increased dental caries and crowding of the lower anterior teeth. Weston Price, to be mentioned shortly, made similar observations across the globe.
In 1933 at the University of Chicago, Huggins and Dahlberg transplanted developing dog tooth germs to the abdominal wall and achieved new understanding of the interaction of developing tissues. The following year, Glasstone in England independently had success with transplants in tissue culture. Their work preceded Kolar and Baird's seminal work in epithelial-mesenchymal interactions developing dental tissues by thirty-five years.
Milo Hellman, a figure well-know in academic orthodontics for his application of anthropometry to craniofacial growth and development, published his classic paper on lower molar crown trait variation in 1928.
Weston Price, a dentist, traveled world wide to contrast the traditional diets and health of primitive tribes with those of contemporary peoples living on 'civilized' diets. He documented the contribution of modern diet to dental caries and malocclusion. His text Nutrition and Physical Degeneration published in 1939. It confirms and extends the work of Leigh. His extensive work is largely ignored today, dismissed as just anecdotal reporting. This is unfortunate. (My note: I've been in dentistry since beginning dental school in 1960. The only person I've ever met who was acquainted with Price was a naturopath whom I met in a Peruvian rainforest in 1995!) The disuse theory, implicit in Price's writings is skillfully developed in recent years by Corrucinni who has applied it to the study of malocclusion. Corrucinni reports numerous studies of diet in humans and laboratory animals. His work also hasn't received the attention that it deserves.
At the close of this period, the concept of morphogenetic fields was proposed by Butler in 1939. Known also as the field theory, it sought to explain heterodonty (regional specialization of teeth). In humans, the differences between the classes of teeth are sharp and distinct. In many species of animals, however, the class boundaries are not distinct. Incisiform canines, caniniform premolars and so on are seen as transitional forms at class borders.
V. TRANSITION TO THE MODERN PERIOD: 1939-1963
Albert Dahlberg of the University of Chicago over a 35-year period in-depth study of Pima Indians in the American Southwest provided valuable comparative data for this group. In 1963 he released a series of dental plaques designed to serve as three-dimensional standards for making morphological observations of human teeth. Workers around the world now had a useful reference; others have since appeared.
Early on, Dahlberg applied Butler's field concept to the human dentition. (My note: Al Dahlberg was my advisor at the U. of C. He was one of the kindest and most generous of people I've ever known in academia.)
P. O. Pederson (1949) published his monograph The East Greenland Eskimo Dentition which soon became a primary reference for comparative data since its publication. C. F. A. Moorrees's The Aleut Dentition (1957) remains a classic today for studies of this genre. These followed in the tradition of Hrdlicka who also did work with Eskimo teeth earlier in this century.
VI. THE MODERN PERIOD, 1963 TO TODAY
In 1963, the study of human dental variation received its most significant boost with the publication of Dental Anthropology, edited by D.R. Brothwell. It served to define the subject, including such topics as third molar agenesis, incisor shoveling variation, odontometrics, crown wear, and root morphology. Now, dental anthropology was 'on the map' as a distinct sub field of physical anthropology.
The first international symposium on dental morphology was held in Denmark in 1965, largely through the efforts of Dahlberg, Pederson, and Alexandersen. Similar symposia have since been held every three years. Proceedings of these symposia, published as edited volumes, include many valuable papers on human dental morphology.
There is now an increasing interaction between dental anthropologists, oral biologists, paleontologists, and dentistry. This is especially well illustrated by the work of Kollar and Baird (1971) who demonstrated the crucial epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in chicken and mice embryos. This work confirmed and extended earlier experimental work in amphibians and reptiles that dates back to early in this century. Their work is now orthodox science appearing in dental textbooks and in dental anthropology literature.
The 'three-wave' model of Native American origins developed by Christy Turner II on the basis of tooth crown and root morphology has introduced the historical potential of teeth to linguists, archaeologists, and geneticists.
In 1986, the Dental Anthropology Association (DAA) was formally recognized by the American Association of Physical Anthropology. The DAA publishes the Dental Anthropology Newsletter on a regular basis.
Information on dental anthropology associations and literature in the field are easily
accessible under that title on the Internet.
..... CJ '99
Alt, K., Brace, C., and Turp, J. "The History of Dental Anthropology" Alt, K., Rosing, F., and Teschler-Nicola, M. eds. Dental Anthropology Fundamentals, Limits, and Prospects. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998.
Brothwell, D. Dental Anthropology. Oxford: Pergammon Press, 1963.
Dahlberg, A. "Historical Perspective of Dental Anthropology" Kelley, M and Larsen, C eds.Advances in Dental Anthropology New York:Wiley-Liss, Inc.(1991) p 7-11.
Hillson, S. Dental Anthropology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Iscan, M. 'The Emergence of Dental Anthropology' Amer J Phys Anthrop. 78:1 (1989).
Krogman, W. 'Anthropological aspects of the human teeth and dentition' J Dent Res 7:1-108 (1927).
Price, W. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. New Canaan: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1989.
Spencer, F. History of Physical Anthropology An Encyclopedia. 2 vols. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1997.
..... CJ '99
I. SCIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE
Scientific knowledge may be thought of as a refinement and extension of common sense, perception, and practical knowledge. Science has a systematic character and rigorous standards of methods and results. It seeks to comprehend the laws of nature, confirmed by experimental evidence. The aim of science is material truth of the most general character.
The challenge is this: to come up with a testable hypothesis and then to verify it or disprove it. If I say to you 'cranial bone growth occurs at the sutures between cranial bones,' you can devise experiments to verify or refute this hypothesis with relative ease. Let us say instead that 'nasal cavity expansion is a necessary and obligatory response to its functional matrix.' Because of its wording, verification or refutation of this statement, is difficult.
Consider this outrageous hypothesis: 'Gravity is caused by a great big ugly green giant sucking air into the middle of the earth thereby pulling things down.' It is a reasonably good hypothesis. Upon reading it, you can conjure up several ways to refute it.
Here is a hypothesis that is less scientific in its design: 'The Almighty in his infinite wisdom made fossils during the Great Flood to confuse us.' You may agree with it on faith, but is it testable? Taken on its face, it isn't a scientific statement subject to verification or refutation. It may be profound religious truth for some people, but as it is stated, it is not a scientific hypothesis.
As we look at the development of evolutionary thought, pay attention to the reasoning involved as the idea came into being. The 'theory of evolution' is a refined, elegant theory that ties together existing evidence and suggests lots of ways to verify it--or refute it. As theories go, it is about as elegant as they can be in science.
II WHAT IS A GOOD HYPOTHESIS?
The word itself comes from Greek (hypo = under; tithenai = to place) which illustrates what a scientific hypothesis does: it provides an explanation which will have certain consequences subject to experimentation. What are some qualities of a well stated hypothesis?
(1) It should be testable.
(2) It should be the simplest explanation to explain, bring into order, and summarize a body of facts. This is the 'law of parsimony.' Later in this article we will meet 'Occam's Razor,' which equates simplicity with truth.
(3) It should be consistent with related principles and verified facts.
(4) It should have predictive power. The best hypothesis should predict discovery.
III. HOW IS KNOWLEDGE ACQUIRED?
Before the Enlightenment, the Church was the authority. It taught that the Earth was the center of the universe. One particular invention, the telescope, was a fateful turning point for science. The Polish astronomer Copernicus (1473-1543) came to a different conclusion by using observational evidence to show that the Earth orbited the Sun. In 1632, the Italian Galileo dared to agree with him. For that heresy, he was hauled up before the Inquisition and as placed under house arrest. Scientific discovery in Italy ceased for 100 years.
Earlier, the English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) argued for the use of experiment rather than deduction as a way to increase knowledge. It was an idea which changed the world. The use of observational evidence was taken up by Newton (1642-1727) and he made great advances in physics. Pay attention to the word deduction: it will become important shortly.
IV. DEDUCTION, INDUCTION, AND SCIENCE.
This section is theoretical, but I have a practical goal in mind, so be patient.
Deduction is correct reasoning from a premise to a conclusion. If I say, all mammals are warm-blooded; you are a mammal. Therefore, you are warm-blooded. You would logically accept your warm-bloodedness. You have moved from the general to the particular. If the premise is true and the inference drawn properly, that inference is true.
Induction works the other way around. It moves from the particular to the general. It is both science's achievement and its Achilles heel. Let us use a classic from college logic to illustrate the thorny problem in science or moving from particulars to universals.
The expression "all swans are white" is true only if there aren't any black ones. The statement is true if you live in Britain and you only see white swans; however, the discovery of black swans in New Zealand at a later date would prove it false.
The philosopher Karl Popper has this cautionary note about sweeping general statements: induction cannot yield certainty until we can observe the universe in all times and all places.
Popper argues that science can approach truth, but we can never be sure of having the final explanation.
What practical suggestion does Karl Popper have for the scientist? The serious scientist should seek to falcify his hypotheses, not merely verify them. Science progresses when an accepted theory is shown to be wrong and a new theory is found that better explains the phenomenon.
Newton's laws of motion work at low velocities, but under extreme conditions those laws fail. Einstein's special theory of relativity reached into the larger universe to show relationships between time, matter, and space.
The American philosopher Thomas Kuhn has argued that scientific progress comes when anomalies refute an established paradigm and new ideas achieve acceptance.
Two concerns of scientific method are considered here. One is the creative aspect, the formation of a new idea. We touch on this in section V. below. Another is the problem of sampling discussed in section VI.
V. SENSE AND NONSENSE IN SCIENCE
Originating a new hypothesis is a creative process. Innovation is the product of independent thinking. Sometimes there can be several hypotheses to explain something. In anthropology, some of them can be rather silly.
Archaeology in particular seems to attract the odd, the bizarre, and the occult. How can we discern between sense and nonsense?
One of the oldest and most practical rules is known variously as the Law of Parsimony or, as mentioned in the movie Contact, Occam's Razor. It says the following: the simplest of several proposed hypotheses is usually the best.
Let us cite an example. In southern Peru is a stark desert plateau of brown pebbles devoid of plant or animal life known as the Nazca Pampa. Large radial line patterns and designs of plants and animals were discovered by an aircraft survey in 1926. They have puzzled scientists and inspired science fiction writing ever since. What are some explanations to explain them?
(1) They are beacons for the gods.
(2) Space craft from another galaxy landed here, aliens mated with monkeys, and people today is their offspring.
(3) They were made to be seen from ancient paper hot air balloons.
(4) Ancient people made them by scuffing the surface of the ground with their feet.
Now, I concede that the first three sell books and might be a plot for a late-night movie. But consider, the last is the simplest and closest to ordinary life. Has the proposition (4) been tested? As it works out, yes. Large designs are easily made by scuffing aside the pebbles with one's foot to reveal the lighter soil underneath. In the arid environment, the designs seem able to last centuries.
One other comment: remember reductio ad absurdum from college logic? This ancient technique in debate refutes a proposition by demonstrating the absurd conclusions to which it would logically lead. This can also be used to repudiate fantasy and the fantastic.
(My note: Occams's Razor is named after a medieval scholastic, William of Ockham, Galileo used it in defending the simplest hypothesis to explain the heavens.)
VI. SAMPLE SIZE
The problem of sampling is central in the attempt to make valid inferences when moving from the particular to the general. Sampling is an especially vexing problem for the paleoanthropologist studying human fossils: there simply are not many of them and we have no ideas whatsoever if they are representative of the larger populations from whence they have come.
The ideal conditions for a representative sample of a population are that the materials in a sample fairly reflect the homogeneity of the entire population. Polls used to predict election results work out so well because their chosen sample reflects the views of the larger whole.
Paleoanthropologists aren't so lucky! Early hominid fossils are few, how the 'sample' was selected by the fortuitous events of fossilization and discoveries are not under anyone's control.
VII. PROBLEMS UNIQUE TO THE PROBLEM OF HUMAN ORIGINS
Human evolution is our evolution and everyone has an opinion about it. It is an emotionally charged issue for many people. The scientific community devoted to human origins has been plagued by jealousies (often called bone wars), outright fraud (Piltdown is a shameful example), and a lack of fossils. Other intellectual fields have their stormy debates also; the Dead Sea Scrolls are a good example.
Milford Wolpoff cites four factors that contribute to contentious debate in paleoanthropology.
(1) Public interest has put human origins in the spotlight. New finds often get reported before properly analyzed, dated, and subjected to peer review.
(2) Human evolution is about us and everyone has an idea about it. (My note: I am subjected to nutty ideas about human origins all the time!)
(3) We've already mentioned the third problem: a lack of data. There are a limited number of fossils, and access to them is sometimes restricted.
(4) Human frailty causes us sometimes to see things not as they are, but the way we are. Sometimes we are blind to the obvious.
In concluding this article, consider this thought about anthropology: the debate represents intellectual vigor, and as long as it is free and open, the discipline will continue to advance toward the truth.
Feder, K. Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries 2nd ed. Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1996.
Searles, H. Logic and Scientific Method. New York: Ronald Press, 1956.
Stewart, R. ed. Ideas the Shaped the World. San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1997.
Wolpoff, M. Paleoanthropology 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.
I. SCIENCE AND RELIGION
Science and religious faith have no quarrel. Each discipline shares much in common. Both seek to understand the universe and our place in the universe. The conflict between the 'creationists' and advocates of evolutionary theory dates from the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859. That conflict flourishes today as 'creationists' seek to discredit science itself and prevent the teaching of evolution in public schools. The 'creationists' are a threat to our schools.
The most infamous event in that conflict was the famous 'monkey' trial of 1925 when a high-school teacher, John T. Scopes went on trial in Tennessee charged with violating state law by teaching the theory of evolution. He was convicted and fined $100. That state law was repealed in 1967.
'Creationism' is the term used in this article for the anti evolution backlash. That movement is known today also as 'creation science' or by other terms which intentionally obscure its real mission in opposing science.
II. WHAT IS EVOLUTION?
In its loosest sense, it describes any change in anything. If a newspaper article appears entitled 'evolution of the automobile,' the reader would expect a historical account of automobiles, probably from Model T's to SUVs.
Here is a more specific definition applicable to biological evolution: 'the origin and development of life forms through time, of all species originating from pre-existing species. It is an ongoing process being the result of change produced by natural selection and genetic change.' Implicit in this is that humans are animals and are themselves a product of biological evolution. Accumulating evidence reveals that humans have an evolutionary origin that is extremely ancient, from life forms very unlike humans today.
III. THE NATURE OF SCIENCE AND THE SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE
Science requires a testable hypothesis that explains existing observations and predicts ways of gathering new observations to support or reject the hypothesis. (My note: an expanded discussion of this matter appears elsewhere in article 1.6 What is Science?) One of the most important requirements of scientific method is that no hypothesis is ever beyond the reach of additional testing and the possibility of falsification.
In its most rigorous sense, the only scientific hypotheses are those that can be verified or falsified. This fundamental requirement separates science and religion. The critical thinker must determine what is, and what is not, a scientific statement.
In one of the finest opening lines anywhere in religious literature, the Bible begins with: "In the beginning, God created heaven and earth." For many people, it is religious truth. The important distinction here is that "In the beginning . . . " isn't a scientific statement. The authors had other purposes which will be documented later in this article. In an egregious slight of hand, the 'creationists' have taken the opening lines of Genesis out of context.
A scientific statement by definition must be stated so that it can be verified or falcified. When a hypothesis has been broadly accepted by those most qualified to examine it, the idea is called a theory. Evolution enjoys such broad acceptance that it is called a theory.
IV. THE SCIENTIFIC FRAME OF MIND
Science requires a distinctive intellectual attitude which has been well summarized by Karl Pearson: 'The classification of facts, the recognition of their sequence and relative significance is the function of science, and the habit of forming a judgement upon these facts, unbiased by personal feeling, is characteristic of what may be termed the scientific frame of mind.'
V. DO BIOLOGISTS BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION?
No. Is the theory of evolution central in their thinking? Yes. Is evolution a theory? Yes. It is supported by evidence and the theory suggests a vast number of ways to verify--or falcify it. Evolutionary theory makes much of the universe intelligible. The theory helps to explain a wide range of biological phenomena ranging from antibiotic resistance, the diversity of HIV viruses, to the origins of very different life forms--from bacteria to baboons.
For biologists, the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming, the theory of evolution is a certainty.
VI. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY, AND HOW DOES IT SAY IT?
The eloquence of the Biblical authors in their opening statement strike the keynote of the whole Bible: "In the beginning God . . . " With that, the priestly authors dramatically unroll the process of Creation: of light, of heaven, of life upon the earth, the sun, moon and stars, and man himself. It is a masterpiece of religious literature.
However, something that strikes the thoughtful Bible reader right off is that there are two accounts (Genesis 1:1-2:3 and 2:4-26). In a formal theology these dual accounts (there are many in the Bible) are known as doublets. Why are they there?
In a formal theology, their presence is explained by the widely accepted documentary hypothesis. Early editors of the Bible drew upon several sources. Scholars today have identified them by the initials "J', "P," E" and more recently "D" (for the Deuteronomist). "P" describes priestly sources; "J" for the divinity Jehovah and "E" for the divinity Elohim.
Are the two accounts the same, or are they different? In some ways they duplicate each other, but in other significant ways there are contradictions.
The order or creation Genesis One is:
3. man and woman
The order of creation in Genesis Two is:
What else is different in the accounts? Account one uses only the deity title God. Account two uses only the deity title Yahweh. (My note: you find doublets also in accounts of Noah and the Flood and elsewhere. What is said here is an orthodox theology, not opinion.) How shall we read these variously and at times conflicting accounts of Creation?
VII. THE 'CREATIONIST' DOGMA
'Creationists' rest their entire case on a strict, literal interpretation of the Biblical account of Creation (or Creations as we have seen) and the universal Flood (two accounts of Floods). The age of the earth is taken as 6,000 to 10,000 years based largely on Bishop Ussher's calculation in the year 1650. 'Creationists' say that women were cloned from man. Land plants came before fish. Birds came before reptiles. All animals were herbivores before the First Sin.
All of this contradicts the fossil record and mainstream science. Have the creationists read the Bible correctly? No, they have not. Taking Genesis 1:1-11:9 as a whole as the writers intended, the correct emphasis is: "In the Beginning, God . . . " Genesis was to be read as a whole, not in pieces taken out of context. This is explained fully in the next section.
VIII. THE POSITION OF MAINSTREAM RELIGION
Mainstream religion made its accommodation with evolution decades ago. The most forthright position statement comes from the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1996, Pope John Paul II made headline news when he endorsed evolution. Italian tabloids screamed "Pope says we came from monkeys!" Is that what he said? No, it is not.
Here is a direct quote from his written message to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences. "It is indeed remarkable that this theory has progressively taken root in the minds of researchers following a series of discoveries made in different spheres of knowledge."
Earlier in 1981, Pope John Paul II, in an address to the same Pontifical Academy of Science, he said the following: "The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and the Universe."
A later commentator has said the following: ". . . scripture . . . contains essential truths, which vastly transcend the literal text." Long ago, St. Augustine clearly rejected literalism in favor of the deeper spiritual truths in scripture. In fact, literal interpretation didn't even appear until after the industrial revolution!
Genesis 1:1 isn't a scientific statement because it isn't a testable hypothesis. It is there for spiritual meaning, not literal truth. The priestly writers never intended it as science.
IX. 'CREATIONISTS', TEXTBOOKS, AND EQUAL TIME.
'Creationists' want to keep evolution out of textbooks and out of the teaching curriculum in sciences courses today. If evolution does appear, they want equal time--a chance to tell about 'creation science.' Should they have equal time?
Is 'creation science' science? To say it again, a plausible scientific statement must be subject to verification or falcification. They demand blind acceptance of a nonscientific story of creation taken out of context. 'Creationism' is not science. It is dogma with a hidden agenda. We discuss that issue shortly.
Should creationism have equal time for the sake of fairness? The problem is this: if science admits 'creationism' to the discussion, then it should--in fairness--accept other creation accounts as well. There were more than 500 North American Indian nations on this continent 500 years ago. Each had a creation story. Shouldn't they have a say? If this is done, the curriculum becomes comparative religion, not legitimate science.
'Creationism' fails on another basic requirement of science: peer review. In any rigorous discipline--including a theology--authors in journals must subject what they write to critical examination by their peers.. In this sense, 'creationism' is dogma, not science. If they are a science, shouldn't they meet this requirement? Science is what science does, and 'creationism' fails on all counts. This leads us to another issue--intellectual freedom.
X. SHOULD THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION BE SUPPRESSED?
In an open society, freedom of thought and expression are a given. When creationists seek to suppress or remove evolutionary science from our schools, it affects everyone's freedom. Most of all it impacts our children. Is it reasonable for religious pressure groups to suppress the rigorously reasoned, well established, widely accepted, easily verifiable scientific theory of evolution? In a free an open society, should they be allowed to suppress truth?
Is the case for biological evolution weakened if it is 'just a theory?' Being a theory is evolution's greatest strength. As such, it places itself beyond the dogma of misdirected 'creationist' zealots and is allowed to stand or fall based on the evidence. The strength of any idea must rest upon open discussion and critical thinking. We owe no less to ourselves and our children..
In contrast, 'creation science' is not science. It is religion in disguise. In 1981, Alabama passed a law requiring equal treatment of 'creation science' and evolution science. Out of this legislation arose a test case brought by the ACLU. Joining it as plaintiffs were several mainstream Christian and Jewish denominations.
The 'creation science' law was struck down and the plaintiffs were sustained on all counts. Most notable was the judge's ruling that 'creation science' was nothing more nor less than a particular religious doctrine. 'Creationists' lost their case against mainstream religion!
XI. WHY CAN'T THEY RECONCILE THEIR DIFFERENCES?
One of the serious issues is the matter of limited time. How much time should scholars spend to oppose nonsense? Let us illustrate by example. Supposing you taught geology, but each year you had to argue with people who believe that the earth is flat. Each year they come to the school board, demand equal time only to recite the same foolishness over and over. There comes a time when enough is enough! People in science cannot waste productive careers dealing with 'creationist' nonsense.
A more insidious issue is unlawful behavior. Some anti evolution zealots now advocate vandalizing public libraries by removing references to evolution in books with the use of razor blades or glue. Such behavior is intolerable in a free society.
XII. CONCLUDING REMARKS
In a final analysis the issue of teaching biological evolution gets down to intellectual freedom. If the 'creationists' prevail in keeping evolution out of the schools, the free exchange of ideas is diminished and ultimately the education of our children is impaired. 'Creationists' should be concerned about intellectual freedom. When freedom is restricted in a society, one of the first freedoms denied is religious choice.
(My concluding note: To my knowledge, science has never sought to suppress religion.)
..... CJ '99
Friedman, R. Who Wrote the Bible? San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997.
Searles, H. Logic and Scientific Method. New York: Ronald Press, 1956.
Selkirk, D. and Burrows, F. Confronting Creationism: Defending Darwin. Kensington: New South Wales University Press, 1988.
Swanson, S. "Pope bolsters church support for evolution" Chicago Daily Tribune October 25th, 1996.
Suggs, M., Sakenfeld, K., and Mueller, J. eds. The Oxford Study Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Trawick, B. The Bible as Literature: The Old Testament and the Apocrypha. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1970.