Why be against darwin? Creationism, racism, and the roots of anthropology


  • Jonathan Marks

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223
    • Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223, USA
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  • I am grateful to the Biological Anthropology Section of the American Anthropological Association for the opportunity to present these ideas as the Distinguished Lecture for 2011. Some portions of this paper overlap material already published (Marks, 2010, 2012). I thank reviewers and colleagues for their comments, Dr. George Whitney for archival materials on eugenics, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science for their support.


In this work, I review recent works in science studies and the history of science of relevance to biological anthropology. I will look at two rhetorical practices in human evolution—overstating our relationship with the apes and privileging ancestry over emergence—and their effects upon how human evolution and human diversity have been understood scientifically. I examine specifically the intellectual conflicts between Rudolf Virchow and Ernst Haeckel in the 19th century and G. G. Simpson and Morris Goodman a century later. This will expose some previously concealed elements of the tangled histories of anthropology, genetics, and evolution—particularly in relation to the general roles of race and heredity in conceptualizing human origins. I argue that scientific racism and unscientific creationism are both threats to the scholarly enterprise, but that scientific racism is worse. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.