When did humans first become human? The answer is far from simple, because the question assumes that sometime in the past, humans achieved modernity and were locked within an evolutionary loophole where natural selection no longer applies. Despite the absurdity of this scenario, and in stark contrast to empirical data, it is widely believed that... Read More
After peaking in the mid-19th century, antiracism fell into decline in the U.S., remaining dominant only in the Northeast. By the 1930s, however, it was clearly reviving, largely through the efforts of the anthropologist Franz Boas and his students. But a timid revival had already begun during the previous two decades. In the political arena,... Read More
Antiracism has roots that go back to early Christianity and the assimilationist Roman and Hellenistic empires. In its modern form, however, it is a much more recent development, particularly in its special focus on relations between whites and blacks and its emphasis on discrimination as the cause of any mental or behavioral differences. Modern antiracism... Read More
A synthesis has been forming in the field of human biodiversity. It may be summarized as follows: 1. Human evolution did not end in the Pleistocene or even slow down. In fact, it speeded up with the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago, when the pace of genetic change rose over a hundred-fold. Humans were... Read More
Throughout the world, kinship used to define the limits of morality. The less related you were to someone, the less moral you had to be with him or her. We see this in the Ten Commandments. The phrase "against thy neighbor" qualifies the commandment against bearing false witness and, implicitly, the preceding ones against killing,... Read More
Ruth Benedict (1887-1948), much more than Franz Boas, would define the aims of Boasian anthropology for postwar America.
When Franz Boas died in 1942, the leadership of his school of anthropology passed to Ruth Benedict and not to Margaret Mead. This was partly because Benedict was the older of the two and partly because her book Patterns of Culture (1934) had already assumed a key role in defining Boasian anthropology. The word "define"... Read More
The anthropologist Franz Boas is remembered for moving the social sciences away from genetic determinism and toward environmental determinism. In reality, he felt that genes do contribute substantially to mental and behavioral differences ... and not just between individuals. Most of us identify with certain great teachers of the past: Christ, Marx, Freud … Though... Read More