Re: the origin of races, carleton coon

Jim Foley (
9 Feb 1995 20:30:34 GMT

In article <3hbv6n$>,
DrGiuseppe <> wrote:
>I wonder if anyone could help me with some contemporary references to
>problems posed by Coon in his book The Origin of Races. I came across this
>book after reading The Neandertals by Trinkaus and Shipman. I was
>impressed with his observation of deep differences between various
>"races". I realize that this subject was very controversial when the book
>was published in the 60's and is no doubt even more so now. I would love
>to know what people in this field think today about Coon's theories and if
>anyone is studing these questions.

I thought the treatment of Coon by Trinkaus and Shipman was remarkably
sympathetic, given that his ideas are regarded as kooky today. And
racist: Coon believed that blacks and possibly other races made the
transition later than Caucasians did, and were hence more primitive.

For all that Trinkaus and Shipman seem to sympathetic to him, and he may
have been a nice guy and all, I think Coon had to be motivated by
racism; just someone else in a long line finding pseudo-scientific
reasons to think they were superior to other races.

His theory is reminiscent of the multiregional hypothesis (which does
not have the same racist overtones). Scientific American did two
articles about 3 years ago comparing the multiregional hypothesis with
the Out-of-Africa theories (and this morning someone was talking about
Out-of-Asia theories on this group).

Stephen Gould in one of his books of essays, says he talked about Coon's
theory with W.E. Le Gros Clark, early 70's, I think. Clark said that
he, at least, could find no trace of Coon's parallel transformations in
multiple races of fossil skulls leading to the modern races.

When I first heard about Coon's theories, I assumed he was some sort of
racist kook, with zero scientific standing. But no, he was a major
figure in the anthropological community.

I am not an anthropologist, by the way. These are all second-hand

Jim Foley (303) 223-5100 x9765
Jim.Foley@FtCollinsCO.NCR.COM NCR-MPD Fort Collins