Re: the origin of races, carleton coon

Jim Foley (
14 Feb 1995 18:48:56 GMT

In article
Ralph L Holloway <> wrote:

>Would I be correct in assuming, Dr. Foley, that you haven't read Coon's
>1962 "origin of Races"? Actually, some of his ideas on 'separate'

Actually, no. I found it in a library about 8 years ago, and spent some
time reading it. I will admit, however, that I was not well prepared to
evaluate it, and I now remember very little of the details.

Was the "Dr." gentle sarcasm? I'm not one, but I *am* making a serious
effort to learn about human evolution.

>evolution ( he always admitted gene flow between major geographic
>groups) was in part derved from Dr. Franz Weidenreich's papers. As for
>the primitive features in blacks and other groups, I think their
>possible later appearance would make them less "primtive", e.i., more
>recent, thereby "advanced". These terms "primitive" and "advanced" have

I have to disagree here. Whether true or not, the popular idea of human
is that we have been rising *up* from the apes. Under that image, any
race that made the transition later is clearly going to be perceived (I
think by both scientists and the public) as more primitive, in a very
derogatory sense of the word (i.e. closer to apes).

>no evolutionary meaning however, either in terms of
>structure-function-behavioral adaptations, and I sincerely doubt that
>Coon was truly racist in that sense. Coon was brilliant, and far more

I was impressed by the description of Coon in Trinkaus and Shipman, both
as a person and a scholar. That doesn't preclude him being a racist in
the benevolent sense of many 19th century people such as Darwin: taking
individuals on their merits, but still believing that some races on
average are inferior to others.

I still harbor a strong suspicion that Coon was racist in this way, not
because he was an evil person, but possibly just as a result of his
upbringing in an age that had different standards. Reading
S. J. Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" left a deep impression on me that
theories that have put some races in a bad light have nearly always been
motivated by racism, rather than objective evaluation of the evidence.

Coon's book is in storage at our local university library. I will try
and look at it again, after I have prepared by rereading T&S.

>knowledgeable than most anthropologists of his time, whatever his views
>on racial origins. Again, put his 1962 book in the context of what was
>available. Right or wrong, it was a very scholarly book.

I've already admitted that I misjudged Coon (as a borderline kook), on
the basis of the limited knowledge I had at the time.

>R. Holloway.

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