Creationism and Anthropology

Thu, 29 Aug 1996 20:55:00 CDT

What a great opening! First of all, "believe" is a faith word. It is
appropriate to use another word when discussing conclusions drawn from
scientific evidence. So, let us say that ANTHROPOLOGY accepts evolution as the
most reasonable explanation for the historical and present variation in humans
and their nonhuman primate relatives (and by extension, of course, the rest of
the biotic world, too). When viewed through the lens of what we know about
inheritance, variation, adaptation, and differences in ability to survive that
we can observe in living organisms, evolution is the most powerful explanation
for the parts of life's history that we can see in the fossil record.

"Evolution," however, is a term that encompasses a tremdous amount of
complexity in a single word. THere are still a lot of ideas about how evolution
produces any particular change that we can observe -- and how often or how
quickly, or whether the pace is smooth or jerky, or whether catastrophic events
play a big or small role in the whole process.

So, to say that anthropologists all agree on the fact of human evolution does
not mean that they all agree what happened at each stage of human evolution, or
how or why. However, if it were a matter of belief, then it would be a matter
of preaching to and converting each other; whereas our proper role (and goal)
is to present the evidence along with our likely explanation(s) and to convince
each other (okay, so sometimes we lecture each other -- sort of like preaching,
but no one is perfect).

This is not to say that scientists don't hold any religious or spiritual
beliefs. Many do; but the spiritual beliefs are no more a matter of scientific
evidence than the scientific ones are a matter of faith. Gerald Bergman has
just published and article in Free Inquiry about religious beliefs of
scientists; and you can learn about the ideas that major religions have about
evolution in the book _Voices for Evolution_, published by the National Center
for Science Education <>, 800-290-6006.

also try

If I recall correctly, Body Rituals of the Nacirema was an article by Horace
Miner, not a book. I'm sure you will hear about it from others on this list.


Andrew J. Petto, Editor, National Center for Science Ed.
PO BOX 8880, MADISON WI 53708-8880

Wisconsin Teacher Enhancement Program in Biology

Madison Area Technical College, 3550 Anderson Street
MADISON WI 53704-2559
voice: 608/259-2926; fax:608/258-2415
NCSE email:

Take Chances! Make Mistakes!! GET MESSY!!!! -- Ms Frizzle

>From: IN%"landinol@RIVER.IT.GVSU.EDU" "Lyndsay"
>To: Multiple recipients of list ANTHRO-L <ANTHRO-L@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU>
>Subject: creationism and evolution
>I am a first year anthropology student in Michigan and I am wondering if
>all or most anthropologists believe solely in evolution, and not in
>creation. I am also wondering if anyone knows how easy it would be to
>find the book "Nacirema" by Miner. Thanks in advance.
>Lyndsay Landino