Coon and Pat Shipman

Thu, 23 Nov 1995 17:33:01 -0600

Responding to Ralph Holloway...
I also think and thought I made clear, that Coon is not Hooten et al. I
have no problem, none, with people reading him. For that matter I have
no problem with people reading Hooten, Hrdlicka or Wissler and think
it important anthros -both physical and cultural - do so. Not to is
to miss an important formative part in the history of anthro, one
that seems to be rather lost on many.
Concerning Coon. I am not fan of his. Having said that, I think that what
happened is that he basically took the rap for 'the sins of the fathers' and
while he deserves some criticism for accepting their paradigm on human
races, this his work is more interesting and certainly not in need of
Concerning Shipman. Here I guess the disagreements are larger for I have
serious problems with the way she handled the Coon question. It was as if
she wrote two books in my view - the first half was really excellent stuff,
interesting history of anthro's early days. Then she gets into defending
Coon and it is both in tone and content, a different book. What she entirely
misses and this I suppose is my main beef with her, is that the paradigm
on human variation was in the process of literally being re-written. The
old paradigm was based upon phenotypic models that go back a hundred and
fifty years. Coon bought into those models to a certain extent - Hooten,
Hrdlicka and Wissler were true believers and as such bought into a good
deal of racial stereotyping. Of course it was difficult not to - that was
the main paradigm on human variation of the day. In any case, the dramatic
change in my view is not so much the UNESCO statement on race, but the
entire reworking of the paradigm to move away from phenotypic to more
profound, and scientifically sober clinal analysis of human variation which
basically looks at the whole question of humanity in a new and fresh manner.
Coon got clobbered - and he did - probably because he was one of the more
outspoken representatives of the old school. I do not doubt Shipman's version
of events as being historically accurate. But she got fixated on Coon's
private tragedy and really distorts and fails to describe the major paradgim
shift which is taking place at the same time. And she demeans it, suggesting
that it was more of a political movement (and therefore somewhat faddish)
than a serious scientific shift. ovement (and therefore somewhat faddish)
Having said that, Ralph and others. I hope you have had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Rob Prince