The ScienceBlogs Book Club

Originally posted by Brian Switek
On March 10, 2009, at 11:14 AM

Owen's Ape and Darwin's Bulldog

In 1857 Richard Owen proposed that our species, Homo sapiens, belonged to a distinct subclass separate from all other primates. He called this new group the Archencephala and based it as much upon human powers of reason as minute neuroanatomical differences between apes and humans. What’s more, our “extraordinarily developed brain[s]” not only placed us above all other creatures but gave us new moral responsibilities, and in closing Owen stated;

Thus [Man] fulfils his destiny as the master of this earth, and of the lower Creation.

Such are the dominating powers with which we, and we alone, are gifted! I say gifted, for the surpassing organisation was no work of ours. It is He that hath made us; not we ourselves. This frame is a temporary trust, for the uses of which we are responsible to the Maker.

Oh! you who possess it in all the supple vigour of lusty youth, think well what it is that He has committed to your keeping. Waste not its energies; dull them not by sloth: spoil them not by pleasures! The supreme work of Creation has been accomplished that you might possess a body–the sole erect–of all animal bodies the most free–and for what? for the service of the soul.

Strive to realise the conditions of the possession of this wondrous structure. Think what it may become–the Temple of the Holy Spirit! Defile it not. Seek, rather, to adorn it with all meet and becoming gifts, with that fair furniture, moral and intellectual, which it is your inestimable privilege to acquire through the teachings and examples and ministrations of this Seat of Sound Learning and Religious Education.

Though Owen had been studying human and ape anatomy for decades this lecture was a catalyst for a larger debate about the place of humanity in nature, and chief among Owen’s opponents was T.H. Huxley. The structural differences between the brains of apes and humans were of degree, not of kind, Huxley argued, and for several years papers flew back and forth on the subject. It is this argument that caught the attention of philosopher Christopher Cosans, of which he has written a summary called Owen’s Ape & Darwin’s Bulldog: Beyond Darwinism and Creationism.

When Cosans’ book first arrived in the mail I was glad to receive it. I had recently been researching this debate myself and I was looking forward to a detailed historical treatment of what transpired (particularly the reactions of scientists other than Owen & Huxley). I am sorry to say, however, that the book is a bit of a muddle. This is not surprising that a significant portion of the ~140 pages that make up the body of the work are reprinted papers Cosans has already published. I recognized at least two; “Anatomy, metaphysics, and values: The ape brain debate reconsidered” and “Was Darwin a Creationist?“. This alone is not a cardinal sin but it impedes the flow of whatever narrative Cosans was trying to produce.

The book, as a whole, is not so much about the “ape brain debate” as it is about approaches to science. The arguments between Owen and Huxley only serve as a proxy for Cosans to damn what he labels “Scientific Materialism” and “Social Constructivism” in favor of a “Humanistic Realism”. In Cosans’ system scientific materialism is the notion that science is “value-free” and provides a “God’s eye view” of nature, or generates accurate descriptions of reality untrammeled by the values of the practitioners. Social constructivism, by contrast, represents class values placed into science and thus makes any scientific discovery just “one of several untrue opinions.” The approach that Cosans champions is humanistic realism where the values of scientists shape their observations but their discoveries can partially describe reality (leaving plenty of room, of course, for the truths of art, poetry, religion, etc.).

The difficulty is that Cosans is so concerned with keeping these categories intact that he does not seem to recognize where they bleed into each other, nor the difference between the methods of science and studies of the history of science. He attacks “scientific materialism” as a method of knowing about the world but largely criticizes Adrian Desmond for writing about the history of science in as a social constructivist. (Owen is praised as the wise man who knew himself and the epitome of the humanistic realist.) Perhaps I am simply missing something as I am not a philosopher but it appears to me that Cosans has a few axes to grind yet does not have a good idea of what to do with them.

Given that Cosans favors his own definition of humanistic realism, where science can only reveal discontinuous “islands of truth”, it is not surprising that Cosans tries to make room for intelligent design or some kind of teleology in nature. I began to be suspicious when I saw the acknowledgment to Bill Dembski, read the criticism of “scientific materialism”, and saw that modern evolutionists were called “Neo-Darwinists”, and on page 86 I was greeted by a “teach the controversy” type endorsement. Cosans writes;

[Nancy] Cartwright’s analysis raises interesting questions for science policy. If the efforts of any scientist do not yield one true description of reality but only incomplete parts of a true description, then it would be a bad idea to fund or teach only one or a few scientific theories. Seeking to have only one theory about nature, or even a particular phenomenon, would limit our handle on reality because every theory has assumptions that are its blind spots. If, on the other hand, we allow for a diversity of theories, whose assumptions do not overlap, we would get a greater handle on reality. It would involve taking an attitude toward scientific inquiry similar to Mill’s method for debate and seeking truth in On Liberty. In the case of teaching science to children, it is not unusual for people to say that without Darwin nothing makes sense in biology. However, if this is taken as a dogmatic assumption, then an observations that are not readily interpretable with Darwin’s framework of analysis, be they concerning non-Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms, non-evolutionary aspects of biology, or even alternative metaphysical views, would be marginalized, if not ignored.

It is interesting that Cosans puts the weight of responsibility for revealing the workings of nature on individual scientists, as if one authority simply said “It is so” and everyone instantly agreed. This is certainly not the case, and the history of debate over evolution bears this out. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has not been an unassailable idea that no one dared criticize until now. It endured intense criticism and was “eclipsed” by non-Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms during the latter half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Why should we return to notions of orthogenesis, vitalism, “racial senescence”, etc. when they have already been refuted (and no new evidence has arrived in their favor)?

It is also telling that Cosans bastardizes Theodosius Dobzhansky’s famous essay title to make his point. Dobzhansky’s article was titled “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”, which is significantly different than “without Darwin nothing makes sense in biology.” Yes, it is the difference of one word, but should a major non-Darwinian evolution mechanism be identified evolution will remain of the utmost importance to biological studies. Dobzhansky’s statement remains true and will likely remain widely quoted even as science continues to change.

I do not wish to read too much into this paragraph but it appears to me that Cosans is trying to make a little elbow room for the “alternative metaphysical view” known as intelligent design (for which there is no evidence) and non-Darwinian, self-organizing modes of evolution that would be easier to marry to Christian theology. If evolution is driven from within then it could be argued that the Creator imbued the first life with everything necessary for all evolution and that humans were a planned outcome from the start. As I have said, however, this approach has already been taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and failed to accurately reflect nature. It would take strong evidence indeed to reinvigorate orthogenesis.

Cosans also makes the claim that rejection of evolution by many people in the United States is the result of belief in the “American Dream.” That each individual is pitted in a Darwinian struggle for existence (with some more “fit” than others) would seem to run counter to the “American” idea that “almost anyone can achieve great things regardless of their parentage.” I do not find this idea convincing. There is no single reason why so many people in America think evolution is wrong, but among the major factors are poor grade school education and the popular style of evangelical religion in this country. If you don’t really understand evolution it is all the easier to reject when your chosen social group (as in a church) thinks it is wrong. If Cosans were correct, however, it would be interesting to compare modern sentiments about Darwin & the “American Dream” with those of the “Gilded Age” in which social evolution through competition was a popular idea.

It is not until the last 50 pages or so that Cosans gets to Huxley’s response to Owen and the debate over ape brains. It is not as thorough a treatment of the issue as I would have hoped and contributions to this argument by scientists other than Owen & Huxley (like that of W.H. Flower) are largely ignored. This is unfortunate, but not surprising given that Cosans wants to cast Huxley as the villain (scientific materialist) and Owen as the hero (humanistic realist). To this end Cosans briefly describes his dissection of a human and chimpanzee brain side-by-side.

Cosans’ description of the brains is superficial and it seems that he did not find exactly what he was hoping for; a vindication of the notion that humanity is far removed from apes. Indeed, Cosans points out the presence of each of the parts of the ape brain Owen initially said were “missing” (which Owen himself apparently later recognized) but he repeatedly points out how much larger the human brain is than the chimpanzee brain. Of course it is larger, but when it comes to brains size is not everything. If size alone was the chief determining factor of intelligence the sperm whale would be the most intelligent being on the planet.

Why would Cosans give such shallow treatment to the subject of neuroanatomy? The reason does not become clear until a few pages later when he writes;

In our time, several biologists have done work that supports Owen’s general conclusions that humans are anatomically distinct from orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas.

This is a vague statement but, in my reading, it hints that Cosans thinks there might be some validity in Owen’s subclass Archencephala. Of course we are “anatomically distinct” from other apes, but we are still apes all the same. Cosans ignores genetic, paleontological, and primatological studies and focuses only on research that shows we have bigger brains for our bodies than other apes. Indeed, Cosans seems to approach the question of our place in nature from the same place Owen did over a century and a half ago, thus ignoring the extraordinary mass of evidence confirming that we are apes that shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees between 4 and 7 million years ago. How such a huge omission of evidence could be made, I have no idea.

Is Owen’s Ape & Darwin’s Bulldog “a perfect study of the relationships between science, ethics, and society” as the back cover proclaims? Hardly. It is a messy patchwork of ideas in which Cosans appears to be struggling to find a place where science & religion meet each other. By considering science (including evolution by natural selection) unable to fully explain reality Cosans appears to be trying to make some room for religion and the direct intervention of God in nature. His case is not convincing, particularly given the poor historical and scientific scholarship present in some sections of this book. As much as I had been looking forward to this study it may be better to simply download Cosans’ existing papers and purchase a copy of Owen’s On the Nature of Limbs (in which is included some excellent introductory material).

Comments

  1. #1 Albatrossity
    March 19, 2009

    Both Dembski and Paul Nelson are thanked in the Acknowledgements…

    One thing that I am finding to be bizarre (I’m not yet finished with the book) is that, in at least a couple of places, he includes a quote from another author, and then proceeds to tell the reader that this quote means almost exactly the opposite of what the quote seems to be meaning. One example is on p. 33, where a quote from Chambers (starting on p. 32) is seriously twisted in Cosans’ subsequent analysis. Chambers says that the advances in structure occur by “very small” stages; Cosans says that Chambers “simply infers from the changes in the fossil record that evolution proceeds by what would now be called a saltationist process in which new types of organisms emerge abruptly.” Huh? On p. 92 he includes a quote from Dennett (bottom of page), and then proceeds to get it exactly backward in his analysis starting at the top of p. 93. I frankly have never seen a writer include quotes that any objective reader can see are interpreted exactly 180 degrees opposite of how the writer interprets them!

    I agree that he is leaving elbow room, as you say, for a theistic intervention. Why anyone with a lick of sense would continue to argue that these days is beyond me! But it does appear that, as in Darwin’s day, he is put off by the notion that the illustrious human race could be related to apes. Frankly, I don’t understand why that is a problem, but it sure seems to be difficult for lots of people to overcome their distaste for that reality.

  2. #2 Albatrossity
    March 19, 2009

    Both Dembski and Paul Nelson are thanked in the Acknowledgements…

    One thing that I am finding to be bizarre (I’m not yet finished with the book) is that, in at least a couple of places, he includes a quote from another author, and then proceeds to tell the reader that this quote means almost exactly the opposite of what the quote seems to be meaning. One example is on p. 33, where a quote from Chambers (starting on p. 32) is seriously twisted in Cosans’ subsequent analysis. Chambers says that the advances in structure occur by “very small” stages; Cosans says that Chambers “simply infers from the changes in the fossil record that evolution proceeds by what would now be called a saltationist process in which new types of organisms emerge abruptly.” Huh? On p. 92 he includes a quote from Dennett (bottom of page), and then proceeds to get it exactly backward in his analysis starting at the top of p. 93. I frankly have never seen a writer include quotes that any objective reader can see are interpreted exactly 180 degrees opposite of how the writer interprets them!

    I agree that he is leaving elbow room, as you say, for a theistic intervention. Why anyone with a lick of sense would continue to argue that these days is beyond me! But it does appear that, as in Darwin’s day, he is put off by the notion that the illustrious human race could be related to apes. Frankly, I don’t understand why that is a problem, but it sure seems to be difficult for lots of people to overcome their distaste for that reality.

  3. #3 muhabbet
    March 26, 2009

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  4. #4 kelebek
    March 28, 2009

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  5. #5 Chris Cosans
    November 22, 2009

    I would like to express my appreciation to everyone for reading and writing about my book. At this point I have a few thoughts that I would like to share. I think that Brian Switek spent a lot of time reading my book, but that some of its points and focus were not as apparent as I would have liked them to be. In order to make them more clear, I am making this blog on the long side.

    I would like to initially note that it is not clear where Brain Switek got what appears to be a quote of Richard Owen on theology and “the Holy Spirit”. It resembles only a little what Owen wrote on p. 34 of his 1857 paper in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society but in the published form Owen says nothing about theology. Throughout his writings, Owen generally does not refer to theology, and his 1857 paper follows this pattern. This point is important because as a Kantian Owen keeps theological and anatomical analysis methodologically more separate than many 19th biologists.

    Much of Brian Switek’s analysis seems to argue that my book does not make the case for “direct intervention of God in nature”. I would have to say that I agree with this, since that is not the book’s intention. The book argues for understanding the scopes and limits of different ways of thinking, which would be the opposite of finding or creating by force “a place where science & religion meet each other”. Although I thank Bill Dembski in the acknowledgements, I also thank other scholars such as Paul Sereno, Bob Hazen and Rick Sutter (none of whom would endorse scientists claiming God intervenes in nature) for their feedback. Bill Dembski was a graduate student in mathematics at the University of Chicago while I was a graduate student in an interdisciplinary program on science there, and we discussed an early paper I wrote on the topic.

    The book does not attempt to make a case for some sort of creationist thinking either directly or indirectly by hints. As the sub-title Beyond Darwinism and creationism suggests, the book seeks to outline a way of thinking that progresses us beyond a science vs. religion controversy. It seeks to use an internalist historical analysis of the dispute between Owen and Huxley to introduce practitioners of science to basic concepts that have been common place in the philosophy of science since Thomas Kuhn; while also introducing practitioners of the humanities to methods of analyzing reality that have been common in science since the Greeks developed dissection. I use the labels social constructivist, humanistic realist and scientific materialist to give a basic layout of different theories about truth and the philosophy of science from thinkers as diverse as Descartes, Kant, Marx, Mill, Wittgenstein, Quine, Hanson, Kuhn, Putnam, Cartwright, Desmond, Dennett, Proctor, and Toulmin. I use humanistic realism to specifically refer to theories of knowledge that build on the perspective of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Judgment as I state directly on pp. 10-12. Kant would see the natural sciences, which consider the phenomena or things-as-appearances, as distinct and autonomous from theology, which would consider noumena or things-in-themselves.

    The book seeks to go beyond the 1994 paper that was published about Owen and Huxley in Biology & Philosophy in several ways. Since the paper was first written and published, I have had the opportunity to teach numerous college and graduate courses in science, science studies and ethics, as well as to research and publish several papers on the history and philosophy of anatomy. In expanding upon and revising what was published about Owen and Huxley in 1994, the book brings in a much more developed treatment of the epistemological and ethical issues that arise in scientific practice. The 1994 paper does not give adequate weight to the merits and rationale behind social constructivism, and is not sympathetic enough towards the position of Adrian Desmond. Furthermore, in the book, I was able to include twice as many anatomical illustrations (anatomy is a visual discipline and drawings are important to grasping details). The book also brings in a direct consideration of Darwin’s Origin, and how Darwin drew upon classical economics in constructing his model of nature (of which only a portion was initially published in a refereed article). Finally, in the book I was able to bring in information from Nicolas’ Rupke’s exhaustive and comprehensive study of the life and work of Richard Owen, which did not appear until after the 1994 paper was in press.

    As far as the statement from p. 122 that Brian Switek describes as “vague” about some biologists having done work that “supports Owen’s general conclusions”, it is meant to do nothing other than to refer to the work of Adolf Portman and John Eisenberg that is then mentioned in that paragraph. It is important to remember that even if we shared a common ancestor with chimps just a few million years ago, from the perspective of people who believe that evolution can have abrupt changes (such as Richard Owen or Stephen Jay Gould), this does not dictate that we have to be especially similar to them. It turns out that bipedalism evolved first and was present in the Australopithecus before there was the expansion of the brain that Portman and Eisenberg think is so noteworthy. If the six million old hominid Sahelanthropus tchadensis was also bipedal, that would push back the anatomical trait further. In 1857 when humans were already considered to be in a different order from the great apes (Bimana vs. Quadruman), Owen’s proposal that human’s be reclassified as a separate sub-class was no more radical than Huxley’s proposal that humans be reclassified as being in the same order as the great apes. Both changes only moved humans one notch, involved a matter of convention, and still recognized we are more similar to chimps and gorillas than to any other living thing.

    As Brian Switek and some of the other commentators note, mainstream evolutionary biology has grown to incorporate ideas that are not in Darwin’s Origin. These developments make Richard Owen’s various pre-Darwinian views of evolution of greater interest today, which is perhaps why we have seen so much sympathetic scholarship on Owen over the last 20 years. Evolution is a very complex phenomena, and while Darwin did a great deal to advance our understanding of it, his account of evolution is not on the level of completeness as Harvey’s account of the heart and circulation of the blood (to be fair to Darwin evolution is more complex than circulation). Not only did Darwin not have our understanding of genetics, but his conception of heredity included an inheritance of acquired characteristics, which scientists would consider wrong today. In contrast to Owen, Darwin did not think evolution had abrupt changes (which now are believed in by people, who embrace the theory of punctuated equilibrium), and he did not emphasize developmental processes in evolution (which are now regarded as important in evo-devo theory). Furthermore, as I point out on pp. 93-95, Darwin relies upon God to create the first living things, which is not a strategy of explanation that would be published today in a scientific journal

    In the book, I expanded the account of dissections that I undertook from one page and one photograph to about four pages and three photographs, and tried to describe the anatomy at the same level of detail used by Huxley and Owen. I performed the dissection early in my research and at that point was not “hoping for” anything other than to gain a greater understanding of what was going on in Owen’s and Huxley’s scientific texts. At the point when I put the striker saw to the chimp skull, I was anticipating finding more support for Huxley’s view than panned out. The main thing I noticed (which I mention on p. 119) is that the sulci in the chimp cerebral hemispheres cut in so far that there simply is not much room for the hippocampus minor to grow. Although Owen wrote there was no hippocampus minor in 1857, once Huxley argued apes had something that could be called by that name, Owen adjusted his claim, by arguing that it existed, but was poorly developed because it only curved out laterally. Huxley never disagreed with Owen’s claim about its lateral only growth, and even showed this growth pattern in his diagrams. Since 1835 Owen had been focusing on brain size compared to body size as a key anatomical character, and as I point out on p. 107 Huxely’s main response to Owen’s use of that character to distinguish humans was the claim that blacks have brain sizes intermediate between whites and orangutans.

    With respect to Brian Switek’s reading recommendations, I would agree that the new edition of Owen’s On the Nature of the Limbs is an excellent book that anyone interested in Richard Owen should buy, read, study and mark up. The University of Chicago is also coming out with a paper back edition of Nicolaas Rupke’s comprehensive study of the life Owen’s life that I would highly recommend. Before deciding whether to read my book, I think my two articles for the online Encyclopedia of Life Sciences on the history of anatomy are good introductions to that subject (“History of Classical Anatomy” and “History of Comparative Anatomy”, which is co-authored with Michael Frampton M.D.). If the reader finds them helpful then he or she might read some of my papers on how anatomy began (“Aristotle’s Anatomical Philosophy of Nature”, Biology & Philosophy, 13: 311-339 (1998); “Galen’s Critique of Rationalist and Empiricist Anatomy”, Journal of the History of Biology, 30: 35-54 (1997); “The Experimental Foundations of Galen’s Teleology”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 29: 63-80 (1998)). Finally, I would recommend that anyone, who is interested in understanding perception and what it means for science to be true, read the classic texts of Descartes’ Discourse on Method, Kant’s Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics, Aristotle’s On the Soul, Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolution and Hanson’s Patterns of Discovery. An excellent article that would give the reader more background on the conceptual issues at play in Darwin’s Origin is John Cornell’s “Newton of the Grass Blade?”, which was published in the top history of science journal ISIS in 1986 (77: 405-421). For a sample of post-modern accounts of science you might read Donna Haraway’s Primate Visions as well as Latour and Woolgar’s Laboratory Life (but make sure you wear all black, smoke and drink coffee while reading or you might not experience them in the right way).

    On a final note, I would like to also agree with Brain Switek’s comments that my book asks the reader to consider a large number of different ideas from various thinkers. While this can be challenging at times, I believe it is a necessary obstacle if scholars are to progress beyond thinking in terms of a polarized and simplistic controversy between science and religion every time we consider evolution, and thereby go beyond Darwinism and creationism.

    Chris Cosans

  6. #6 Chris Cosans
    November 22, 2009

    I would like to comment on the suggestion that my quote analysis on pp. 32 and 92 is 180 degrees opposite of the quotes. I would ask the reader to look at the passages. Chambers clearly thought that parents of one species could in one generation have off-spring of a different species, which from our perspective seems to a big jump. I think many readers could see the Dennett quote on p. 92 as claiming that Darwin’s theory helped give a mechanistic explanation of life.

    I will admit that I have an article that any reader will find references to on internet searches that is titled “Was Darwin a Creationist”, which does in fact ask the reader to think of Darwin in a way that is 180 degrees opposite of “conventional wisdom”. Before judging that claim, though I would ask that the reader read my article. I am trained as both an anatomist and a historian of science, and part of what historians do is help us to see complexities in older texts that may not fit with our common notions about their authors.

  7. #7 Chris Cosans
    January 17, 2010

    I would like to express my appreciation to everyone for reading and writing about my book. At this point I have a few thoughts that I would like to share. I think that Brian Switek spent a lot of time reading my book, but that some of its points and focus were not as apparent to him as I would have liked them to be. In order to make them more clear, I am making this blog on the long side.

    I would like to initially note that it is not clear where Brain Switek got what appears to be a quote of Richard Owen on theology and “the Holy Spirit”. It resembles only a little what Owen wrote on p. 34 of his 1857 paper in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society but in the published form Owen says nothing about theology. Throughout his anatomical writings, Owen generally does not refer to theology, and his 1857 paper follows this pattern. This point is important because as a Kantian Owen keeps theological and anatomical analysis methodologically more separate than many 19th biologists.

    Much of Brian Switek’s analysis seems to argue that my book does not make the case for “direct intervention of God in nature”. I would have to say that I agree with this, since that is not the book’s intention. The book argues for understanding the scopes and limits of different ways of thinking, which would be the opposite of finding or creating by force “a place where science & religion meet each other”. Although I thank Bill Dembski in the acknowledgements, I also thank other scholars such as Paul Sereno, Bob Hazen and Rick Sutter (none of whom would endorse scientists claiming God intervenes in nature) for their feedback. Bill Dembski was a graduate student in mathematics at the University of Chicago while I was a graduate student in an interdisciplinary program on science there, and we discussed an early paper I wrote on the topic.

    The book does not attempt to make a case for some sort of creationist thinking either directly or indirectly by hints. As the sub-title Beyond Darwinism and creationism suggests, the book seeks to outline a way of thinking that progresses us beyond a science vs. religion controversy. It seeks to use an internalist historical analysis of the dispute between Owen and Huxley to introduce practitioners of science to basic concepts that have been common place in the philosophy of science since Thomas Kuhn; while also introducing practitioners of the humanities to methods of analyzing reality that have been common in science since the Greeks developed dissection. I use the labels social constructivist, humanistic realist and scientific materialist to give a basic layout of different theories about truth and the philosophy of science from thinkers as diverse as Descartes, Kant, Marx, Mill, Wittgenstein, Quine, Hanson, Kuhn, Putnam, Cartwright, Desmond, Dennett, Proctor, and Toulmin. I use humanistic realism to specifically refer to theories of knowledge that build on the perspective of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Judgment as I state directly on pp. 10-12. Kant would see the natural sciences, which consider the phenomena or things-as-appearances, as distinct and autonomous from theology, which would consider noumena or things-in-themselves.

    The book seeks to go beyond the 1994 paper that was published about Owen and Huxley in Biology & Philosophy in several ways. Since the paper was first written and published, I have had the opportunity to teach numerous college and graduate courses in science, science studies and ethics, as well as to research and publish several papers on the history and philosophy of anatomy. In expanding upon and revising what was published about Owen and Huxley in 1994, the book brings in a much more developed treatment of the epistemological and ethical issues that arise in scientific practice. The 1994 paper does not give adequate weight to the merits and rationale behind social constructivism, and is not sympathetic enough towards the position of Adrian Desmond. Furthermore, in the book, I was able to include twice as many anatomical illustrations (anatomy is a visual discipline and drawings are important to grasping details). The book also brings in a direct consideration of Darwin’s Origin, and how Darwin drew upon classical economics in constructing his model of nature (of which only a portion was initially published in a refereed article). Finally, in the book I was able to bring in information from Nicolas’ Rupke’s exhaustive and comprehensive study of the life and work of Richard Owen, which did not appear until after the 1994 paper was in press.

    As far as the statement from p. 122 that Brian Switek describes as “vague” about some biologists having done work that “supports Owen’s general conclusions”, it is meant to do nothing other than to refer to the work of Adolf Portman and John Eisenberg that is then mentioned in that paragraph. It is important to remember that even if we shared a common ancestor with chimps just a few million years ago, from the perspective of people who believe that evolution can have abrupt changes (such as Richard Owen or Stephen Jay Gould), this does not dictate that we have to be especially similar to them. It turns out that bipedalism evolved first and was present in the Australopithecus before there was the expansion of the brain that Portman and Eisenberg think is so noteworthy. If the six million old hominid Sahelanthropus tchadensis was also bipedal, that would push back the anatomical trait further. In 1857 when humans were already considered to be in a different order from the great apes (Bimana vs. Quadruman), Owen’s proposal that human’s be reclassified as a separate sub-class was no more radical than Huxley’s proposal that humans be reclassified as being in the same order as the great apes. Both changes only moved humans one notch, involved a matter of convention, and still recognized we are more similar to chimps and gorillas than to any other living thing.

    As Brian Switek and some of the other commentators note, mainstream evolutionary biology has grown to incorporate ideas that are not in Darwin’s Origin. These developments make Richard Owen’s various pre-Darwinian views of evolution of greater interest today, which is perhaps why we have seen so much sympathetic scholarship on Owen over the last 20 years. Evolution is a very complex phenomena, and while Darwin did a great deal to advance our understanding of it, his account of evolution is not on the level of completeness as Harvey’s account of the heart and circulation of the blood (to be fair to Darwin evolution is more complex than circulation). Not only did Darwin not have our understanding of genetics, but his conception of heredity included an inheritance of acquired characteristics, which scientists would consider wrong today. In contrast to Owen, Darwin did not think evolution had abrupt changes (which now are believed in by people, who embrace the theory of punctuated equilibrium), and he did not emphasize developmental processes in evolution (which are now regarded as important in evo-devo theory). Furthermore, as I point out on pp. 93-95, Darwin relies upon God to create the first living things, which is not a strategy of explanation that would be published today in a scientific journal

    In the book, I expanded the account of dissections that I undertook from one page and one photograph to about four pages and three photographs, and tried to describe the anatomy at the same level of detail used by Huxley and Owen. I performed the dissection early in my research and at that point was not “hoping for” anything other than to gain a greater understanding of what was going on in Owen’s and Huxley’s scientific texts. At the point when I put the striker saw to the chimp skull, I was anticipating finding more support for Huxley’s view than panned out. The main thing I noticed (which I mention on p. 119) is that the sulci in the chimp cerebral hemispheres cut in so far that there simply is not much room for the hippocampus minor to grow. Although Owen wrote there was no hippocampus minor in 1857, once Huxley argued apes had something that could be called by that name, Owen adjusted his claim, by arguing that it existed, but was poorly developed because it only curved out laterally. Huxley never disagreed with Owen’s claim about its lateral only growth, and even showed this growth pattern in his diagrams. Since 1835 Owen had been focusing on brain size compared to body size as a key anatomical character, and as I point out on p. 107 Huxely’s main response to Owen’s use of that character to distinguish humans was the claim that blacks have brain sizes intermediate between whites and orangutans.

    With respect to Brian Switek’s reading recommendations, I would agree that the new edition of Owen’s On the Nature of the Limbs is an excellent book that anyone interested in Richard Owen should buy, read, study and mark up. The University of Chicago is also coming out with a paper back edition of Nicolaas Rupke’s comprehensive study of the life Owen’s life that I would highly recommend. Before deciding whether to read my book, I think my two articles for the online Encyclopedia of Life Sciences on the history of anatomy are good introductions to that subject (“History of Classical Anatomy” and “History of Comparative Anatomy”, which is co-authored with Michael Frampton M.D.). If the reader finds them helpful then he or she might read some of my more academic work. Finally, I would recommend that anyone, who is interested in understanding perception and what it means for science to be true, read the classic texts of Descartes’ Discourse on Method, Kant’s Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics, Aristotle’s On the Soul, Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolution and Hanson’s Patterns of Discovery. An excellent article that would give the reader more background on the conceptual issues at play in Darwin’s Origin is John Cornell’s “Newton of the Grass Blade?,” which was published in the top history of science journal ISIS in 1986 (77: 405-421). For a sample of post-modern accounts of science you might read Donna Haraway’s Primate Visions as well as Latour and Woolgar’s Laboratory Life (but make sure you wear all black, smoke and drink coffee while reading or you might not experience them in the right way).

    On a final note, I would like to also agree with Brain Switek’s comments that my book asks the reader to consider a large number of different ideas from various thinkers. While this can be challenging at times, I believe it is a necessary obstacle if scholars are to progress beyond thinking in terms of a polarized and simplistic controversy between science and religion every time we consider evolution, and thereby go beyond Darwinism and creationism.

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