Book Progress #11

Even though my brain was a bit heat- and math-addled by the time I got home from class last night (I spent all day at a baseball game the organization I work for took us out to and then spent the time between 6 and 8:30 PM in math class) I still managed to add a few more historical tidbits to my book. (I didn't expect to get so sunburned at the ballpark. I seem to have developed a strange sort of countershading where my arms are red on top and white on the bottom.)

The first new section I added dealt with some of the earliest discoveries of fossil humans in Europe, particularly the "Red Lady of Paviland" and the specimens found at Brixham cave. Previously I had started my narrative of paleoanthropological discovery with the unearthing of the first Neanderthal specimens but I soon learned that this essentially ignored the early debate over ancient human remains and the major sea-change that occurred in 1858-1859. Before human evolution could be discussed the antiquity of humans had to be established, and the age of humans finally got a solid fossil marker in 1858.

I also have found that I underestimated the importance of the debate over language prior to the discovery of "Java Man" and the splitting/professionalization of anthropological disciplines. Before Dubois' discovery in Indonesia there were no fossils that were indisputably "intermediate" between our species and apes and the debate of our relationship to other primates drew evidence from living primates, studies of language, and the habits of more "primitive" people. (Indeed, even though the Great Chain of Being had been discarded as a way to organize life, the idea that apes, "lower" humans, and "civilized" humans could be ranked in such a way to show the evolution of language hung on until the close of the 19th century.) Given that language was believed to be closely tied to intelligence and conscious thought the debate over whether animals had language or not was very important to evolutionary considerations until these discussions ultimately fizzled out when cultural anthropology and physical anthropology split (although the issue came back with a vengeance in the 1960's and 1970's). If you want to have a look at the work at a figure central to the debate, download R.L. Garner's book The Speech of Monkeys.

Both new sections require more information and detail but I feel that they strengthen what I'm trying to achieve with the book. Tying together the history of life on earth with the history of discovery that has provided us with our current understanding can be difficult at times, but if I can successfully achieve my goal I think the product will be much stronger than a book that ignored history or a book that acts as a historical time-capsule disconnected from the present. I can't say that I'm saying anything that is especially novel, most if not all the information I'm working with has been available for quite some time, but I feel that the work of historians of science and scientists themselves requires a more popular synthesis. The book I'm writing is something of a hybrid, then, and I surely hope that the "survival of the fittest" in the present marketplace ends up favoring it.

(New sections are in bold)


Huxley's rejoinder to Wilberforce at Oxford - Darrow puts Bryan in the hot seat - Behe's astrological mishap - One long argument - Flickering candles in the dark - Monstrous myths - Evolutionary archetypes -


Darwin's problems with paleontology - Evolution, sure, but natural selection? - Gaudry and Hipparion - Kowalevsky and Anchitherium - "A gift from the Old world to the New" - Marsh's "toy horse" - Huxley buried under bones - Ladder of horse evolution - Putting the litoptern before the horse


Koch's Missourium - The king of the seas flees to Europe - Maybe Basilosaurus, maybe not - Huxley's overlooked insight - Fast & furious fossil finds -

Birds and Dinosaurs

Noah's ravens vacation in New England - Hitchcock's Jurassic birds - A little fossil birdie told me about evolution - A misplaced feather - From London to Berlin - The source of Huxley's inspiration - Megalosaurus = an ossified, fossilized, underdeveloped chick - The unimportance of Archaeopteryx - Hypsilophodon as a good transition - Problems with the Pachypoda - How did we get such beautiful fossils? - Ornithosuchus or theropods? - The case of the missing clavicles - 75 years of pseudoscuhian narrative - Barnum Brown's forgotten Daptosaurus - Ostrom's "terrible claw" - "Tetrapteryx" and Microraptor

Human Evolution

Tyson's dissection of a "pigmie" - A chimp's place in the Chain - Where are the "missing links?" - White's 1799 attempt to save the Chain - The intellectual Rubicon - Without language there is no thought - Glorified apes and lowly humans - Buckland's "Red Lady" - Cave contamination - Brixham cave - The Neanderthal that was mistaken for an Irishman - The Neanderthal fossils get named - Dubois goes to Indonesia - Skull of an ape, leg of a human - "Java Man" - The transitional gibbon-man - The discovery of "Peking Man" - Dart's Australopithecus - An irrelevant ape - Le Gros Clark to the rescue - Osborn vs Bryan - Harold Cook's Mystery Tooth - Hesperopithecus = Prosthenops - What makes us human? - Ask a stupid question... - Ape-like humans, not human-like apes - Caught in the Chain


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