Boasian phrenology overthrown

It’s not only The Age, it’s also The New York Times that is being forced to recognize the obvious: A New Look at Old Data May Discredit a Theory on Race. It now appears that the data used by Franz Boas, mentor of the notorious intellectual charlatan and sexual adventuress Margaret Mead, did not at all support his influential claim that identification of race by examination of skeletal remains was impossible because of the effect of environmental factors on such things as head shape. It appears instead that the man cooked the books to get the result he wanted for ideological reasons.

7 thoughts on “Boasian phrenology overthrown”

  1. Boas claimed that the skulls
    Boas claimed that the skulls of American-born children of European immigrants were so markedly different from those of their parents that it proved that environment was more important in shaping physical type than heredity, and therefore that race was a false concept. According to the Times article, this counter-intuitive claim was then swallowed by the whole anthropology profession:

    “Dr. Thomas said that ‘once we anthropologists said race doesn’t exist, we have ignored it since then.’ In that context, the reanalysis of Boas’s data ‘really does have far-reaching ramifications,’ he said.”

    It’s simply incredible that on the basis of this one study, which had never been re-examined until now, anthropologists claimed as an established scientific truth that race doesn’t exist.

  2. Margaret Mead’s “study” on
    Margaret Mead’s “study” on sexuality among Samoans—her doctoral thesis I believe—is another one of those single studies confirming liberal orthodoxy that stands unchallenged for decades. She supposedly showed that native cultures have attitudes about sexual morality that mirror “free love”. It wasn’t uncommon, especially in the first half of the 20th century, for a single study confirming liberal/modern orthodoxy to close out all further discussion by scientists on a topic. Nobel prizes are given out for scientists who trump up results that confirm liberalism, and the careers of those who challenge them are ruined. In Mead’s case (as in Kinsey’s a few decades later) the study was a complete fraud: E. Michael Jones documented some of these in _Degenerate Moderns_ about fifteen years ago, if I recall correctly.

    Similar things occur in science regularly with anything related to modernism, especially in anything related to race, human origins, or sexuality. The dating of the “KBS Tuff,” a single sample of rock supposedly “proving” human descent from australeopithicus in Africa (speaking from memory so I may have details wrong) and the literal hiding away in drawers, for 80-ish years, of fossils demonstrating the Cambrian Explosion (challenging Darwinism) are two more examples. The “only 3% difference” between Chimpanzee DNA and human DNA is one that still holds sway despite the fact that the metric is meaningless.

    I am sure in some cases there are outright frauds, but as Thomas Khun points out just the fact that a study “proves” some orthodoxy makes it likely to be accepted while others are ignored. Some folks from Bob Sugenis to the postmoderns like David Bloor interpret this as a demonstration that all of modern science is bunk. The beauty of that is that if it is all bunk we are free to come to whatever conclusions we want, and hey, guess what: free love, race is meaningless, etc. Isn’t equivocation great?

  3. Hey, did you know that there
    Hey, did you know that there is only 15% biological difference between humans and spiders? Both are 85% water, of course.

    Suppose instead of water we used a different metric. A human being is only 0.001% different from a spider: both are 99.999% empty space.

    Hey, spiders and humans are both composed of exactly the same thing: protons, neutrons, and electrons! The concept of spiderness versus humanness is a fraud!

  4. I always thought that when
    I always thought that when people started measuring heads it was a sign that they have gone off the deep end. True?

  5. Jim Carver wrote: “I always
    Jim Carver wrote: “I always thought that when people started measuring heads it was a sign that they have gone off the deep end.”

    Why would studying the size and shape of the human skull be more objectionable than studying any other aspect of nature?

  6. I don’t see anything
    I don’t see anything intrinsically irrational about doing the measuring. It is the polemical reasons for doing it, the reasoning-about-the-measuring, that is off the deep end.


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