Darwin thesis

I had an invitation to go to Sweden to participate in a Nobel symposium. And I decided this was the venue, this was the place, where I wanted to announce the new species. And I thought how substantial an impact this is going to have, and I went to this Nobel symposium, and there were very few people at the symposium who knew it was going to be announced. There were only two or three people in the audience who knew that it was going to be a new species. When I made the announcement, you could hear a pin drop in the room. I mean, here was assembled 15 of the world’s specialists in human evolutionary studies. Richard Leakey was there, Mary Leakey was there, a whole host of people, from prestigious universities, who were published widely, and here I was — 1978 — I was at that time a young scholar, 35 years old, making this announcement. And furthermore, I presented a new view of how the family tree looked. I thought that this was going to generate enormous discussion. I finished my paper, and there was a question-and-answer period, and nobody asked a question. They broke for tea, people left the room, and only one scientist came up to me afterwards, and said, “It’s unbelievable.” They were so taken aback by this that they didn’t even want to discuss it. During the week’s discussion, whenever people would start debating a family tree, I would say, “What about my family tree? What about what I’m suggesting?” Some people deliberately tried to ignore it and not consider it because it really upset their views of human evolution. They found it very difficult to subsume that into their view of human origins. So this was a high-risk time in my life. We keep going back to the strength which I had throughout my career. I must admit it was one of the times when I really had to dig deep, take a deep breath, and say, “I believe I’m right. I believe that I will be vindicated. Lucy will be accepted as  Australopithecus afarensis , and she will alter everyone’s views of how we got here.”

Variation, in contrast, is nonessential and accidental. A triangle illustrates essentialism: all triangles have the same fundamental characteristics and are sharply delimited against quadrangles or any other geometric figures. An intermediate between a triangle and a quadrangle is inconceivable. Typological thinking, therefore, is unable to accommodate variation and gives rise to a misleading conception of human races. For the typologist, Caucasians, Africans, Asians or Inuits are types that conspicuously differ from other human ethnic groups. This mode of thinking leads to racism. (Although the ignorant misapplication of evolutionary theory known as “social Darwinism” often gets blamed for justifications of racism, adherence to the disproved essentialism preceding Darwin in fact can lead to a racist viewpoint.)

Darwin thesis

darwin thesis


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