Pat Shipman - The Evolution of Racism

"The only explanation for his failure to observe and understand the visible evidence can be the power of his various [pre-existing] beliefs." (p. 91)
Without reading the subtitle, and/or a summary, the main title for this book will possibly mislead a potential reader. For instance, items such as slavery or the Civil War are mentioned only in passing. The real focus of this work is the evolution of racism and the changing concept of race within science.

Shipman is a slick writer. She writes with clarity, conciseness, and purpose. She begins with Darwin and brings us into the 1990s. Much has happened since The Evolution of Racism was first published in 1994, but the book remains an enlightening read.

Included are several mini-biographies on some of the scientists involved in the race debate. Among them are Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Ernst Haeckel, Rudolf Virchow, Julian Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ashley Montagu, William Fagg, Carleton Coon, William Sheldon, Carleton Putnam, Sherwood Washburn, and David Wasserman.

The Evolution of Racism is an important book tracking the changing views over time and the key players within science that have fostered them. It is a must read for anyone interested in the topic, eugenics, the history of science, or the relatively recent posturing on the potential genetic contributions toward criminal behavior. If you like a good scientific debate, presented from a balanced and fair perspective, then look no further.

"Quiet unanimity--complacent agreement--would be a far more dangerous sign in the face of the handicaps under which any studies of race have been conducted in recent decades. Better to struggle honestly with such difficult topics than to acquiesce into ill-founded certainty too soon." (p. 270)
from the publisher:
In an intellectually engaging narrative that mixes science and history, theories and personalities, Pat Shipman asks the question: Can we have legitimate scientific investigations of differences among humans without sounding racist?

Through the original controversy over evolutionary theory in Darwin's time; the corruption of evolutionary theory into eugenics; the conflict between laboratory research in genetics and fieldwork in physical anthropology and biology; and the continuing controversies over the heritability of intelligence, criminal behavior, and other traits, the book explains both prewar eugenics and postwar taboos on letting the insights of genetics and evolution into the study of humanity.

Pat Shipman is an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. She has won numerous awards and honors for her writing, including the 1997 Rhône-Poulenc Prize for The Wisdom of the Bones (coauthored with Alan Walker) and the Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Science for Taking Wing, which was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and a New York Times notable book of the year (1998).

The volume is 'must' reading. Shipman gives readers a compelling discussion and candidly asks: 'Have we the courage and intelligence to face the truth about ourselves?' --Kirkus Review

Shipman has written a courageous, thought-provoking and elegant book. --Los Angeles Times

This smoothly written book is a welcome addition to intellectual history. --New York Times Book Review