History and evolution. Edited by Matthew H. Nitecki and Doris V. Nitecki. Albany State University of New York Press. 1992. VIII + 269 pp. $16.95 (paper)код для вставкиСкачать
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 90:129-137 (1993) Book Reviews HISTORY AND EVOLUTION. Edited by Matthew H. Nitecki and Doris V. Nitecki. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1992. viii + 269 pp. $16.95 (paper). This is a book about whether and to what extent the study of evolution, usually considered a science, can be likened to history, usually considered particularistic and nongeneralizing. The 13 contributors are weakly dominated by biologists of various kinds (ecologists, zoologists, botanists, paleontologists); five historians/philosophers of science are represented. There are no physical anthropologists. The book consists of ten rather disparate essays, and a n introduction by Matthew Nitecki, loosely organized into three sections that proceed from the most general issues to the most specific. Nitecki’s introduction is, to say the least, peculiar; I return to it below. The first section (“Methodologies of Historical Explanations”) comprises papers by Richards, Laudan, Hull, and Ereshefsky. Robert Richards argues that science in general, and the life sciences in particular, are “narratives,” that the contrast between history and science is overdrawn, and that history is, in effect, “scientific” because, like science, it explains things. Rachel Laudan takes almost exactly the opposite view. Although both evolution (paleontology) and history deal with past events and processes, this superficial similarity masks significant differences in scale and process, resolution, and rates of change that preclude any real methodological parallels. Both these essays are rather naive. Not so the last two, by science historians David Hull and Marc Ereshefsky. Hull rejects outright any significant parallels between evolution and history, and suggests that Hempel’s covering law model cannot be reconciled with explanation in history, which he regards as a chronicle of particular events. He proposes what he calls the “perpendicular-circumstance model” to accommodate historical explanation. Ereshefsky draws a distinction t3 1993 WILEY-LISS. INC. between experimental and non-experimental science, with the former being characterized by universal and ahistorical generalizing explanations, and the latter by a temporal ordering of events and by reliance upon particular circumstance explanations. Evolutionary biology is neither “scientific” nor “historical,” although there are elements of each in its methodologies. The second section (“Historical Explanations and Evolutionary Biology”) has to do with models of the processes that are taken to underlie paleontology and history. Douglas Futuyma is concerned with the reconstruction of phylogenies, and the effects of differences between the paradigms of evolutionary biology (as crystallized in the “modern synthesis”) and population biology (where all the “action” is). Evolutionary biology is seen as underaxiomatized; there are no operational definitions of many key concepts and terms, and consequently no empirical “ t e e t h in tests of selectionist hypotheses, adaptive radiations, irreversibility, etc. David Kitts wants to “confirm” evolutionary theory using paleontological datano mean feat, in my opinion, because of the near-total absence of the kinds of operational definitions that might eventually allow adoption of a confirmationist research protocol. The last section (“Historical Science and the Philosophy of History”) deals with aspects of the philosophy of history (e.g., whether history, science “progress,” what criteria measure scientific progress) and, more specifically, with various similarities in Marxist and Darwinian evolutionary theory. In a tightly argued paper, Michael Ruse compares social history, the history of science, and the development of evolutionary paradigms, to argue that progressive development in society, science, and biology means three very different things-the parallels are so superficial a s to be meaningless. While there is overlap at the level of the metaphysic (these ideas are, after all, almost exclusively the products of mid-19thcentury European thought), scientific change outstrips social change, and is more 130 BOOK REVIEWS clearly goal directed. The notion of progressive development in evolutionary biology is universally rejected-at least in the anglophone research traditions (Brace, 1988). In what is, unfortunately, the only anthropological essay in the book, Robert Boyd and Peter Richardson try to identify and fail to understand parallels between cultural and biological evolution. Garland Allen compares the works of Marx and Darwin and identifies a number of striking parallels in respect of their biases and preconceptions about the nature of process in the social and natural worlds. Among these are shared realist ontologies and (dialectical) materialist biases, the conviction that material conditions determine perceptions of reality, what would today be called a “systems perspective,” and the idea that change arises from inherent contradictions in the system, rather than from external forces. However, while Marx was sympathetic to a Darwinist view of social evolution as a n outgrowth of biological evolution, he clearly recognized that history operated according to its own laws and could not be reduced to biological principles. The last paper, by Lawrence Slobodkin, shows how evolution can be used to explain the ontogeny of science, and to make a case for the evolution of scientific principles. Thus, while there is admittedly a generalizable “history” to science (or, more accurately, to individual sciences), this “history” is more of a n extended metaphor than anything else. In sum, the book examines the philosophical underpinnings of historical and evolutionary studies, the meanings attached to human and evolutionary histories, evolutionary approaches to the analysis of his- tory, historical approaches to the analysis of evolutionary paradigms, and the logic of explanation in historical and life science fields. It does not, however, make a strong case for Nitecki’s assertion that evolutionary biology and history face the same kinds of problems, raise the same kinds of questions, and deal with the same processes in basically similar ways. In fact, the introduction is so much at variance with the books contents that I came to wonder whether Nitecki and I were reading the same text. History and Evolution is a contribution to the emerging field of evolutionary epistemology. A more sophisticated treatment of this interesting topic is to be found in Issues in Evolutionary Epistemology (Hahlweg and Hooker, 19891, also published by SUNY Press as part of their Philosophy and Biology Series. Physical anthropologists (especially human paleontologists) should read books like these. If they did, then maybe they wouldn’t be so na’ive about the inferential basis for their knowledge claims. This is not just a problem with physical anthropology, of course. It applies to any field defined by its subject matter, rather than by its intellectual competence to deal with it. PRIMATOLOGY TODAY. Edited by Akiyoshi Ehara, Tasuku Kimura, Osamu Takenaka, and Mitsuo Iwamoto. New York: Elsevier. 1991. xxiii + 732 pp. $217.25 (cloth). ety in Nagoya and Kyoto, July 1990. It is a brick of a book, the denser for the fact that it consists of longish (2+ pp.) abstracts of 224 separate pieces of scholarly work spanning the breadth of primatology. As one would expect, there is some unevenness in the quality of the chapters; a few might have benefitted from a vetting by a native English speaker. These are rather minor de- Primatology Today consists of the abstracts of research presented at the 13th meeting of the International Primate Soci- G.A. CLARK Department of Anthropology Arizona State University Tempe, Arizona LITERATURE CITED Brace CL (1988) Punctuationism, cladistics and the legacy of Medieval Neoplatonism. Hum. Evol. 3:121-138. Hahlweg K, Hooker CA (eds.) (1989) Issues in Evolutionary Epistemology. Albany: State University of New York Press.