Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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I 170
Racism/Science/History/Gould: In the second half of the 19th century, the theory of phylogeny being repeated by ontogenesis was the best guide for biologists to divide living beings into higher and lower forms. According to this theory, the children repeated in the growth earlier developmental stages: embryos have gill slits, like a fish, later a three-chambered heart like a reptile, and later the tail of a mammal. > Recapitulation theory.
One variant of this thinking is Louis Agassiz' "triple parallelism", unity of paleontology, comparative anatomy, and embryology. They referred to actual precursors of primitive organisms. (1) ((s) Gould, however, does not call Agassiz at any point racist. He, on the other hand, describes him as an opponent of racial discrimination.)
In this context, the physician John Langdon-Down had 1866 (2) the idea of his misleading realization: Some of the Caucasian idiots must represent a standstill in development. He also spoke of "Ethiopian variant", "copies of white Negroes", "Malaysian variant".
I 169
Gould: This is an interesting episode in the history of scientific racism. For Down, the terms "mongoloid" and "idiot" were purely scientific. Three levels: 1. idiot: could never master the spoken language. 2. Imbecile: could speak but not write,
3. Debile: considerable scientific discussion: "moron" (Greek: foolish). (3)


1. L. Agassiz (1862). Contributions to the natural history of United States. Vol. 4. Boston.
2. J. H. L. Langdon-Down, Observations on an ethnic classification of idiots. In: Clinical Lecture Reports, London Hospital. 3, 1866, S. 259–62.)
3. Langdon-Down ibid.


_____________
Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Gould I
Stephen Jay Gould
The Panda’s Thumb. More Reflections in Natural History, New York 1980
German Edition:
Der Daumen des Panda Frankfurt 2009

Gould II
Stephen Jay Gould
Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes. Further Reflections in Natural History, New York 1983
German Edition:
Wie das Zebra zu seinen Streifen kommt Frankfurt 1991

Gould III
Stephen Jay Gould
Full House. The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, New York 1996
German Edition:
Illusion Fortschritt Frankfurt 2004

Gould IV
Stephen Jay Gould
The Flamingo’s Smile. Reflections in Natural History, New York 1985
German Edition:
Das Lächeln des Flamingos Basel 1989


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2020-02-25
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