Owen's Ape and Darwin's Bulldog: Beyond Darwinism and Creationism

Overview

A few months after Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, Thomas Huxley challenged Richard Owen at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and set off a debate about apes, brains, and human evolution. Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog explores that first debate about Darwin's theory of evolution.

Huxley, a rising star in comparative anatomy and a protégé of Darwin, stood in contrast to Owen, the driving force behind the creation of the British...

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Overview

A few months after Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, Thomas Huxley challenged Richard Owen at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and set off a debate about apes, brains, and human evolution. Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog explores that first debate about Darwin's theory of evolution.

Huxley, a rising star in comparative anatomy and a protégé of Darwin, stood in contrast to Owen, the driving force behind the creation of the British Museum of Natural History. Owen's perspective was based on careful anatomical observations and on an interest in theories of evolution that had been proposed prior to Darwin's Origin. Huxley, soon to be known as Darwin's bulldog, built his case against Owen based in part on a different philosophy of how to practice science. In investigating the origins of this dispute, Christopher E. Cosans considers a tangled context of ideas stemming from the works of Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Thomas Malthus, Robert Chambers, Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Adrian Desmond, Nancy Cartwright, and Hilary Putnam.

Conventional wisdom is that Huxley discredited Owen, yet this book makes clear that Owen's anatomical claims had much more support than most historians and philosophers of science assume. Owen believed in developmental theories of evolution, which were precursors to modern evo-devo theory.

The Owen and Huxley debate is a perfect study for understanding relationships between science, ethics, and society. The story sheds light as well on current philosophical notions of scientific practice and how they influence our understanding of the history of science.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Quarterly Review of Biology
Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog sheds new light on one of the most celebrated episodes in the history of evolutionary biology. Cosans’s careful analysis draws on history, philosophy, and even his own dissections, to reveal a complexity hitherto underestimated.Frederick R. Davis, History, Florida State University,
Tallahassee, QUARTERLY REVIEW OF BIOLOGY, Volume 84.4 Dec. 2009

— Frederick R. Davis, History, Florida State University,Tallahassee

Journal of Anthropological Research

"Cosans's analysis is thought-provoking and informative, exemplifying an overall point that has been increasingly accepted: a scientist's interpretation of what s/he observes is best understood within its historic context." —Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 66, 2010

Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie

"In conclusion, the reviewer recommends this book strongly for all specialists and students, including palaeontologists and palaeoanthropologists." —Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie, 11, 5/6, 2009

Evo Edu Outreach

"Owen's Ape and Darwin's Bulldog introduces a brilliant, new and insightful perspective into the philosophy behind Richard Owen's methods and reasoning." —Evo Edu Outreach, 2010

Jason Scott Robert

"Part history of science, part history of philosophy, part philosophy of science—but all in the service of the pragmatic dimensions of science in society. I know of no other book quite like this one." —Jason Scott Robert, Arizona State University

Michael Ruse

"A fascinating new look at the Owen-Huxley controversy [that] gives us important insight into a hitherto thinly discussed aspect of the Darwinian Revolution. I much enjoyed reading it and learnt from virtually every page." —Michael Ruse, author of Darwinism and Its Discontents

QUARTERLY REVIEW OF BIOLOGY - Frederick R. Davis

Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog sheds new light on one of the most celebrated episodes in the history of evolutionary biology. Cosans’s careful analysis draws on history, philosophy, and even his own dissections, to reveal a complexity hitherto underestimated.Frederick R. Davis, History, Florida State University,
Tallahassee, QUARTERLY REVIEW OF BIOLOGY, Volume 84.4 Dec. 2009

From the Publisher
"Cosans's analysis is thought-provoking and informative, exemplifying an overall point that has been increasingly accepted: a scientist's interpretation of what s/he observes is best understood within its historic context." —Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 66, 2010

"A fascinating new look at the Owen-Huxley controversy [that] gives us important insight into a hitherto thinly discussed aspect of the Darwinian Revolution. I much enjoyed reading it and learnt from virtually every page." —Michael Ruse, author of Darwinism and Its Discontents

Owen’s Ape and Darwin’s Bulldog sheds new light on one of the most celebrated episodes in the history of evolutionary biology. Cosans’s careful analysis draws on history, philosophy, and even his own dissections, to reveal a complexity hitherto underestimated.Frederick R. Davis, History, Florida State University,
Tallahassee, QUARTERLY REVIEW OF BIOLOGY, Volume 84.4 Dec. 2009

"In conclusion, the reviewer recommends this book strongly for all specialists and students, including palaeontologists and palaeoanthropologists." —Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie, 11, 5/6, 2009

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253220516
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2009
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher E. Cosans teaches philosophy at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: On the Origin of the Darwin Wars
Analytic Table of Contents

1. The Parable of the Hippopotamus Major
2. Philosophical Anatomy and the Human Soul
3. Evolution and the Discovery of the Gorilla
4. Does the Brain Distinguish Human from Beast?
5. Economics and Values on the Eve of the Origin
6. The Values and Metaphysics of Darwin's Origin
7. Why Owen Rejected Darwin's Analysis
8. Huxley's Hippocampus Counter-Attack
9. The Dissection of a Metaphysical Dispute
10. Ethics, Experience, and Truth

Appendix 1. Excerpt from Owen's 1851 Article on Ape and Human Brain Size
Appendix 2. The Concluding Pages of Owen's Anatomy of Vertebrates (1868) on Evolution, the Origins of Life, Metaphysics, and Theology

Bibliography
Index

Indiana University Press

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 22, 2008

    Comments from the cover of the book

    ¿A fascinating new look at the Owen-Huxley controversy [that] gives us important insight into a hitherto thinly discussed aspect of the<BR/>Darwinian Revolution. I much enjoyed reading it and learnt from<BR/>virtually every page.¿ <BR/>¿Michael Ruse, author of Darwinism and Its Discontents <BR/><BR/>"In his lucid analysis of the ferocious debate between Darwin's defender and his nemesis, Cosans forces us to alter our presumption. He compels us to recognize that the different philosophical assumptions of the antagonists render supposed facts quite liquid. His splendid achievement not only causes us to reassess our historical beliefs but to reform our conception of the scientific enterprise." <BR/>¿Robert J. Richards, Morris Fishbein Professor of the History of Science, The University of Chicago<BR/><BR/>"Part history of science, part history of philosophy, part philosophy of<BR/>science¿but all in the service of the pragmatic dimensions of science in<BR/>society. I know of no other book quite like this one." <BR/>¿Jason Scott Robert, Center for Biology and Science, Arizona State University <BR/><BR/>With the debate between Richard Owen and Thomas Huxley on the<BR/>differences between the ape and human brains as its focus, this book<BR/>explores some of the ways in which philosophical ideas and scientific<BR/>practice influenced the discussion of evolution in the years before and<BR/>after Darwin's publication of Origin of Species in 1859. It also shows<BR/>how this episode can shed light on current philosophical notions of<BR/>scientific practice and how they in turn influence our understanding of<BR/>the history of science. In investigating the origins of this dispute,<BR/>the book considers a tangled context of ideas stemming from the works of<BR/>Aristotle, René Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Malthus, Robert<BR/>Chambers, Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Adrian Desmond,<BR/>Nancy Cartwright, and Hilary Putnam. The book advances the current<BR/>historical understanding of the Owen-Huxley debate by making clear that<BR/>Owen's anatomical claims had much more support than most historians and<BR/>philosophers of science assume. It makes clear that Owen believed in<BR/>developmental theories of evolution, which were precursors to modern<BR/>evo-devo theory that has gained prominence today.

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