Carleton Coon on the origin of races

Desmond asked: If you have a moment possibly you could explain Coon's theory of racial origin.

Coon argued the fossil record showed the major races (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Australoid, Capoid, and Congoid) date back at least as far as Homo erectus. Coon believed these five races transitioned to Homo sapiens independently and at different times, with the mutations responsible for the transition either happening multiple times in the different populations or being spread by peripheral gene flow.
Our races jumped from Homo erecus to Homo Sapiens brain size by saltation. Stated more specifically, the essential difference between Homoerectus and Homosapiens lies in the total area of the cerebral cortex of the brain. The cortex is a thin sheet of nerve cells (neurons) twisted and bent to fit its mostly globular container, the skull. Our races moved from the Homoerectus to the Homosapiens state by a doubling of the number of nerve cells in this sheet. [. . .]

At least one race of Homo erectus and possibly all five evolved by saltation into Homo sapiens. From available evidence we may surmise that the appropriate threshold was crossed by each race in response to local opportunities, either by its own mutations or by impregnation of its women by Homo sapiens invaders. In such a case the women would transmit to the new generation their own most useful local climatic adaptations.

[Racial Adaptations, pp. 137-139]
In Coon's view:
When the brain size of Homo erectus increased by a doubling of the cerebral cortex, some of their races got more neurons than their environmental and cultural requirements warranted. The brain sizes of all races rose from about 1,200 cc (in the males) to between 1,450 cc and 1,700 cc, and then fell back to the Homo erectus level or a little higher in the tropics, and to about 1,400 to 1,500 cc in the temperate and polar zones. As far as we know, no Homo erectus are alive today.

While the oldest Homo erectus skulls have been found in the tropics, the oldest Homo sapiens come from Europe, where Caucasoids lived during a warm interglacial well over 250,000 years ago. After interruptions, they were followed by the cold-adapted Neanderthals, whose fate is still a mystery. Some say that while the earliest Homo sapiens' vocal apparatus let them speak, Neanderthal's repertoire of semantically useful sounds was limited. The Neanderthals may have become extinct, they may have been absorbed into the Caucasoid ranks, or they may have moved eastward to sire the American Indians, and, in part at least, the Mongoloids.

[Racial Adaptations, p. 149]
Coon based his belief that "the Caucasoid [is] the oldest sapiens race" on the Swanscombe and Steinheim skulls.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. In your opinion, is it plausible? Evidence of Homo erectus was allegedly found in England. How, if at all, does it impact the Homo sapiens out of Africa theory?

Desmond Jones

TGGP said...

You might already be aware of it, but if not you might want to check out Richard Wrangham's interview by John Horgan. He discusses the transition from australopithecine to erectus, habilis, sapien and so on. I've read Demonic Males where he regarded the eating of roots as a major evolutionary step. His newest book is about the emergence of cooking.

You're one of the few people I'm aware of who sticks up for everybody's favorite punching bag, the WASPs. Have you heard of E. Michael Jones' The Slaughter of Cities? Haven't read it myself. He claims that white flight was a deliberate plot by WASPs to preserve their urban strongholds from Catholic "ethnic" communities. Hmm, how's that working out for them?

TGGP said...

Ah, I see you've already got a post on Jones.

n/a said...


It was plausible at the time, but it's not entirely compatible with genetic data that has accumulated since.

Evidence of Homo erectus in England changes little. No one questions that Homo erectus left Africa. The issue is which population(s) of ancient humans modern humans descend from. Coon believed there was a high degree of regional continuity. The most widely promoted theory at the moment is 100% replacement by a recent expansion out of Africa. The truth is probably somewhere in between.


I haven't read the book, but of course I think the argument is absurd. The obvious counterargument is that the cities in question were mostly politically dominated by Catholics, but from reading this review it seems EMJ has an easy way around this: when Catholics and Jews act against what EMJ perceives as Catholic interests, that's also to be blamed on "WASPs".

Looking at the specific "WASP elites" mentioned in the review:

Paul and Brand Blanshard: children of Canadian immigrants; "reared in near-poverty by their paternal grandmother" after their parents died; Paul was variuosly a "Socialist activist" and appointee of Jewish-Italian NY mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Yet I see little to argue with in their concerns about Catholics as summarized in the review.

George Edwards: a Southerner; the son of a socialist; went to detroit to work as a union organizer; appointed police commissioner by an Irish-Catholic mayor.

Anonymous said...

this blog is so sad. do you guys actually have a life?

TGGP said...

Not really. In fact, I am such a loser that I regularly troll blogs that I don't even enjoy reading.

Warm Evolution said...

- “Evolution faster when it’s warmer” -

Could explain why there is so much more genetic diversity amongst equatorial Africans as opposed to the White Europeans and Asians who live in colder northern climates.

David Smith said...

Great blog. However, I hope that it hasn't become defunct. Especially since I just discovered it.

TGGP said...

Warm Evolution, there was already a standard explanation for differences in genetic diversity: humanity originated in Africa and sent small "founding" populations elsewhere. If we want to distinguish between the two hypothesis it would be worth looking at other continents like the Americas & Australia (at least for the indigenous inhabitants of those continents).

n/a said...

Warm Evolution,

I doubt it.

David Smith,

Thanks for the comment.

Not defunct. I will post more eventually (probably starting this week).

Dasein said...


Sorry if you've answered this somewhere else, I wasn't able to find an answer by searching the blog. Do you support the Out of Africa or multiregional hypothesis, some combination of those two, or something else? And have you read Erectus Walks Amongst Us? I saw a review at HBD Books ( that was favourable. The author of that blog seems to favour the multiregional hypothesis.

BTW, great blog you have here.

Dasein said...

Oops, my apologies. I see you answered this in your comment to Desmond here. I would be interested to hear your take on it in more detail though if you get the chance sometime.

n/a said...


I don't have much more to say on human origins right now. The picture should become clearer over the next couple of years as more ancient DNA evidence and more full sequences from living humans become available for study.

I have not read most of Erectus Walks Amongst Us, but Fuerle's piece on "plural mtDNA lineages" was nonsense. (That said, proponents of total African replacement overstate the significance of mtDNA and Y DNA evidence; the question of interbreeding will ultimately be decided by autosomal data.)

David Smith said...

I definitely can’t comment on Richard Fuerle’s Out of Eurasia theory. However, there was one part of Fuerle’s book that surprised me. This was when he proposed that African men -- because of sexual selection -- are more attractive on average than African women. I remain very skeptical of this assertion. I have read a little of the work of Satoshi Kanazawa; and the impression that I got from him was that women were more attractive than men everywhere in the world.

Anyway, I bring this up because Jared Taylor’s review of Erectus Walks Amongst Us is available online now. From Mr. Taylor’s review:

“Self-supporting females in the tropics also meant that dominant men could maintain more than one woman, whereas in the north, it was beyond the abilities of most men to support more than one woman and her children. In the north, because it was the sex that hunts that could offer or withhold meat, it was men, rather than the women, who were in a better bargaining position for choosing mates. They selected for beauty, which is a good proxy for health and fertility and this, according to Mr. Fuerle, led to increased beauty in Eurasian women.

African men, on the other hand, chose multiple wives on the basis of their ability to gather food or raise crops rather than beauty. At the same time, polygamy meant that some men had no wives at all, and the remaining, smaller number of women were in a position to take their pick from among the men. Since African women, unlike northern women, could support themselves, they chose men, not according to whether they were “good providers,” but according to their beauty. Thus, writes Mr. Fuerle, African men are more handsome than African women. This may also explain data that suggest African women have higher IQs than African men: Since women selected men for beauty rather than ability, there was not as much of a premium on intelligence.

Mr. Fuerle points out that Eurasian women who live in advanced societies can now support themselves, and need not mate with the men who can best provide food and shelter. This means they can choose according to appearance -- which means future generations of Eurasian men may be more handsome but less intelligent.”

n/a said...


"which means future generations of Eurasian men may be more handsome but less intelligent."

I don't think there's any evidence this is on the way to happening. Among whites, dull women outbreed intelligent women, but dull men do not outbreed intelligent men (or if they do, they do so by a much smaller margin than exists for women).

While dysgenic breeding is a serious concern in the long run, and I'm sure various features of modern society distort mate choice to one degree or another, the specific concern mentioned here reminds me of whiskey/testing99's mostly baseless ravings.

David Smith said...


Who is “whiskey/testing99?” Was he a commenter on your site? If so, I hope you are not suggesting that I am him in disguise! That would be somewhat paranoid.

There is no “specific concern” in my comment. I had merely just read Jared Taylor’s review of Erectus Walks Amongst Us and felt like giving my opinion on something that somewhat surprised me in the review. As I mentioned in my comment, Fuerle’s assertion runs contrary to the impression that I had gotten from Satoshi Kanazawa.

By the way, I wasn’t attempting to make any White man feel insecure with my comment. Whether or not African men are slightly more attractive on average than African women it doesn’t matter. They are just as unattractive to White women either way.

n/a said...

Whiskey/testing99 is a deranged commenter at Steve Sailer's site who numbers among his obsessions the idea that (upper-middle class, white) women today no longer desire marriage.

The specific concern I referred to is Fuerle's: "Mr. Fuerle points out that Eurasian women who live in advanced societies can now support themselves, and need not mate with the men who can best provide food and shelter. This means they can choose according to appearance -- which means future generations of Eurasian men may be more handsome but less intelligent.”"

Why I'm not worried about this:

(1) We have real problems already:
- racial displacement
- dysgenics through differential birth rates (rather than shifting female mate choice criteria; if anything, current breeding patterns mean future generations will be less handsome -- certainly fatter)

(2) Resources and status are relative. Women don't want mere subsistence. (Modern abundance seems to foster dysgenics, but not because easy resource availability has caused any large shift in female preferences.)

(3) Intelligence and physical attractiveness are positively correlated.

blue anonymous said...

"women who live in advanced societies can now support themselves, and need not mate with the men who can best provide food and shelter"

The difference between can and will is important here. Women still love rich men, and rich men are smart. Intelligence aids social status via non-financial avenues as well. And it's attractive per se - especially wit.