Coon: Race and social evolution (1962)

The conclusion of Carleton Coon's paper from the CIBA Foundation conference "Man and His Future":
I have left to the end the most troublesome — and least rationally handled — aspect of the total problem of social evolution, that of race. Yet it is a real problem and must be faced if we are to do anything but chat about the future of man. Since the time of our first knowledge of Homo erectus our genus has been divided into geographical races adapted in varying fashions and degrees to heat, cold, altitude, and disease. These adaptations remain. How long will the Communist Chinese be able to survive and reproduce their kind in the thin air of Tibet? Will the genetic superiority of native West Africans over White men, which has kept the latter out for centuries, be lost when all the malaria-carrying mosquitoes have been stamped out with millions of tons of DDT? If the races of man stay where they are best adapted, it creates much less trouble than when they move into each other's territories.

And, more importantly, are all peoples equally suited, in a neuroendocrinological sense, to live under the regimentation which is bound to come in a vastly overcrowded world? These are questions that I cannot answer, and the very mention of them is considered indecent in my country. Do the minds of all races work in the same fashion, do not their emotions differ with differences in their hormonal peculiarities, and is it not possible that cultures vary to a certain extent in terms of these variations? These questions require research, and the results may mar the vision of a single world culture. People are genetically and culturally different, and short of a global police state run by persons yet to be determined, entrusted with the power to perform chromosomal surgery and interspecific transplants, they will remain different for a long time to come. If the world is to become united, the union must be a loose confederation of very different units, or it will not long endure.

[Carleton S. Coon, "Growth and Development of Social Groups," in Man and His Future (Gordon Wolstenholme, ed.), a Ciba Foundation Volume (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1963), pp. 120-133.]
In his autobiography, Coon says of the reaction to his paper:
In my diary I noted that Haldane had approved it heartily, and Bronowski had liked all of it except the last part, on race. He was a tiny man, almost a dwarf, with a huge, globular head topped with tightly curled, black hair. Had I been his twin, I wouldn't have like it either.

[Adventures and Discoveries, p. 346]
The official publication of the conference, Man and His Future, is available online (thanks, again, to's biodiversity collection). More on the conference, from Coon's autobiography:
At five o'clock, just after tea, Sir Julian Huxley delivered the first of sixteen papers. It was entitle "The Future of Man--Evolutionary Aspects." For me to try to abstract it here would do it ill justice. I can only note that he mentioned Teilhard de Chardin's noosphere, at that time a fashionable subject; the dependence of human progress on a procession of ideas: ecology, new drugs, population control, the population explosion, birth control; and a need for a rise in global IQ. In general, Sir Julian's paper was a stimulating overview of what the symposium was about.
And, describing the final chapter of The Living Races of Man:
Chapter 11, the last, is entitle "The Future of the Races of Man," and subtitled, "Every Man a Genius and the Centaur's Return." It is half joke, half fantasy. In it I toyed with some of the ideas expressed at the CIBA conference of 1962 by J. B. S. Haldane, Joshua Lederberg, Gregory Pincus, and others, about slicing chromosome with nano-knives (microscopic scalpels) to make transgeneric hybrids to serve as seal-human frogmen, building sperm banks that Hermann Muller had begun and William Shockley has revived; my own idea was to re-create black and white centaurs who could play polo with each other forever, thus stalemating interracial troubles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An article you might be interested in: "Dating by blood type in Japan" -