Schwab (1962) provided an account of
changing ideas in science very similar to Kuhn’s.
He distinguished between stable and fluid
inquiry. Stable inquiry is concerned with filling
in the particular details in a growing body of
knowledge, while fluid inquiry requires the
invention of new conceptions and tests of those
conceptions for adequacy and feasibility. Any
field of science that is making progress toward
a better understanding of its subject will alternate
between periods of stable and fluid inquiry. Who
We Are describes a period of fluid inquiry in
genetic geography, provides an assessment of
the current state of the field, and makes predictions about what may be to come. For teachers,
the book offers excellent examples of how real
scientific inquiry proceeds.
Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. & Cavalli-Sforza, F. (1995).
The Great Human Diasporas: The History of
Diversity and Evolution. New York, NY:
Kuhn, T.S. (1970). The Structure of Scientific
Revolutions, 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: University
of Chicago Press.
Schwab, J.J. (1962). The teaching of science
as inquiry. In The Teaching of Science
(pp. 1–103). Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Robert A. Cooper
Pennsbury High School, Retired
Fairless Hills, PA 19030
Darwin’s Hunch: Science, Race and the Search
for Human Origins. By Christa Kuljian. 2016.
Jacana Media. (ISBN 978-1-4314-2425-2). 352 pp.
Darwin’s Hunch describes the often macabre
and ultimately racist history behind the study of
human origins, with a special emphasis on the
work conducted in South Africa, which led to
implementation of its apartheid policies. Inspired
by her former mentor Stephen Jay Gould’s critique
of the racist social views that set back scientific
thinking surrounding human origins, Christa Kul-
jian has written a captivating historical account of
the influence of social and political constructs
alluded to by Gould. Darwin’s Hunch provides a
well-documented look at the social and political
context surrounding the preconceived racist atti-
tudes and beliefs used to drive over 100 years of
scientific research. Early researchers in anthropol-
ogy and human biology, with a myopic view of
the world based on religious and racist doctrine,
posited that white humans were the pinnacle of
evolutionary processes. This premise helped shape
the policies and laws used to dehumanize non-
white humans, particularly those of African
descent. Kuljian’s heartfelt, narrative writing style
brings to life the lives of the human “specimens”
who were systematically abused and taken advan-
tage of, the personal lives of the major anthropolo-
gists of the time, and the societal upheavals that
were occurring in South Africa. The interesting
personal tidbits about the researchers provide
insight behind their work and their society, while
the often heart-wrenching descriptions of how they
acquired their living and nonliving specimens cre-
ates an unexpected emotional investment in the
story, which made it hard to put the book down.
The book is divided into three major sections, along with an introduction, an epilogue,
and almost 50 pages of endnotes and references.
The first section begins with a brief summary of
the inception of natural history and anthropology, including the work of Linnaeus and Darwin
and ending with an introduction to Raymond
Dart’s anthropological work in South Africa.
A good portion of this chapter describes how Dart
advocated the preservation of racial segregation,
which he used as an unusual premise to promote
the preservation of ancient tribes of Bushmen.
Dart argued that just as Africa’s great animals were
being allocated to preserves because they were
considered South Africa’s greatest monument, so
should the Bushmen be preserved. Interestingly,
Kuljian juxtaposes the beginning of South Africa’s
policies, pushed by Dart’s work, with the beginning of the racial and ethnic cleansing occurring
in Nazi Germany that led to World War II.
The book’s second section begins in 1959 with
the retirement of Dart and the beginning of a new
era in South Africa’s anthropological research under
the leadership of Phillip Tobias. The burgeoning
field of genetics was combined with ecological and
behavioral studies by researchers such as Herta de
Villers and Ronald Singer, who did not let race
typology theories influence data interpretation.
New theories about human origins were solidifying
to create a synthesis of evolutionary theory that
began in the 1940s, which was described as “bridg-
ing the gap between genetics and paleontology” (p.
121). The acceptance of natural selection playing a
role in human evolutionary processes was a revela-
tion by Ernst Mayr, who pointed out that hominid
fossils were all lumped into one genus, Homo. The
field of physical anthropology became contentious
during this period as physical anthropologists
argued about the categorization of hominid fossils.
This section, like the first, juxtaposes the implica-
tions of the scientific research with the tumultuous
historical and societal ramifications of apartheid,
which was in full force in the 1960s at the same
time that the “Out of Africa” theory of human ori-
gins was gaining traction.
Finally, the third section of the book delves
into the results of continued genetic research,
including the discovery of mitochondrial DNA that
took place during the 1980s and ’90s. Genetic
research, in combination with the continued
anthropological work of the Leakeys and Donald
Johanson, paved the way for the scientific agreement that humans originated in Africa, which was
the premise for Darwin’s hunch. Further, this
chapter discusses the venomous objections of the
public and religious officials when science was
beginning to bring forth the understanding that
all humans evolved from a female with black skin.
It was finally recognized that all humans were the
same species with the same origins; however, identity arises from a combination of culture, history,
and politics. Historically, South Africa and the scientific community in general were now entering a
postcolonial and post-apartheid period with an
understanding that “Africa had been important in
the effort to understand human evolution” in multiple ways (p. 255).
I thoroughly enjoyed Darwin’s Hunch and, as
I mentioned above, I had a hard time putting it
down. It is a beautifully written book that describes
a difficult and emotionally charged topic. It provides a clarity to historical events that I was familiar
with but did not adequately understand. In addition, it provides insight into the interconnectedness of science, culture, and politics. Modern
science strives to be impartial; however, historically, culture and politics have always been intertwined with and influenced by each other. In
Darwin’s Hunch, Kuljian makes a compelling argument that the production and spread of scientific