Progress & evolution
: a re-evaluation of some ideas, devices and scholars in the study of human evolution to 1950

  • Marc Fredrick Oxenham

    Student thesis: Other thesis - CDU

    Abstract

    The intellectual ideas of progress and evolution as a historically bound twain linked to the equally ancient intellectual device the comparative method form a Trinity that are examined and re-evaluated in regard to the study of human natural history from the Renaissance through to the close of the first half of the present century. Other associated concepts such as monogenesis, polygenesis and the idea of missing links are also reexamined in their various historical manifestations. This work also re-examined the role of a number of major players in the intellectual drama of the development of the study of human natural history.

    It was found that progress, evolution and the comparative method have both historical continuity and intellectual pervasiveness as fundamental assumptions of formative and established palaeoanthropological thinking. In addition it was suggested that (I) Lamarck has a much greater priority in regard to a number of evolutionary ideas and views currently credited to others and that he has been misrepresented in a number of important areas; (2) Darwin subscribed to the concept progress in a manner and degree that places him well within the intellectual context of his times; (3) Dubois had a pivotal role to play in the development of modem palaeoanthropology especially as concerns the phylogenetic position of fossils in genealogical trees and the nature of the concept missing link; (4) anagenesis or unilineal models of human natural history did not disappear in the first half of the twentieth century but rather this concept survived albeit within the cloak of a re-vitalised form of the comparative method.
    Date of AwardNov 1995
    Original languageEnglish

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