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Thread: Changing Environment Plays Only a Minor Role in Defining Cranial Morphology

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    Mein Glaube ist die Liebe zu meinem Volk. Juthunge's Avatar
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    Changing Environment Plays Only a Minor Role in Defining Cranial Morphology

    Franz Boas was as an American anthropologist probably best known for proclaiming the theory, that environmental change directly, not over the course of millenia but in a mere couple of years, influences physical features of humans.
    Such features include height, facial measurements, cranial indices and morphology. He became especially famous for a study comparing US-Americans, American born descendants of recent immigrants as well as immigrants born in Europe, which seemingly supported his theory.

    This study was used for decades as a "proof" that differences between races are essentially down to environment or that races simply do not exist.
    He was in fact not only wrong but likely had an agenda as the following study shows.


    A reassessment of human cranial plasticity: Boas revisited
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    ABSTRACT
    In 1912, Franz Boas published a study demonstrating the plastic nature of the human body in response to changes in the environment. The results of this study have been cited for the past 90 years as evidence of cranial plasticity. These findings, however, have never been critiqued thoroughly for their statistical and biological validity. This study presents a reassessment of Boas' data within a modern statistical and quantitative genetic framework. The data used here consist of head and face measurements on over 8,000 individuals of various European ethnic groups. By using pedigree information contained in Boas' data, narrow sense heritabilities are estimated by the method of maximum likelihood. In addition, a series of t tests and regression analyses are performed to determine the statistical validity of Boas' original findings on differentiation between American and European-born children and the prolonged effect of the environment on cranial form. Results indicate the relatively high genetic component of the head and face diameters despite the environmental differences during development. Results point to very small and insignificant differences between European- and American-born offspring, and no effect of exposure to the American environment on the cranial index in children. These results contradict Boas' original findings and demonstrate that they may no longer be used to support arguments of plasticity in cranial morphology.
    Finally, we address the issue of why Boas published such seemingly erroneous conclusions. Although it might seem an insurmountable task to dissect Boas' motives or convictions for pursuing such a study, we can examine Boas' mindset as revealed in his publications from the time period. Some 10 years before the immigrant study, Boas was one of the most (if not the most) statistical and quantitatively oriented anthropologists, as seen in publications from the period predating the immigrant study (41–44). In the final report presented to congress, Boas' statistical fluency tends to disappear, perhaps in the face of such a large data set and the lack of proper statistical tests. For the period in which this study was published, the results were presented in a manner making the data look as convincing as possible. We also must consider the attitude of Boas toward the scientific racism of the day. Evidence of Boas' disdain for the often typological and racist ideas in anthropology have been reviewed previously (45) and are evident also in his later publications (46–48). Boas' motives for the immigrant study could have been entwined in his view that the racist and typological nature of early anthropology should end, and his argument for dramatic changes in head form would provide evidence sufficient to cull the typological thinking. We make no claim that Boas made deceptive or ill-contrived conclusions. In Fig. 1 it is evident that there are differences between American- and European-born samples. What we do claim is that when his data are subjected to a modern analysis, they do not support his statements about environmental influence on cranial form.
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    Ancient DNA: List of All Studies analyzing DNA of Ancient Tribes and Ethnicities(post-2010)


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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Boas did not deny the existence of the major races nor the three branches of the White race as used by Ripley and Grant. He did dislike racism especially against Whites (ie. Europids). And it was Sergi who first questioned the importance of CI.

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    Mein Glaube ist die Liebe zu meinem Volk. Juthunge's Avatar
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    It's actually not so relevant what Boas himself thought about it. The point is, his work has been used for decades as a basis for the refutation of races and was to physical anthropology what Lewontin's fallacy is to population genetics.

    Boas didn't entirely doubt heredity of cranial morphology but he much overexaggerated, consciously or unconciously, the influence of environment on it. That's as wrong as the very early belief, that cranial morphology or index is entirely dictated by heredity/selection. The truth lies somewhere inbetween that.
    And the day they sold us out, Our hearts grew cold
    'Cause we were never asked, No brother, we were told!
    What do they know of Europe, Who only Europe know?



    Ancient DNA: List of All Studies analyzing DNA of Ancient Tribes and Ethnicities(post-2010)


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