Anthropology and Original Sin

Constance Clark

in Science Without God?

Published in print January 2019 | ISBN: 9780198834588
Published online January 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780191872679 | DOI:

Series: Ian Ramsey Centre Studies in Science and Religion

Anthropology and Original Sin

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The legacies of rejected nineteenth-century models of evolutionary anthropology remain influential. Nineteenth-century founders of the discipline such as E. B. Tylor and Lewis Henry Morgan aspired to study human societies, including morals and religion, as natural phenomena, reflecting a natural order. In the context of shared assumptions about race and empire they postulated a trajectory from primitive society to civilization, identifying ‘primitive’ societies as remnant populations arrested at early stages of evolutionary development—the ‘childhood of the race’. Rejecting the racial and teleological implications of this trajectory, Franz Boas argued that anthropology and other historical sciences differed fundamentally from the nomothetic, law-giving physical sciences. Naturalism has become problematic for some anthropologists—not in the sense that the ‘God hypothesis’ has returned as methodology, but manifested in an uneasiness about definitions of culture and of human nature in naturalistic, deterministic, reductionist, and biological terms.

Keywords: cultural anthropology; E. B. Tylor; Lewis Henry Morgan; Franz Boas; stages of civilization; culture concept; primitive society; teleology; recapitulation; determinism

Chapter.  8756 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christian Theology

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