Science in Christian Perspective



A Reading Course In General Anthropology
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Shelton College, Ringwood, N. J.

From: JASA 6 (March 1954): 10-13.

Before commencing a discussion of introductory readings there are four books which were omitted from the survey of general texts in installment I. They are An Introduction to Anthropology by Wilson D. Wallis, 1926; An Introduction to Social Anthropology by Clark Wissler, 1929; Social Anthropology by Paul Radin, 1932; and the University of Chicago's symposium Human Origins: An Introduction to Anthropology, 1945.

Wallis's book was a fairly comprehensive attempt to sum up the field as completely as possible at that time. He realized that no such text had been undertaken since Tylor.

Wissler treated only what would now be called cultural anthropology. Emphasizing social organization, religion, and geography, he devoted considerable space to the discussion of kinship systems, and to the culture area concept which was introduced earlier by himself (The American Indian, 1922; Man and Culture, 1923) and later refined by Kroeber (Cultural and Natural Areas of Native North America, 1939) and others.

Radin's presentation of material culture was especially commended by reviewers (see Goldenweiser, 1933) for its clarity and accuracy. Other points of note were his carefully selected studies of individual tribal state, law, economic, and industrial organization; his survey of the history of ethnological theory in the first chapter; and the development of his main interest, religion and mythology.

The Chicago symposium was gotten up by the University for its own classes, and then distributed, somewhat in the same manner as Kroeber's and Waterman's Source Book. The chapters on physical anthropology and the origin of man are, of course, out of date; nevertheless the volume remains a valuable collection of important papers.

Introductory readings in anthropology are numerous. One could recommend the first chapter of any of the current standard texts and the question "What is anthropology all about?" would be satisfactorily answered.

There are two entire volumes, however, which are particularly outstanding in presenting the field as a whole. One is a popularization of anthropology for the non-specialist. The other is a symposium of papers written by carefully selected authorities. They are, respectively, Clyde Kluckhohn's Mirror For Man: The Relation of Anthropology to Modern Life, and Anthropology Today, An Encyclopedic Inventory prepared under the chairmanship of Professor A. L. Kroeber.

Mirror For Man won for its author a ten-thousanddollar award given by Whittlesey House, a branch of McGraw-Hill Book Company, for the best presentation of a scientific field to the lay reader. Like Franz Boas's Anthropology and Modern Life, (1928), it is an attempt to present in clear, understandable terms the scope, methods, and present concerns of anthropology. Kluckhohn has a lucid style, unhampered by technical jargon. He presents, expertly, the concepts of culture, race, prehistory, and personality. His chapter on language is one of the choice parts of the entire book, revealing the insights possible into a culture and a personality gained by a knowledge of the language and the significance of the linguistic categories to the study of any society. Mirror for Man is the book to loan to colleagues and friends who want to know what an anthropologist does.

Anthropology Today is certainly not a popularization, yet it presents, perhaps better than any other one book published in the past fifty years, the scope of anthropology in all of its various pursuits, and the conclusions to which expert opinion has come at the present time. Geology, folklore, personality, government, prehistory, language, evolution, style and value concepts, and many more subjects are discussed, with a careful presentation of methods, results, and theory.

The section on applied anthropology presents, in addition to chapters on body measurements, growth, and medicine, valuable discussions of anthropological viewpoints and methods in government as applied to Africa and aboriginal America, as well as Holland, and territories administered and aided by the United Nations *

While this volume is not on the popular level, it is largely non-technical, so that it is a most valuable source reference in which to discover the present state of anthropological thought in almost every aspect of the field.

The assigning of introd uctory material for a class in general anthropology is usually made easy because of the numerous standard texts referred to above. However there are some which stand out above the rest as being particularly worth while.

One of the best is the chapter on "The Scope and Aims of Anthropology" by the late Ralph Linton in his symposium volume The Science of Man in the World Crisis. He carefully and clearly defines the field and how it developed as a sort of "synthesis" of other sciences in its preoccupation with mankind. The major divisions of physical and cultural anthropology are discussed with a run-down of many of the specialties included under each.* The treatment of the subscience "ethnology" contains a valuable paragraph or two on why anthropologists study primitive peoples. An understanding of this basic point is vital to any further study.

A primitive society, being small in size and homogeneous in culture, comes the closest to laboratory conditions in the study of mankind. The comparative point of view is primary. As in any other scientific problem there are "constants" within which a "variable" must be analyzed. ln the study of primitive society, the first constant is man as an organism. This basic assumption is one of the major conclusions which anthropology, as a science, has impressed upon our present century. All men, everywhere, despite racial differences, can be expected to possess for all practical purposes, like physical or 6rganic natures,

*Linton has been criticized by linguists for the treatment, or lack of it, given linguistics in this chapter:

11 ' . . the subscience of linguistics is, at present the most isolated and self contained. The study of languages can be and largely has been carried on with little relation to other aspects of human activity . . . That linguistics ultimately will be of great value for the understanding of human behavior and especially of human thought processes can hardly be doubted. however, work along these lines has hardly begun and linguistics is still unable to make any great contribution toward the solution of our current problems. For that reason is has been ignored in the present volume."

This has piqued a good many linguists, especially those who have, even before 194S, been engaged in the study of ethnolinguistic problems and theory, and the practical aspects of their application in inter-cultural relationships. It is hard to understand, for example, how the value of the Armed Forces language training programs, directed by many anthropologically trained linguists, could have escaped his notice as one "solution to our current problems". However, criticism of Linton must

be tempered by remembering that his aim was to present the anthropological point of view specifically applied to the sociocultural problems of a world at war, into which context linguistics, as Linton was acquainted with it, would not have contributed what he was looking for. The book was allegedly "a report from the frontiers of research, the outposts of science rather than its settled hinterland". The problems of race, psychology, and culture, and culture contact dealt with are evidently included in the former ; linguistics in the latter category, or, as he implies, beyond even the outposts!

and equal mental or psychological potentialities.

Another factor, which can many times be called a constant, or, at least, whose effects can be defined and isolated, is the geographical environment. Such societies as the native peoples of Central Australia, and those of the Kalahari desert of South Africa, for example, or the Eskimos and the aboriginies of northern Siberia, can be compared, respectively, as human societies living in almost identical geographical environments.

What does this leave then, as the variable, the central problem of anthropological investigation? The culture: that which is the learned part of mans' behavior, including all material designed by him, and the institutions of his society within and by which it functions.

Such a comparative proposition which, in one respect or another, is involved in all ethnological investigation, invalidates any arguments for biological, environmental, economic, social, or indeed, cultural determinism as explanations for all of man's behavior. The astonishing variety of ways man has devised to do things tinder any and all circumstances, has been one factor in causing anthropological theorists to despair long since of pursuing universally applicable theories of cultural causality. Such theories, though plentiful in the history of ethnology, cannot long be maintained in the face of the vast amount of ethnological data accumulated by anthropologists over the past seventy-five years.

Another outstanding and thought-provoking introductory chapter is in A. L. Kroeber's Anthropology, (1948). Professor Kroeber draws a clear distinction between the organic and the "sociocultural", as well as between society and culture.

The necessity of differentiating between organic evolution and cultural development is also emphasized. Early anthropologists theorized in terms of cultural stages which evolved out of one another. The fields of religion, marriage, inheritance of property, social control, and other aspects of culture, each had various champions for this or that theory of origin and evolution, stage by stage until, for example, monogamy, or monotheism had evolved,.the present stage being the end product of the process. All others throughout space and time were lower on the evolutionary scale in proportion to their degree of difference from the "end product". But more of these schools of thought in another context.

Besides these two valuable introductory references, those in the general texts by Herskovits, Gillin, Beals and Hoijer, and Jacobs and Stern, are perhaps of equal merit, though differing in approach and emphasis.

Gillin includes a valuable historical resume of man's studies of himself, and the outstanding scholars from the early Greek cultural fluorescence to the present time. Jacobs and Stern provide a needed word about scientific terminology. Beals and Hoijer focus attention on the practical aspects, and applications of anthropology in the world today. Herskovits analyzes each department of the subject and its relation to the whole, with emphasis upon anthropology's relation to other disciplines, highlighting its historical, psychological, and philosophical aspects.

Two other noteworthy introductory references not included in the list of general texts are the article on "Anthropology" by Franz Boas in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, and his two essays "The Aims of Anthropological Research" and "Advances in Methods of Teaching" in the volume Race, Language, and Culture containing sixty-three of his anthropological papers. These are "dated" and yet, in a sense, Boas's writing is "dateless". It was he more than any other man who defined American anthropological theory and practice. His students are the heads of our leading anthropology departments in universities and museums and the noted authors in the field.

So far we have included only literature written by non-Christian authors who take it for granted that Christianity is just one of many religious systems wholly explainable in cultural and psychological terms In the absence, so far, of an authoritative text written by a Christian, it is considered important to assign without bias, the reading which best represents the present anthropological position, by authors who have themselves done the original investigation. Classroom lectures and collateral reading can present the Christian interpretations and applications of the subject. The instructor cannot then be accused either of "sheltering" his students from non-Christian theories, or advocating them exclusively. I am convinced that this is the only scholarly way to proceed at the present tim e.

There are, however, certain important references written by Christian anthropologists which should not be overlooked. Some of these are specialized research papers in the fields of linguistics and physical anthropology. These will be mentioned in the context of their specialty.

Foremost among the rare general introductions to the field is the chapter on "A Christian View of Anthropology" by William A. Smalley and Marie Fetzer, in the American Scientific Affiliation's symposium volume Modern Science and Christian Faith. Comprising nearly one third of the entire volume, this chapter contains sections on Race, Culture, Language, and Human Paleontology. It includes valuable discussions of many Biblical subjects related to the field such as morality and the consciousness of sin, the flood of Noah, missionary methods and applications, and the origin of man. One of the most valuable concepts introduced is that of the "Supercultural". The authors urge that care and discrimination be exercised in analyzing just what is "cultural" in Christianity, and therefore relative in value, and what is "supercultural" in Christianity, and therefore absolute in value and applicable to any and all cultures.

The discussion brings into focus the necessity of presenting the "supercultural" gospel in the cultural terms of those to whom it is being presented, not in terms of the culture of the missionary. This chapter should be required no matter what general text is chosen for the introductory course.

The only other books written by a Christian author and devoted to anthropology are even less general. Primarily missionary volumes, they are Gordon Hedderly Smith's The Missionary and Anthropology, and The Missionary and Primitive Man. These, while they do contain value in their emphasis and viewpoint, deal with many topics which tend in some cases to be rather distorted outdated source material, or else from the very brevity, of their treatment.

If there are any other works on anthropology written by Christian authors, I would be very happy to be advised of their existence and to mention them in future installments.


Beals, Ralph, and Harry Hoijer, An Introduction to Anthro pology. New York: Macmillan, 1953.
Boas, Franz, Anthropology and Modern Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 1928.
_____ "Anthropology"
in the ~Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
_____, Race, Language, and Culture. New York: Macmillan, 1940.

Fetzer, Marie, and Wm. Smalley, "A Christian View of Anthropology" in Modern Science and Christian Paith. Second edition.

Gillin, John, The Ways of Men. New York: D. AppletonCentury, 1948.

Goldenweiser, Alexander, Review of Paul Radin's Social Anthropology. American Anthropologist, Vol. 35, 1933.

Herskovits, M. J., Man and His Works. New York: Knopf, 1948 .

Human Origins: An Introduction to Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Book Store, 1945.

Jacobs, M., and B. Stern, Outline of Anthropology. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1947.

Kluckhohn, Clyde, Mirror for Man. New York: Wittlesey House, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1949.

Kroeber, A. L., Cultural and Natural Areas of Native North America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1939.

____ Anthropology. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1948.

____ (ed.), Anthropology Today. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953.

____ and T. T. Waterman, Source Book in Anthropology. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1931.

Linton, Ralph, The Science of Man in the World Crisis. New York: Columbia University Press, 1945.

Modern Science and Christian Faith, A Symposiuin on the Relation of the Bible to Modern Science, by members of the Holt, 1929. American Scientific Affiliation. Second edition. Wheaton: Van Kampen, 1950.

Radin, Paul, Social Anthropology. New York: McGrawHill, 1932.

Smalley, William A., and Marie Fetzer, "A Christian View of Anthropology" in Modern Science and Christian Faith. Second edition.

Smith, G. H., The Missionaq and Anthropology. An Introduction to the Study of Primitive Man for Missionaries. Chicago: Moody Press, 1945.

-, The Missionary and Priinitive Man. An Introduction to the Study of his Mental Characteristics and his Religion. Wheaton: Van Kampen, 1947.

Wallis, Wilson D. An Inh,oduction to Anthropology. New York: Harper, 1926.

Wissler, Clark, The American Indian, 1922. (Reprinted by Peter Smith, Boston, 1950.
____ Man and CuIttaPe. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell, 1923.
____ An Introduction to Social Anthropology. New York: Holt, 1929.