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Ethnology And The "Two Books": Some Nineteenth-Century Americans On Preadamist Polygenism

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines the ethnological thinking of a sampling of American men of science and religious writers whose work illustrates the variety of approaches possible in the heterogeneous culture of religious and scientific thinking that characterized this period (1870s). Josiah Nott raised the usual textual problems for biblical monogenism, but his main strategy was to disqualify the Bible as an authoritative source of ethnological data. In his Christian Examiner articles Louis Agassiz rehearsed the evidence from natural history against animal monogenism. In Samuel Baldwin, ethnology became a branch of theology, and theology dictated political and social policy. In the religious press, environmentalist monogenism-represented by Thomas Smyth?s views-predominated because most religious newspaper writers held to the theological necessity of physical descent from Adam and Eve. Yet exceptions existed: George Dana Boardman?s spiritualized unity in Christ neatly defanged polygenism as a spiritual threat.

Keywords: America; Bible; ethnology; George Dana Boardman; Josiah Nott; Louis Agassiz; polygenism; Samuel Baldwin; Thomas Smyth



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