Historical and Philosophical Perspectives

Historical and Philosophical Perspectives The Historical and Philosophical Perspectives series provides professional historians and philosophers of science with a forum to reflect on topical issues in contemporary biology.

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The Mismeasure of Science: Stephen Jay Gould versus Samuel George Morton on Skulls and Bias

  • Jason E. Lewis mail,

    Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America

  • David DeGusta,

    Affiliation: Paleoanthropology Institute, Oakland, California, United States of America

  • Marc R. Meyer,

    Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, Chaffey College, Rancho Cucamonga, California, United States of America

  • Janet M. Monge,

    Affiliation: Department of Anthropology and Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

  • Alan E. Mann,

    Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America

  • Ralph L. Holloway

    Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States of America

  • Published: June 07, 2011
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001071

Reader Comments (6)

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Could or sould we go any deeper in Morgans data?

Posted by Alex_br on 21 Jun 2011 at 02:33 GMT

It is really an interesting article, but the possibility that Morton could had simply discarded a subset of samples that did not match his pre-conceptions is barely discussed. Could this be addressed by only measuring a sub-sample of the original?

Anyway, having your analytical technique not shown any bias, why should we go any deeper into his data? We assume, having no evidence otherwise, for every other paper that we read, that the original data had been handled without bias; so why to be specially skeptical with Morton's work?

I think that is undisputed that there bias in science, but a lot of biases have been revealed and addressed, even decades after, as this article do. Science is not always straightforward, but often a tortuous path.

No competing interests declared.