Apes, Men and Morons

by Earnest Albert Hooton [Putnam, $3.00]
IN his Apes, Men and Morons, Earnest Albert Hooton writes with singular clarity and charm, and he is so everlastingly wise and sane, and so very obviously telling the truth as he sees it, that it is hard to find a single fault. The one great difficulty tied up in the picture is not with Hooton but with his profession, with physical anthropology and man himself. Physical anthropology is far from being an exact science, and the taxonomy of man, which, in the final analysis, is the principal matter with which physical anthropology has to deal, is the most baffling of all the branches of systematic zoölogy.
This taxonomic sense has indeed been well called an Art, just in the same sense as Dr. Frederick Shattuck used to speak of the Art of Medicine. Thus the practised eye can tell a Bornean Dyak from a Peninsula Malay or a Javanese, an African Pigmy from a Philippine Negrito, and so on through numberless examples. But bury a Dyak and a Javanese for a hundred years, and pass their bones through the best-equipped laboratory of physical anthropology, and all the expert can do is to state the affinities in a broad, general way, and whether he could tell the remains of Malays from those of Sioux Indians, with invariable certainty, is extremely doubtful.
Thus in the taxonomy of existing man the soft, parts are preëminently important, and yet we can only preserve skeletons for study and must do the best we can with this woefully inadequate material. The whole picture is entirely different when it comes to the study of the more strongly differentiated protohuman genera and species, and in Hooton’s discussion and handling of the complex phylogeny and interrelationships of these protohunans his book is the clearest and most satisfying exegesis of the whole complicated situation which has ever appeared.
I do not particularly care for his politico-sociological observations. After all, his father was a parson, so why always take a rap at the cloth? Nevertheless his statement concerning the importance of the possession of a religious faith, in so far as the welfare of the bulk of mankind is concerned, is entirely pleasing to one who is not in the least ashamed to admit that he is a member of an established Church.
I am a little sorry that dictators are always brutal, proletarians fanatical, professors impractical, although these diagnoses are entirely popular. When Hooton says, concerning the selectional versus the glandular theories for hirsute development, ‘Darwin might have done better with his subject if he himself had formed the habit of shaving, we admit that he is amusing, but here, and occasionally elsew here, he missed being facetious by a very, very narrow margin.
I am so fond of him and enjoy everything he writes so very much that I am beginning to feel quite ashamed of myself at this point. However, when he says that the book is ‘written for a layman and not a scientist, because a scientist does not control evolution; he only studies it,’ this does not seem to me to demonstrate any sin on the part of the scientist. The only thing the poor brute can do with evolution is to study it, which is all Hooton or anyone else, scientist or otherwise, can do; and of course it is just exactly what that layman is made to do if he reads the book. So this one particular statement, I think, is absolutely footless, to say the least.
It is a pity that whenever one reviews a book one feels that the work has not been properly done it one does nothing but praise it. As a matter of fact, there is always a flaw to be found, just as there is a flaw in every emerald.