Is Edward Drinker Cope beyond the pale?

July 6, 2020 • 8:45 am

Note from Professor Ceiling Cat:  Be aware that this post is not by me, but by Greg. Not that I disagree with it, because I don’t, but people are always giving me credit for Greg’s posts, and he deserves any encomiums or opprobrium. So note the title line below. The story is a familiar one with a twist: the erasure of someone for views that we no longer find acceptable, but in this case it’s a scientist.

There will be a second installment of l’affaire Cope this week, hinted at in Greg’s last line.

by Greg Mayer

The answer to the question in the title of this post is, “Yes.” But first, some background on Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897).

Edward Drinker Cope, 1840-1897.

Cope was a Philadelphia Quaker who was one of the most prolific vertebrate zoologists of the 19th century. He began publishing as a teenager, and published about 1400 papers in his relatively short life. The herpetologist Kraig Adler (1989:46-47) called him “America’s greatest herpetologist,” and added that his “most epochal contributions were to vertebrate paleontology.” Paleontologist Kevin Padian (1998) wrote, “The most versatile American vertebrate zoologist of the 19th Century, and perhaps the 20th, E.D. Cope has touched the lives of every one of his professional successors through his astonishing record of collection and publication.” I have read and used his work in my own research, and I own copies of his two great monographs on the North American herpetofauna, “The Batrachia of North America” (1889) and the posthumous “The crocodilians, lizards and snakes of North America” (1900). (We’ve encountered Cope before here at WEIT, with regard to the false claim that he is the type specimen of Homo sapiens.)

Although still well known among vertebrate zoologists and paleontologists for his anatomical, systematic, and faunistic contributions, Cope’s general evolutionary views, usually called “Neo-Lamarckian”, are today little known or discussed; his Origin of the Fittest (1886) and Primary Factors of Organic Evolution (1896) are not high on modern reading lists. The founders of modern evolutionary biology (Th. Dobzhansky, Ernst Mayr, and even the paleontologist G.G. Simpson) had little to say about him, and if he’s mentioned in a modern textbook at all, it’s for Cope’s Rule (the general tendency for  evolutionary lineages to increase in average size). Broad histories of evolutionary biology have a bit more to say (Bowler, 2003), and specific histories even more (Bowler, 1996).

To the general public, Cope is best remembered (if at all) for the “Bone Wars“, his intense rivalry with O.C. Marsh of Yale to discover, collect, and describe the great vertebrates of the American West, a feud that was the subject of several popular books (e.g., Wallace, 1999).

When John Treadwell Nichols at the American Museum of Natural History founded a journal of cold-blooded vertebrates in 1913, he named it Copeia, after Cope.  (Naming journals after a prominent figure in this manner is not uncommon; two others that pop to mind are Treubia and Brenesia.)

A few years later, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) was formed, and after a few more years, in 1924, the Society took over publishing of the journal. An editorial note in January, 1924 (an issue published during the transition to the ASIH as publisher), stated the journal’s scope:

Due to exigencies of space, articles for publication in Copeia must be brief and restricted to observations on taxonomy, distribution, structure and habits. Controversy and opinion will rarely be printed.

On Friday, the Board of Governors of ASIH renamed the journal Ichthyology & Herpetology; Cope is now officially beyond the pale.

The process by which Cope’s name was to be removed became known to the membership on June 18, when members—I’ve been one since I was in high school—received an email from the President and Editor. The letter to members succinctly stated the problem, the proposed remedy, and the process:

Our journal’s namesake, E.D. Cope, held and published racist and misogynist views that our current membership finds abhorrent. The ASIH will begin addressing this matter. The Executive Committee of the ASIH is in favor of changing our journal’s name and is taking step to begin this process. We will bring this matter to our Board of Governors, to the appropriate ASIH committees, and to the ASIH membership for consideration.

The letter mentions repeatedly that the membership is likely unaware of Cope’s views:

Our goal is not in seeking the demonization of Cope. Rather we wish to honestly address one of our own blemishes. We have long ignored this particular blemish; much of our membership is not even aware of Cope’s racist perspectives.

History can be taken out of context. Indeed, Cope’s views were held by many (perhaps most) of his contemporary 19th Century scientists. However, his views on race, society, and eugenics were very prominent. Because he has been a titan of both ichthyology and herpetology (and perhaps because few modern members know his views), for a century we have looked past the bad to focus on his accomplishments. But his views on race and society were very public and, unfortunately, published as purportedly scientific articles. In a few instances, these views were part of policies agreed to by the ASIH.

Many ASIH members may not know that we have been having these conversations for years, even decades. From our perspective, it is time to think hard about the messages behind whom we honor and hurt with our statues and monuments, and with our building and journal namesakes. We have an opportunity.

From such a letter, I think it fair to assume that the membership would be informed about Cope, and then asked to consider the action proposed by the Executive Committee. The members were neither informed nor consulted. On Saturday, June 27, it was announced that the Board of Governors was voting to change the name, and it would be over within a week. I wrote to the Executive Committee and Board of Governors on June 30 as follows (in part):

I had expected that there would be a broader consultation. Although the constitution may allow the Board of Governors to take action on its own, I don’t see how doing so in the time frame contemplated can be construed as bringing the matter “to the ASIH membership” in any sense whatsoever.
In your message of the 18th, you acknowledge that few members of the ASIH are aware of the views which Cope held which are to be censured. That is certainly the case for myself. While I have read and used Cope’s herpetological works, I must admit that my knowledge of his life is limited to about the contents of Kraig Adler’s biographical sketch of him in Contributions to the History of Herpetology, and to the fact that he engaged in a sometimes unsavory paleontological ‘war’ with Marsh. I have never had any reason to seek out or consult his social views.
I urge you to begin the process of bringing the matter to the members’ attention by informing us of what it is that Cope did that merits censure. Once the ASIH’s members are well informed, then it will be possible for the Society to take actions that will have the “buy-in” of the membership.

Having seen arguments that it is justified (and not merely misdirected) to take down statues of Ulysses Grant, I wanted to learn myself more about Cope. There are two biographies of him: Henry Fairfield Osborn’s Cope: Master Naturalist (1931), and Jane Pierce Davidson’s The Bone Sharp: The Life of Edward Drinker Cope (1997), but with no access to libraries possible (and of course no time to read the books, given the one week time frame), the best thing I could find to inform myself was Kevin Padian’s (1998) long, thoughtful, review of Davidson. Padian finds the book useful, but laments that Davidson has written a purely “personal biography”, which does not engage with Cope’s science or the culture in which he was brought up. Here’s the part of his review that addresses Cope’s views on human races:

Davidson’s principal interests in Cope’s theoretical ideas run more to how his views of human differences were used by others, scientists and social commentators alike, in some particularly repugnant campaigns against blacks. Cope was a thoroughgoing racist, though like many such, he liked and respected individuals among those groups whose ethnicity he generally disdained. Cope’s views went beyond the benign sectarian xenophobia of most Quakers (including his father), who had a long tradition of working for emancipation and amelioration of the American Negro. Cope congenially disparaged blacks, Asians, Irish, Jews, Mexicans, New Mexicans, and various European groups, though he generally respected the Indians whom he met out West. He regarded whites as most advanced among human races and looked for “apelike” characters in other races as evidence of arrested development from more primitive Quadrumana (Primates). Negroes were to him the most ape- like, with poorly developed social and intellectual abilities that would only atrophy apart from association with whites. He opposed slavery and racist violence such as lynchings, though his Quaker heritage gave him the opportunity to avoid serving in any capacity in the Civil War. He advocated shipping freed slaves to Africa, not so much to deny them whatever benefits of freedom might await them in America as to return them to a milieu in which it might not be so difficult for them to succeed, intellectually and socially. In his view, this position (shared by other strange bedfellows at the time, including many Northern and Southern politicians) was scientifically justified: his researches indicated that the skull sutures of Negroes closed earlier in ontogeny than in whites, indicating limited development of the brain. Davidson presents a spectrum of social commentators who used Cope’s findings and went farther beyond them than Cope, she thinks, ever would have done, and what she presents is truly disturbing. Weaving the relatively dispassionate scientific inquiries of Haeckel and Herbert Spencer about Cope’s views on racial differences with the frightening use of them made by the anatomist Robert W. Shufeldt, Davidson masterfully shows how thin was the line dividing science and social engineering. Shufeldt, whose Myology of the Raven and other works are still well known, was particularly over the edge in both his social views and his sanity. Davidson is probably correct in concluding that Cope would never have condoned the social engineering of the Negro that Shufeldt and others suggested, but it is difficult to deny that Cope’s “scientific” studies lent a veneer of authority to the polemics.

Trying to inform myself was only for my own edification, because the Board of Governors did indeed act in less than a week, without consideration by the membership. After the vote was concluded, the information sent to the Board of Governors was shared with the membership, including a link to an article from 1890, documenting some of the views alluded to by Padian. (I still don’t know anything about the objectionable “policies agreed to by the ASIH.” What are they? Are they still in effect? Have they been changed? Cope, of course, being long dead at the time, had no hand in establishing ASIH policies.)

So, it’s clear that Cope held and published views that are reprehensible. We all need to consider, what is to be done in such cases?

[JAC: Stay tuned for Greg’s next installment.]

Adler, K., ed. 1989. Contributions to the History of Herpetology. Contributions to Herpetology, No. 5. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Oxford, Ohio.

Bowler, P.J. 1996. Life’s Splendid Drama: Evolutionary Biology and the Reconstruction of Life’s Ancestry, 1860-1940. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Bowler, P.J. 2003. Evolution: The History of an Idea. 3rd ed. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Cope, E.D. 1886. Origin of the Fittest. Appleton, New York. BHL

Cope, E.D. 1889. The Batrachia of North America. United States National Museum Bulletin 34:1-525. Reprint, 1963, Eric Lundberg, Ashton, Maryland. BHL

Cope, E. D. 1890. Two perils of the Indo-European. The Open Court 3:2052–2054.

Cope, E.D. 1896. Primary Factors of Organic Evolution. Open Court, Chicago. BHL

Cope, E.D. 1900. The crocodilians, lizards and snakes of North America. Report of the U.S. National Museum for 1898:153-1270. BHL

Davidson J.P. 1997. The Bone Sharp: The Life of Edward Drinker Cope. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. (Not seen.)

Osborn, H.F. 1931. Cope: Master Naturalist. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. (Not seen.)

Padian, K. 1998. (Review of) The Bone Sharp: The Life of Edward Drinker Cope, by Jane Pierce Davidson. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 18:243-246.

Wallace, D.R. 1999. The Bonehunter’s Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

51 thoughts on “Is Edward Drinker Cope beyond the pale?

  1. There are two types of people in the world. Those who think the world can be divided into two types of people, and those who think the world is rather more untidy, nuanced, and sometimes just messy.

    At the moment the ‘two types of people’ are winning public support. Yet to divide the world into two categories flies in the face of the evidence – and I suspect cannot hold because it will implode over its own inconsistencies.

    So if Cope’s scientific work doesn’t suffer from his outmoded social views his work is still valid and in this case the rush to rename the publication tells you more about the Executive Committee than Cope. Sure, rename the publication for recognition or marketing purposes if you wish, but there’s no rush.

    1. I think it is very likely that Cope’s scientific work did suffer from his social views. Of course, that doesn’t mean all his work is thereby tainted or rendered inaccurate. His scientific work, and anyone’s for that matter, surely suffered due to his views on all sorts of things. The only real question is where exactly and how badly. The only reasonable thing to do, I think, is to judge the work as unbiased as possible. Much of it may have been great and judging the value of the work shouldn’t involve assessment of the person’s personal views but only the merits of the work itself.

      As NdGT once explained, everyone has limits at which their personal views cause them to stop being good scientists, even Newton.

  2. Why would the Committee do this name change unilaterally, without consulting the membership? I don’t know, but clearly they decided that the name must be changed before this rather sordid backstory came out, and they weren’t taking chances!

    1. I am just speculating but maybe they are ashamed or embarrassed about the name. Something they had overlooked until later.

      I wonder about the comment concerning Grant? He was no boy scout when it came to slavery but his accomplishments as a General during the civil war probably put him at the top for commanders in the Army at the time.

        1. To throw Grant out means you would throw out just about anyone. People who judge the past this way should just stay at home. They will find no one who lives up to their standards. Ridiculous.

          1. Maybe we should stop making statues of people in light of the fact that no one is perfect, and we should rethink (collectively as a species) how we view heroes. On Grant, it appears he was pretty bad to the native peoples even though specific to slavery he was ok.

  3. It seems unfair to condemn a man for the use to which his ideas were put (just as it would be to condemn someone for the actions of an ancestor). Are we to throw out Marx for what Lenin, Stalin, and Mao did? This reminds me of a discussion that I was privy to between two History professors at the University of Chicago about absurd Orals questions they had heard of. One was this: “Some people feel that Marx and Fraud went too far. How far would you go?”

  4. I think that we can distinguish between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ statements in cases like these.
    ‘Is’ statements should be allowed. ‘Ought’ statements on the other hand I’m not so sure about.

  5. … I wanted to learn myself more about Cope.

    That’s a real Wisconsinism, isn’t it? When I clerked for a federal judge, my fellow clerk was a double Badger (undergraduate and law degrees from Madison) and a homeboy from Waukesha. He (and his family and friends when they’d come to visit) had this thing where they’d invert the meanings of certain verbs — learn/teach and borrow/lend among them.

    I used to hold a poker game for the other clerks on Saturday nights in those days. He wasn’t much of a player and would invariably go bust sometime during the night. He’d turn to me then and say, “Hey, Ken, borrow me twenty bucks until payday, willya?” I found it kinda charming and eventually started using it back at him. If I’d be working on a case involving a legal issue on which he had greater expertise, I’d turn to him and say something like, “Hey, man, learn me something about the Dormant Commerce Clause, willya?”

    Sorry, I know that’s not actually on topic, but it reminded me so much of those days.

    1. You still hear that kind of thing around here (Milwaukee area) from time to time. I think it results from some German linguistic influences but I don’t remember exactly.

    2. That’s not a Wisconsinism at all, though I can see how you mistook it for one. Some people in Wisconsin do use “teach” and “learn” interchangeably (as well as “loan” and “borrow”). To a New Yorker, such as myself, this usage as synonyms is somewhat jarring. I meant learn, not teach. “Myself” is an intensifier of “I” in the sentence.

      Here are three other ways I could have written it, which might be clearer, and in which it can be seen that substituting “teach” for “learn” would change the meaning:

      “… I wanted to learn, myself, more about Cope.”

      “… I myself wanted to learn more about Cope.”

      “… I wanted to learn more for myself about Cope.”


    3. Newfoundlanders do this with so many words and phrases that whole conversations can be turned upside down.

  6. Cope’s views on race do appear reprehensible. The difficulty for me is how do you assess societal mores that we find quite objectionable today that are one hundred, two hundred years or more old? How sensitive should we be or need to be? An example that I tend to personally rely upon as a touchstone is Henry Ford. He was a virulent antisemite. I won’t ever own a Ford, but should we rename the company? I think not. We really need to draw a balance at some point. If the good outweighs the bad, shouldn’t we leave the person’s reputation somewhat intact for their positive contributions to society, while clearly stating and rejecting their unsavory views?

    1. “We really need to draw a balance at some point.”

      Isn’t this really the crux of the problem? Exactly how do we draw a balance? It isn’t enough to say that the good should outweigh the bad. Do we say that to honor a person the good should outweigh the bad by just a little or does it have to be by a lot? In addition, to reach a determination all factors cannot be weighed equally. Some must be given more weight than others. For example, Jefferson was a co-writer of the Declaration of Independence but also a slaveholder and racist. How do you weigh these factors? Is one of these factors much more important than the other? All this means is the decision to honor or dishonor a person that did good and bad things in a lifetime is very difficult. Different people reach different conclusions. This is why these debates are so intense.

      1. Well said. The only thing is we do not live in a time where any of this can be discussed. There is only yelling, acrimony and division. Things may improve as we adjust to the new reality, but I doubt they will. I see this getting much uglier than it is now.

        Can you point to anything that suggests that the mythologizing of history – something that humans have always done – will be corrected by current zeitgeist? That’s not a trap – I’d like to know your thoughts. I’m trying to find some hope here.

        1. For more than half a century, professional historians have been writing, in my estimation, a demythologized narrative of American history in regard to the role of slavery and race. This viewpoint has been taught in the college classroom. I am talking about actual history classes, not “studies” classes. As I understand it, only a small percent of college students are required to take an introductory American history class. I do not know what is going on at the high school level, although the historical ignorance of most Americans leads me to suspect that the teaching of history could use improvement there. I also do not know what version of American history is taught there. Perhaps the region of the country determines what is taught.

          So, we have two problems. The first is declining enrollment in history classes on the college level. The second is the version of history taught at the high school level. Until these conditions are remedied, rampant ignorance will prevail, allowing the masses to be manipulated by demagogues.

          1. I always lean toward remedying ignorance at the elementary and high school level. That way you have a minimally educated population so they can get the basics even if they go on to higher ed.

      2. The case of Jefferson is not a close call for me. His relationship to slavery was not uncommon for his time. Let’s say for the sake of argument that he was in the 40th percentile. In other words, his “bad” was unremarkable among his contemporaries. His contribution to the formation of the country, his “good”, places him in the first percentile.

        1. Yes, and if you do not study the people of this time without all the prejudging you also do not learn much. Your judgement gets in the way of learning about the people, how they lived and why they did the things they did. Jefferson, like most that were born of this period were born in slavery. Most likely as little babies and children it was the black people that took care of them and raised them. As adults these white folks would have learned about the evils of slavery but they were not likely to do anything about it. The custom at the time was not to talk about it. One of the reasons Jefferson wanted to build the University of Virginia was to keep the boys home. Not let them go to northern schools where they would pick up lots of bad ideas.

          Jefferson could not have freed his slaves upon his death, even if he wanted to because he no longer owned them. He was so far in debt, everything including the slaves were sold at auction. His children got nothing. It would be like a farmer today, selling the tractor for some cash. Most likely it went straight to the bank.

          1. Indeed it would be just like selling a tractor today; they (including Jefferson) saw these people as property.

    2. Personally I think the relevant “we” are the company’s owners and stakeholders. As a non-stock-owning bystander, I have very few feelings on the matter one way or the other. If they keep it, well, it’s their company. If they change it, I’ll just shrug.

      I feel the same way about Cope. If ASIH wants to rename their journal, that’s fine with me. After all, it’s their journal. Likewise if they elect not to change it, that doesn’t really upset me, despite Cope’s racism.

      The biggest “issue” here for me is the board’s choice not to give the Society members a real option. That seems troublesome, regardless of the outcome. I don’t mind federally coerced human and civil rights, but board coerced wokeness in a private organization seems a bit over the top.

  7. As I am neither biologist nor sociologist, Cope’s views are news to me. The ASIH has fallen into the trap of the Streisand Effect. Too bad, Copeia was a lovely name for a journal.

  8. We all need to consider, what is to be done in such cases?

    Greg I think your complaint that this was not actually brought forth to the members in any meaningful sense is fair. Ideally, “what is to be done” is for everyone to get together, review the information, and hopefully come to supermajority (if not consensus) about whether to rename the journal or not. This process was not followed here. I don’t know what the result would’ve been, but it seems to me the board is not trusting the membership here, and IMO, that trust and conversation is the first part of ‘what is to be done.’

  9. I think you should honour someone for the things they have done to deserve that specific honour. The bad ideas Cope had were most likely shared as common at the time. That doesn’t make them right but it also doesn’t make him bad at what he did scientifically.

  10. I try to imagine how things would play out if we could plop people from their time to a different time. Move Cope as a child to this time, and raise him up to see how he turns out. Move [pick any outspoken Woke person today who is agitating to tear down the Jefferson Memorial or cancel Columbus day] and grow them up in the 1830’s and see how Woke they become.

    What happens should not be surprising.

  11. The phrase “and to the ASIH membership for consideration” has clearly been ignored by the organization – unless they mistakenly omitted “our fait accompli” between “and” and “to”.

  12. When I was a graduate student (in anthropology) at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana some 50 years ago was writing a paper on early hybridization of corn/maize and had cause to look at the early issues of Genetics at about the time of WW I (both sides). I was appalled by the number and scope of anecdotal accounts of the inferiority of Blacks (to be current with the New York Times). Therefore it behooves the woke to comb those issues for what are now viewed (as they are) racist perspectives and take those issues out to the dumpster or bonfire or whatever.

    Times change. The Sun no longer travels around our Earth. Diseases are caused by “germs.” People lives and their ideas fit the times (as many noted). Some challenge the current “truths” as did Darwin, and yet I had a young woman so upset at the evolutionary core of the anthropology I taught that we had to have a sit down discussion of beliefs, and that I was not requiring her to change her beliefs but merely to understand them. She did finish the class and disappeared into the crowd but her local version of Catholic Church schooling continued to preach the gospel of Genesis – perhaps to this day.

    Tearing down statues is as old as statues and dissent from true believers. Who has not seen statues with missing noses just as the Turks fired their artillery at the Sphinx’s head and the Olmecs of Mexico had their statues mutilated and buried by unknown “more enlightened” enemies ca. 200 or 300 BC or is it 2220-2320 BCE?.

    The notion that the statue of Theodore Roosevelt and a Native American (they were here at least 14,000 years ago and probably longer) and an African should be torn down because he is riding and they are walking (and therefore subjugated in the minds of some) is absurd. The Native American is wearing a “warbonnet” indicating that he has participated (and survived) warfare against other Native Americans and of high status belies the “subjugated” label. That Theodore Roosevelt had some flaws by modern standards hardly makes him a pariah. What president would not have flaws, and what about the one we are stuck with now who is all flaws? And who wants to establish a park with statues of American heroes. Whom would he choose? Surely there would have to be a Trump statue. But he has never shown us that he knows any history let alone has any familiarity with The Constitution, or science, or medicine or that the Wall he wants would keep out people whose ancestors have been here at least 14,000 years. Who are the true Americans?

    1. Nit pick; I don’t think the Turks (or as I heard it, Napoleon) can be blamed for the Sphinx rhinoplasty. According to Wikipedia they were removed for the same reason people hate on statues today – people objected to others honoring, or in this case, worshiping someone they disagreed with.

      1. There’s always the Ancient Greek herma, which if I recall correctly were defaced (depenised?) by Christians, I think.

        1. Now they are just heads and they’ve lost all the apotropaic protection. It would be amusing if bad luck happened after.

      2. The Turks, I believe, did store munitions in the Parthenon and it got blowed up real good which is why it’s such a mess today.

    2. “Surely there would have to be a Trump statue.”

      Per Wiki: In 2016, five identical statues of tRump were installed in five American cities. They ” …depicted Trump with a pot belly, an “old man saggy butt”, varicose veins, a “constipated” expression,a very small penis, and no testicles…” They were titled “The Emperor Has No Balls”., and were titled. If any are still available, one might be placed in tRump’s statue repository for homeless statue. Another alternative would be a Baby Trump balloon.

  13. A couple of differences from the issue of statues. One is that many (most?) of the statues of Confederate soldiers were originally erected specifically in order to send a message to African American citizens (“Know your place”). That’s not the case for Copeia: picking that journal name was predicated on Cope’s scientific contributions, and was incidental to Cope’s racist views. Is it helpful to ask “If one was starting a new journal on fish and helps would one choose Cope’s name for the journal title?” There I’m not sure – today one would probably vett Cope’s history as a person as well as a scientist, and the answer might be “Let’s name the journal after a better person who was also a great scientist.”

    A second difference is that changing the name of Copeia now means only that new papers published in the journal will have the new journal name in the reference. The thousands of papers published by the journal before the name change will still have Copeia in the reference, and that won’t change (indeed it can’t change given the nature of the referencing and citation system and the indexing of article citations). So in that sense Cope is not being disappeared from the literature by the journal name change. And maybe the effects of the name change are less drastic than they seem. I still agree the society is doing its members a disservice by not having meaningful consultation. And the name change might still be a bad idea for other reasons.

  14. I have been a past subscriber to Copeia (in better financial times) for amateur curiosity’s sake but I had no idea it was named for Cope. I also had no idea that he held such questionable racial views but that he did is none too surprising considering the time period. One would have better luck with the proverbial needle in a haystack than finding anyone at all from the 1800’s, or even just a few decades ago if we are honest, who could pass the ideological purity test of today’s moral standards. Likewise the wokest of the woke may find their legacy tarnished with the passing of time. But I have little interest in preserving the journal’s name, so long as his contributions, unpleasant as some may have been, are not erased from history. We have much to learn from scientific errors and failures, and the same goes for morality and ideology.

    As for Grant, or Lincoln while we’re at it, I feel it is not an exaggeration to say that without them and their fight to preserve the Union, our nation, flawed though most certainly is, would be far worse and black lives under the confederacy would matter not at all.

  15. We are allowing people who think only about race to dictate pretty much everything right now.
    But they don’t care about whether a person advanced scientific or medical knowledge or brought us closer to an egalitarian society.

    I suppose if we put fish in charge of evaluation everyone, the would judge us only on our swimming ability.

    For most of us, race is just not an important subject, or at least not the only thing that matters. I think you would be hard pressed to find any other multiracial society where minorities are less oppressed than they are here and now. Just the fact that people need to comb through the correspondence of a scientist who died in the 19th century to find things to be oppressed by is a pretty good signifier that people do not find present oppression very much of a distraction.

    Also, anyone who does not believe that this will result in piles of burning books has not studied how these conflicts tend to progress.

  16. I am appalled at this; as a former Governor of the ASIH, as an author of articles in Copeia, I will no longer support the organization. I have read most of Cope’s publications and he was a brilliant comparative anatomist with incredible ability to conceptualize what we today call cladistic analysis. I doubt that one could find any other paleontologist, herpetologist, ichthyologist, anatomist, systematist from that period of time who did not have the same views about race. What is the next step for these misguided folks: perhaps we will no longer be allowed to cite articles published by Cope and other scientists from the 19th century?

  17. Our goal is not in seeking the demonization of Cope. Rather we wish to honestly address one of our own blemishes. We have long ignored this particular blemish; much of our membership is not even aware of Cope’s racist perspectives.

    I think the magazine name was a bit over the top in any case.

    That said, this woke-washing of scientists of history sits ill with me. What’s next, expunge the names of those that believed in various types of magic!?

    So I can’t remember if I read about Cope’s personal – or public – life much, but his racism doesn’t seem to be buried.

    Cope’s views on human races would today be considered racist, and his beliefs were used by scientists of the time to justify imperialism. He believed that if, “a race was not white then it was inherently more ape-like”.[118] He was opposed to blacks because of their “degrading vices”, believing that the “inferior Negro should go back to Africa.”[119] He did not blame blacks for their perceived “poor virtue”, but wrote, “A vulture will always eat carrion when surrounded on all hands by every kind of cleaner food. It is the nature of the bird”.[120] Cope was against the modern view of women’s rights, believing in the husband’s role as protector; he was opposed to women’s suffrage, as he felt they would be unduly influenced by their husbands.[119]

    [ ; references 118-120 are references to Davidson, by the way.]

    Cope analogized African cultures with vulture behavior!

    1. I don’t see why the 2nd blockquote failed. The quote starts with “Cope’s views” and ends with “their husbands.[119]”.

  18. Still looking forward to Greg Mayer’s part 2 on Edward Drinker Cope, which I have not seen as of 7/25/20. Thanks!!!

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