The Mismeasure of Man | Study Guide

Stephen Jay Gould

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The Mismeasure of Man | Glossary


anthropology: (n) the branch of science that studies human beings

atavism: (n) the reappearance in an individual of a long-vanished ancestral trait; a throwback to an earlier evolutionary form

biological determinism: (n) sometimes expressed as "biology is destiny," the view that people's physical and mental traits are dictated by their genetic inheritance

cognitive: (adj) anything having to do with the mind and its mental processes, such as thinking, memory, and intelligence

craniometry: (n) the branch of science that deals with skull measurement

environmentalism: (n) the view that an individual's physical and mental traits are largely influenced by external factors such as health, nutrition, and living situation

eugenics: (n) the belief in selective breeding of human beings in order either to increase desired traits or to decrease unwanted ones

evolution: (n) a scientific system that studies the development of biological organisms over time from simple to more complex forms

factor analysis: (n) a complex statistical method used by scientists and mathematicians to find patterns in large sets of data

hierarchical: (adj) a word describing a series of things that is ranked in stepwise order from low to high, or best to worst

hereditarianism: (n) the view that an individual's physical and mental traits are largely inherited and not susceptible to change after birth

monogeny: (n) the belief that all humans descend from a single ancestral pair from which other races later split off

naturalist: (n) a historical term for scientist, used before science was divided into separate branches such as biology or geology

paleontology: (n) the branch of science combining geology, botany, and zoology that studies the fossils of biologic organisms

polygeny: (n) the belief that each race of humans descended from a separate ancestral pair

recapitulation: (n) an obsolete scientific theory that the growth of an individual organism from embryo to adult repeats ancestral stages from evolutionary history

reification: (n) the mistake of believing that an abstract concept has real physical existence

taxonomy: (n) the scientific system of classifying and naming biologic organisms

unilinear: (adj) anything that follows a single path of development without dividing into multiple branches

variation: (n) the normal range of differences that scientists expect to find among a single group of organisms in their genes, physical traits, and behaviors

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