Fwd: Franz Boas reassessed.

From: Wade T.Smith (wade_smith@harvard.edu)
Date: Thu 17 Oct 2002 - 03:35:18 GMT

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    A reassessment of human cranial plasticity: Boas revisited

    Corey S. Sparks * and Richard L. Jantz

    *Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, 409 Carpenter Building, University Park, PA 16802; and Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, 250 South Stadium Hall, Knoxville, TN 37996

    Edited by Henry C. Harpending, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, and approved August 30, 2002 (received for review July 1, 2002)

    In 1912, Franz Boas published a study demonstrating the plastic nature of the human body in response to changes in the environment. The results of this study have been cited for the past 90 years as evidence of cranial plasticity. These findings, however, have never been critiqued thoroughly for their statistical and biological validity. This study presents a reassessment of Boas' data within a modern statistical and quantitative genetic framework. The data used here consist of head and face measurements on over 8,000 individuals of various European ethnic groups. By using pedigree information contained in Boas' data, narrow sense heritabilities are estimated by the method of maximum likelihood. In addition, a series of t tests and regression analyses are performed to determine the statistical validity of Boas' original findings on differentiation between American and European-born children and the prolonged effect of the environment on cranial form. Results indicate the relatively high genetic component of the head and face diameters despite the environmental differences during development. Results point to very small and insignificant differences between European- and American-born offspring, and no effect of exposure to the American environment on the cranial index in children. These results contradict Boas' original findings and demonstrate that they may no longer be used to support arguments of plasticity in cranial morphology.

    Link to article (PDF): http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/222389599v1?ijkey=f3uGSmr3wB0r.

    [thanx to]--Stephen Carville http://www.heronforge.net/~stephen/gnupgkey.txt Blessed are those who, in the face of death, think only of the front sight.

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