EDITORIAL

Understanding Human Origins

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Science  02 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5949, pp. 17
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182387

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Summary

Responding to a question about his soon-to-be-published On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote in 1857 to Alfred Russel Wallace, “You ask whether I shall discuss ‘man’; I think I shall avoid the whole subject, as so surrounded with prejudices, though I freely admit that it is the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist.” Only some 14 years later, in The Descent of Man, did Darwin address this “highest problem” head-on: There, he presciently remarked in his introduction that “It has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: but … it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”