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Morris Goodman dies

Morris GoodmanMorris Goodman

The distinguished evolutionary biologist Morris Goodman died on November 14, 2010, at the age of 85, according to the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on January 12, 1925, Goodman attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before enlisting in the United States Army Air Forces in 1943. Returning to Wisconsin, he earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in zoology. After a series of postdoctoral appointments, in 1958 he took a position at Wayne State University, where he remained for fifty-two years. In the late 1950s, he became interested in evolution, and swiftly became a pioneer in molecular systematics, especially as applied to primates. Describing a 1975 paper using hemoglobin sequence data, he commented, "I think we were the first to get hard evidence of Darwinian evolution." His honors included election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences and the Charles R. Darwin Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

Goodman's scientific prominence, as well as his controversial proposal that chimpanzees and bonobos be reclassified from the genus Pan to the genus Homo, resulted in his frequently serving as a target of creationists. A long-time member of NCSE, Goodman seldom bothered to rebut creationism publicly, although in his article on "Reconstructing human evolution from proteins" for The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution (edited by Steve Jones, Robert Martin, and David Pilbeam; Cambridge University Press 1992), he pointedly wrote, "If the biblical account of creation were true, then independent features of morphology, proteins and DNA sequences would not be expected to be congruent with each other. Chaotic patterns, with different proteins and different DNA sequences failing to indicate any consistent set of species relationships, would contradict the theory of evolution. However, such patterns do not exist: the molecular phylogeny of primates and of all vertebrates is remarkably similar to the picture that emerges from morphology" (p. 307).