covered multiplied alarmingly. 78 This mistake, incidentally, was corrected by the aforementioned Karl Lepsius, thereby removing "the principal stumbling block which prevented the general acceptance and propagation of [ Champolllion's] system" ( Iversen 1993, 144). Also, Champollion mistakenly assumed that the language of the inscriptions was essentially identical with Coptic, the latest form of the Egyptian language ( Iversen, 144). Finally, the immediate fruits of hieroglyphic decipherment in terms of enlarged understanding of Egyptian civilization were not very great, and this too discouraged some Egyptologists. 79
Bernal may not like the direction Egyptology was taking or the ideological convictions of some of its practitioners during the second third of the nineteenth century. But he is not entitled to distort the history of a scholarly discipline for his own political purposes.
Blumenbach recognized that, before unfolding his classificatory racial scheme, he must first prove that all human beings belong to the same species. Having rejected the criterion of hybrid fertility (which others, including Kant, had used) for defining species, he proposed to rely on morphological and physiological attributes. But this would only work when the attributes with respect to which the putative members of a species differ from one another could be shown to possess a genealogical connection. This connection he designated "degeneration" (Entartung), a process whereby an attribute can change in degree and in response to changes in the surrounding physical and cultural environment (including changes in climate, diet, and mode of life). What degeneration amounts to is an alteration in the unique "formative force" (Bildungstrieb) characteristic of each species. Blumenbach thought that these formative forces were analogous to Newtonian forces, and he believed that like the latter, they did not violate the tenets of empiricism. In the first instance, at least, degeneration would seem to possess no necessarily moral or psychological overtones. Using the notion of degeneration, then, Blumenbach formulated his criterion for species-membership:
We say that animals belong to one and the same species, if they agree so well in form and constitution, that those things in which they do [essentially?] differ may have arisen from degeneration [Entartung]. We say that those, on the other hand, are of different species, whose essential difference is such as cannot be explained by the known sources of degeneration, if I may be allowed to use such a word. ( De Generis Humani Varietate Nativa, [ 1795] 1865, 188)