Edward Drinker Cope

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Edward Drinker Cope (1840–1897) was an American paleontologist and comparative anatomist, as well as a noted herpetologist and ichthyologist. That is to say, he studied fossils, amphibians, reptiles, and fish. He was a founder of the neo-Lamarckism school of thought and was known for his theistic views on evolution, although he was better known in his own time for his role in the "Bone Wars"[1] — a 20-year long feud with his rival Othniel Charles Marsh in which both Cope and Marsh frequently engaged in bribery, theft, destruction of bones, and generally acted like assholes. Their incessant bickering and endless attacks on each other's reputations ultimately left both men bankrupt and socially ruined (although on the positive side their desperation to outdo each other in finding fossils did lead to the classification of 136 new species of dinosaur between them including famous ones like the Stegosaurus). Also, Cope had the best middle name ever.


Cope was a neo-Lamarckian and an opponent of Darwinism. He was also known for endorsing a form of orthogenesis and other non-Darwinian evolutionary processes throughout his works. He coined a number of names for alleged evolutionary processes such as Bathmism (growth-force), kinetogenesis (direct effect of use and disuse and environmental influences), archaesthetism (influence of primitive consciousness) and later catagenesis, bathmogenesis, ergogenesis, emphytogenesis, statogenesis and mnemogenesis.[2] These processes were based around the idea of Lamarckism and orthogenesis, and some other scientists dismissed them as being mystical.[3] Cope believed that variations were acquired and inherited by an underlying energy force. It has been noted that in the 1870s and 1880s when Cope was writing his evolutionary works that the idea of a mind or spiritual force guiding evolution had a broad appeal.[4]

The Bathmogenesis of Cope has been defined as the following:

The idealistic theory of evolution of the American paleontologist E. D. Cope, explaining the genesis of new signs in living creatures in the process of evolution as caused by the influence of a special energy (bathmism, or "strength of growth"). The action of this internal factor is directed, according to Cope, by external influences, the use of organs, and forces resulting from needs, as well as unconscious or conscious selection.[5]

Cope's Theology of Evolution (1887) argued that consciousness comes from the mind of the universe and governs evolution by directing animals to new goals.[6] According to (Sideris, 2003) "[Cope] argued that organisms respond to changes in their environments by an exercise of choice. Consciousness itself, he maintained, was the principal force in evolution. Cope credited God with having built into evolution a life force that propelled organisms toward even higher levels of consciousness."[7]


Thankfully, the creationists have not discovered the work of Cope; if they had, they'd probably quote mine and misrepresent his works. While it is true that Cope had some far-out ideas on the mechanisms of evolution he was not challenging the fact of evolution and his work in paleontology is considered very good evidence for evolution. He discovered, described, and named more than 1,000 vertebrate species including hundreds of fishes and dozens of dinosaurs. An overview of his paleontology work and other contributions to evolution was written by Henry Fairfield Osborn.[8] He also wrote more than a thousand scientific papers, a feat that remains unmatched to this day. His work in comparative anatomy, herpetology and ichthyology is also considered good evidence for evolution.

Selected publications[edit]

  • The Primary Factors of Organic Evolution (1896)
  • The Origin of the Fittest (1887)
  • Theology of Evolution (1887)
  • Consciousness in Evolution (1875)

See also[edit]


  • Jane Pierce Davidson The Bone Sharp: The Life of Edward Drinker Cope 1997


  1. See the Wikipedia article on Bone Wars.
  2. Ronald L. Numbers Darwinism Comes to America 1998, pp. 34-35
  3. Ruth E. Moore Man, time, and fossils: the story of evolution 1953, p. 127
  4. God—or Gorilla: Images of Evolution in the Jazz Age
  5. Bathmogenesis Definition
  6. Randy Moore, Mark Decker, Sehoya Cotner Chronology of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy 2010, p. 140
  7. Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection
  8. Biographical Memoir of Edward Drinker Cope, 1840-1897 by Henry Fairfield Osborn (1929) National Academy of Sciences.