Ever Since Adam And Eve, The Evolution Of Human Sexuality

by Malcolm Potts and Roger Short, Cambridge University Press l999; 333 pages.

 

"Even after death silicone [breast] implants are inappropriate, since they leave a gooey mess in the crematorium..." from page 158.­ This book is full of startling ideas which make sense when you stop to think them over.­ Meanwhile you have looked at an unanticipated dimension of reality. I am a physician with a hobby of evolutionary biology since high school in the 1940's.­ In the year since I first read "Ever Since Adam and Eve" I have seen no review of it except one in an obscure source.  

 

           The authors were fellow students at Oxford University a generation ago where the plan to write such a book as this originated.­ Malcolm Potts is an M.D., specialist in human fertility, the first medical director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and professor at the School of Public Health, University of California at Berkeley.­ Roger Short is a veterinarian, an authority on mammalian reproduction, and faculty member at the University of Melbourne, Australia.  

 

          They state "We are interested in exploring the evolutionary origins and development of human sexuality for the very reason that we may want to modify some of the behaviors."  (p.130)  In this endeavor they have succeeded magnificently.­ Along the way they are very sympathetic to women's rights:  "Perhaps the noble and necessary struggle for equality between the sexes is most likely to be won when the differences between the sexes are also recognized."  (p.234).­ But then again..."that there are demonstrable behavioral differences between the two sexes is an unpopular conclusion for feminist theories built on a political as opposed to a biological foundation."  (p.234)  

 

          And there are some insights from anthropology:  1)"A good deal of nonsense has been written about preliterate societies, such as American Indians, living in some sort of spiritual harmony with the land.­ In reality the human animal has always exploited and destroyed its environment."  (p.203)  2)"Although most of human history has been lived out in a materially egalitarian society, once technologies arise that permit wealth to be garnered and to be distributed to kin, then economically stratified societies invariably appear and develop their own internal stability." (p.206)  3)"A double standard of sexual morality is the rule rather than the exception in settled societies." (p.218)  

 

          Ever Since Adam and Eve also contains much material which, although quite interesting, doesn't fit the main strands.­ This is contained in side bars.  Finally, some vignettes of the authors' felicity of expression:  "...may seek a martyr's death in the television coliseum of today's world." (p.278)  "In short, team sports share some of the behaviors associated with chimpanzee and human warfare, and they could be described as a form of masturbation to alleviate military desires." (p.324)  

 

          Ever Since Adam and Eve contains a very good index and bibliography.­ I am quite familiar with several of the items in the bibliography and they are cited appropriately.­ In short, this book is not only authoritative but also a good read, and deserves a wide audience.­                                                                                                    

 

John A. ­Frantz, M.D.

Published in Free Inquiry, Summer, 2002

 

 

Chimpanzees

         If the same amount of effort  that is going into genetic analyses went into chimpanzee conservation and behavioral biology, not only would we save this species from extinction, but we would write the most detailed story of our past—as rich as the Bible, but grounded  in science.  Marc Hauser, Department of Psychology, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Biological Anthropology of Harvard University (I didn’t make up the department name, JF)