Manuscript submitted to Evolutionary Psychology www. New York, , pp. The latest in a long tradition of scholarship critiquing what is seen as the persistent and pertinacious inadequacies of widely held evolutionary perspectives on human sexuality e. Opting out of the formal academic style of writing, the book makes for an entertaining read, accessible to the lay reader not intimately familiar with modern evolutionary theory.
Indeed, its popular appeal is revealed by its paperback edition front cover boast of inclusion on the New York Times bestseller list. While numerous reviews have been presented in newspapers, magazines, and websites, I have failed to find one review in an academic journal or by an evolutionary scientist those who might be expected to give the most informed type of assessment of content. The public—in many cases unfortunately, but understandably—is largely educated in science through popular expositions such as this, and therefore it is crucial that researchers in the pertinent fields not ignore such publications or shirk from weighing in on the issues.
In this review, I address what I see as biased reporting of data, theoretical and evidentiary shortcomings, and problematic assumptions misleadingly put forth as well-supported hypotheses contained in Sex at Dawn. Spatial constraints prevent comprehensive evaluation of the numerous topics touched on in the book. Thus, I limit discussion to a few issues I see as especially meriting attention. Not only are current mainstream views on human sexual evolution theoretically and The human that never evolved Evolutionary Psychology — ISSN — Volume 9 3.
Now those are some bold claims! And bold claims demand strong evidence. I examine a sampling of what they proffer shortly. Their diagnosis in a nutshell: But this is getting too far ahead of things, and I should examine some elements of their case from the ground up. The basis for this assignment lay in the many similarities they see between human and bonobo sociosexual behavior and ontogeny, which differ for chimpanzees, including: Brushed aside from their comparisons of humans, chimps, and bonobos include sex-based hierarchies, sex-biased cooperation and coalitions, and intergroup hostility, for which humans have more in common with chimps than bonobos although they argue that intergroup aggression among chimps are the result of provisioning and other human disruptions.
Yet, all of these behaviors occur among humans. At any rate, while it locates their arguments on a shaky and debatable foundation, the bonobo paradigm should not be dismissed out of hand, and its merit should be judged on the evidence mustered for it, and the utility made of it in formulating explanations. In my assessment, their evidence is weak, and their use of it is limited to occasional restatement of a bonobo-like past for humans.
That war was rare among ancestral foragers, and that ancestral human societies were characterized by several ongoing, nonexclusive mating relationships wherein paternity certainty was a nonissue. I will address these issues in turn, although not in the sequence which they are presented in the book. It is…an adaptation to the social world that arose with agriculture. They argue that unconcentrated dispersal of reliable food sources ruled out conflict over these resources, and low population density meant that territoriality was not a concern—this despite abundant unmentioned ethnographic evidence of territoriality and territorial intergroup aggression among hunter- gatherer populations see, e.
This statement ignores the evidence from several foraging societies in which women are a cause of intergroup aggression see Manson and Wrangham, Furthermore, in addition to being group-selectionist, it presumes that humans are motivated by ultimate considerations. Alas, the only evidence offered is a handful of quotes from authors in agreement with their position, DNA analyses indicating low population densities in the Pleistocene, and the scarcity of skeletal indications of interpersonal violence in the archaeological record pp.
That, and the complaint that bonobos are given short shrift in published accounts of the origin of human warfare p. However, the authors make a weak case for arguing that it was a rare and unimportant selective pressure in human evolution. Curiously omitted from their review is the fact that the! The myth is the assumption that contemporary foragers inhabit the same regions and display the same behavior as ancestral foragers.
Modern-day foraging populations reside where they do largely because that is where they have been driven by their more powerful neighbors. And inhabiting impoverished habitats, population densities are kept very low.
If Alexander is correct, this calls into question just what can be gleaned about the past from foragers today. As mentioned above, the adoption of the bonobo model lays the foundation for their conception of ancestral mating as promiscuous and fluid p. Promiscuous sex creates and promotes webs of affection and affiliation. Further, the institution of partible paternity means that male parental care is diffused, resources are distributed among a wider social network, and children benefit from the investment of multiple fathers but see Ales, ; Crocker, ; Peluso and Boster, What the authors fail to mention is that male sexual jealousy and sexual conflict are not absent from even the most sexually liberal of partible paternity societies see, e.
Crocker and Crocker , p. The concept of partible paternity manifests itself in different ways in different cultures. Even where male-biased residence and kinship do not obtain, men and women are rarely given free reign to their sexuality, and paternity is never a matter of unimportance see contributions in Beckerman and Valentine, They are attempting to have their cake and eat it, too. If socioecological conditions among horticulturalists render them not appropriately comparable to foragers in the context of war, then a case could likely be made that there is something about the socioecology that renders it inappropriate to extrapolate from horticultural to forager sexuality.
I do not intend to belabor this point further, many readers can probably easily think of a few candidate variables, but it deserves recognition. It also bears mentioning that the primary ethnographer describes the Musuo nobility as having traditionally practiced a bilateral system of descent with wealth and status being transmitted from father to son Hua, —hardly a situation where paternity certainty would have been a nonissue.
The agricultural mode of subsistence, and the historical socially stratified feudalism, raise doubts as to the ancestral representativeness of the Musuo. In fact, of all the societies they offer as supporting evidence of a human nature of promiscuous sexuality, only one can truly be considered a foraging population: Despite their proclamation that with the dawn of agriculture and the derivative The human that never evolved Evolutionary Psychology — ISSN — Volume 9 3.
It fares little better in providing support for a promiscuous human nature. It appears that men everywhere take a proprietary attitude toward female sexuality and strive to monopolize the reproductive resources of their mates Wilson and Daly, Cross-culturally, adultery particularly female infidelity is the most common cause of divorce Betzig, Sexual jealousy is the predominant precipitating factor in lethal and nonlethal violence against women Daly and Wilson, ; Wilson and Daly, , and competition among men over women or the resources needed to attract them has been the cause of much bloodshed in our species.
These facts simply are not compatible with the narrative put forth in Sex at Dawn. But so much for ethnography. The authors have another source of evidence: The first bit of phenotypic evidence of a history of human promiscuity introduced is sexual dimorphism in body size pp.