Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Survival / Evolution /
@ K. 2004 03 17
Evolution, Sex, Power … Notes
Re: Leonard Shlain’s Sex Time, and Power: How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution
Mission: to assemble comments relating society to evolution
first mounted as I was preparing to read, the text recommended by a K. fan:
Shlain’s basic thesis as I see it so far: males and females of a species evolve by natural selection and by sexual selection in parallel to one another. In Homo sapiens the female mutated. The Adam then had to adjust to the new Eve. What Eve wanted was equality.
Concealed ovulation (note) was her strategy. Rape never working on a consistent basis for a species, Adam had to figure out what Eve wanted … and give it to her: or there’s be no Cain or Abel.
“Males … tended to be what females wanted them to be.”
I particularly love how he reports noticing the discrepancy in iron levels in the blood between males and females in his second year of med school. The teacher/doctors dismissed his curiosity curtly. They’re training technicians; not scientists, not scholars; skill; not learning.
Freud had asked baldly the age-old question: What do women want? What man has ever been able to answer? Well Shlain translates, simplifies the question: puts it in its proper context: How do I get this female to cooperate with what I want from her? that is: How do I get laid? with her, and her, and her … Then the question … and answers … begin to become tractable.
Ford said “Women” in the way it was always said
— not sure he meant it; not so sure he didn’t.
Good judgment is based on experience,
and experience is often based on poor judgment.
2004 06 28 I’m reading avidly, but not yet running back and forth between the book and Knatz.com to make comments. I now make one general one: I love science digests. Writers like Asimov, Sagan, Morris absorb the literature in a field and then distill it as a broth for the public. Those ignorant of the points being made will easily overestimate (or underestimate) the author’s own contribution: if he’s making any beyond the necessary reading and writing. I remember loving Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf but wishing that he had at least some footnotes: it seemed to be truthful, scientific, accountable, but how could one double check?
I’d felt the same way upon first reading Desmond Morris. Is he making this all up? Does anyone in related fields agree? Who would back up his assertions? Mowat is an “author”; Morris is a super-academic: which doesn’t mean that Mowat has no discipline. Who knows? The lack of documentation could be entirely the publisher’s decision: this is a “popular” book: don’t you dare cite references.
As popular books go, Dr. Shlain’s book is on the academic side. He does use footnotes, does cite theorists, experimenters. One reason I’m glad of it is that it puts Jared Diamond’s Why is Sex Fun into a bit of perspective. Published as a popular book, one might well think that Diamond personally invented every single theory presented. No: he’s great, brilliant, original, a diamond … but he’s working in a context, has colleagues, predecessors …
2004 07 01 This is such a good book. I’m more than half-way through. But I notice one absence, one omission: so far. Shlain has credited the female with the origin of many good human traits; but he has yet to say word one about the invention of the container. The invention of the container was my own big shtick in the early to middle 1980s. That was the main theme my second novel, Beginning, centered around. Shlain seems to have picked up on Morris, Lovejoy, the Leakeys … but I have yet to see him mention Richard Leakey’s point about the container. He does fire, he does free-hands, he does big brains … where’s the container?
2004 07 11 I’m making fewer notes here as I read than I’d anticipated, but this is some terrific book. The mythology is almost as good as the science. Two thirds of the way through I think of a theory of my own: parallel to Shlain, tangent to Diamond. Jared Diamond explains stotting among ruminants: the gazelle senses the lion, the gazelle jumps up and down in place a couple of times before running. If the lion attacks, the gazelle has wasted time; but it the lion thinks that the sitting gazelle is simply too strong and fast for him to bother chasing, then the bluff works and stotting gazelles live to propagate. Diamond suggests that substance abuse among humans may have a similar explanation. If I’m dead drunk, ate four pounds of steak with mushrooms, and I’m still driving the car at eighty, still alive, all with my hand on your ass, then I must have great genes: and you must want to fuck me.
I don’t doubt that the explanation is sound. But here’s another: Shlain explains humans exploring at least beginnings of the Z axis of time thanks to nature so complicating women’s menses and timing it to the lunar cycles. Our sense of time gave humans great power: too damn much if you ask me. Society is now so complicated that it crushes individual sentienses. Even powerful men are helpless in the grip of society’s agendas. Real communication is impossible in the face of mass produced, knee jerk opinions, knee jerk fake knowledge … Both stimulants and depressants depress our sense of time. We drink and toke for relief.
I’ll play a computer game like Shanghai to take a half hour break from work. Sometimes the puzzle is so challenging that I don’t get back to work, or to sleep for hours and hours. Time slips by. It’s a drug.
And of course, more and more, society can prescribe drugs, force them onto individuals who don’t give the right knee jerk reactions. Some of us become junkies on our own: can’t stand reality. Others become junkies by pubic decree.
Time made us great: and now we’re helpless, not great at all.
2004 08 09 This book is so good in so many ways. This file may have seemed a good idea at first but of course it’s hopelessly inadequate. On the other hand, perhaps a couple of comments are better than none.
I just encountered a statement I actually disagree with. It’s a conventional statement though, not an original insight. Shlain says that he assumes that Cro-Magnon man was just as smart as we are. That’s orthodox these days. But I disagree. I assume that we today are not nearly as smart as our Cro-Magnon predecessors. I believe our disadvantages outweigh our advantages. Human culture is already a hedge against raw evolution, but their culture was puny compared to ours. They were family and group based; we are church and state based. The family promotes its own interests. The parents seek true skills and seek to pass them on. We are devoted to the propagation of skills that suit the greedy, the profit seekers. We take children away from parents and give them to state-machined “teachers.” We take the ill away from those naturally interested in their welfare and turn them over to state-machined “professionals.” No. We’re not nearly as smart these days.
But don’t worry: we won’t survive much longer.
2006 10 10 Today a Reuters article argues that human ovulation may not be quite so concealed as we’ve recently been telling ourselves.
Why is public exposure of the female nipple considered indecent but the exposed male nipple isn’t?
Bravo, Cecil here duplicates pk’s own position exactly.