Monday, April 01, 2013

Books I like to watch from afar...

Do you ever have books that you don't actually want to read yourself, but are interested in reading about?

One of those books, for me, is "Sex at Dawn." This is a popular book that argues for human non-monogamy by claiming that early humans were happily, harmoniously non-monogamous. I have not read this book, but everything I've read about it (pro and con) leads me to conclude that it's one of those pop-evolutionary-psychology books that drives me nuts, where the author decides how society should be today, and then justifies it with a bunch of dubious claims about what early human hunter-gatherers were like, and then calling it Science.

Entertainingly enough, two cool bloggers have done series' on this book. On is by "sex nerd" Emily Nagoski, see here for her series on it. Here's a key quote to give you an idea:

To the extent that the book proposes that monogamy is not the innate sociosexual system of humans, it is correct. However. Through a number of serious problems in their reasoning about and/or understanding of evolutionary science (which I’ll discuss in more detail below, for those who are interested), they come to the wrong conclusion about the nature of human sexuality. Human sexuality is not designed to function in open relationships any more than its designed to function in socially and reproductively monogamous relationships. What human sexuality is DESIGNED to be is massively variable, plastic, adaptable, and diverse. ALL of it is “natural” – and that’s all evolution can tell us. There is no system that is easy and comfortable for everyone; all sociosexual systems involve rules about what is or is not okay, and those rules will feel oppressive and wrong to SOMEONE.

I completely agree with her on this. It is not only more accurate, but a more positive argument for normal, healthy human non-monogamy than a bunch of just-so stories arguing that monogamy isn't a normal, healthy choice for humans.

(On a related note, it's kind of the same thing that drives me nuts about the "Paleo Diet." If you feel healthier giving up grains and dairy, then, fab, go ahead. But the "Paleo" reasoning behind the diet is so riddled with factual and logical errors, that it's maddening to even hear about it. I was tempted to write a post about it once, but (a) I don't care enough to bother since it's far from being the most ridiculous thing out there in popular culture, and (b) the wikipedia article actually summed it up pretty well.)

Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism also reviewed Sex at Dawn in these two posts. In one of his comments he gave a quick summary of one of the key problems:

You could look at it this way: on the fitness landscape, there are two peaks, two attractors. One is the state where paternal investment is high and males care about females’ fidelity; the other is the state where paternal investment is low and males don’t know or don’t care about fidelity. Bonobos occupy the latter peak. Most evolutionary psychologists would say that humans are on the former. But Ryan and Jetha would have us sitting awkwardly in the middle, in between the two peaks, yet feeling no selective pull one way or the other. I’m not convinced that this is plausible.

And now Adam Lee is doing a series on Atlas Shrugged. This should be fun!!

1 comment:

fatinlea said...

i got the book recently without really seeing what it's about... not quite sure i want to read now that i know what the author's trying to justify. just come across your blog when i googled for caca boudin :D interesting blog :)