Re: Intercourse /vs/ Offspring

E Douglas Kihn (
12 Dec 1996 07:59:09 GMT

In <58kism$> (Gerold Firl)
>In article <58hjao$>, Douglas Kihn) writes:
>|> In <>
>|> writes:
>|> >Hugh Hoskin wonders "When did man first recognize the correlation
>|> between
>|> >intercourse and the birth of babies three seasons later?"
>|> >Malinowski worked among the Trobrian Islanders in the 1930's and
>|> >that they still had puzzled out the connection. They believed
>|> >ancestor spirits resided in the fog and vapors surrounding their
>|> islands
>|> >and that these spirits would come ashore, invade women through
>|> >heads, lodge in their bellies, and eventually be reborn as
>|> >
>|> >Malinowski, no doubt feeling the white man's burden to educate the
>|> savages
>|> >(as he called them), tried to point out the relationship between
>|> and
>|> >childbirth. He asked if they had noticed that no virgins became
>|> >pregnant. The natives, not being imbued with the Judao-Christian
>|> ethic,
>|> >of course, responded that they didn't know any virgins. Finally,
>|> of
>|> >the Chiefs settled the argument by declaring that he had recently
>|> returned
>|> >home from a two year stay on a neighboring island only to find his
>|> wife
>|> >was pregnant, thus proving that sex and childbirth are not
>I hate to see a perfectly good (anthropological) joke spoiled - the
>way I heard it, malinowski's thesis was disproved by reference to a
>woman who was so ugly that no man would touch her with a ten foot
>pole, and yet who had three children!
>The real question is, who is on the receiving end of the punchline?
>A large majority of individuals in judeo-christian-moslem societies
>will profess to belief in an afterlife, but do they *really* believe
>it? Malinowski may have been informed that sex has nothing to do with
>conception, but there is belief and then there is belief. Some beliefs
>are held as a social fiction, and the advantages of such fictions are
>plain to see. As a way of diffusing potentially explosive jealousy,
>the fiction that womenare impregnated by local spirits is very useful.
>As to whether anybody actually *believes* that - hard to say. I think
>there's a very good chance that the islanders were having a bit of fun
>with their friend.
>|> In pre-technological
>|> societies, sex is completely open, and children are not denied
>|> sexual freedom, but are "doing it" to the best of their abilities
>|> the gitgo.
>Well - not really. Some cultures do permit a higher degree of
>sexual licence than we are accustomed to, but most do not. Regulation
>of sexual activity is one of the most important functions of culture,
>regardless of technology.
>|> When life is precarious, pregnancy must take place as soon
>|> as possible.
>My impression is that very few human cultures exist in such a
>precarious state, except during unusual periods of instability.
>A more general pattern seems to be one where culture provides man with
>more-than-adequate means for survival; the most pressing long-term
>survival requirement is to ensure that numbers do not increase beyond
>technological carrying capacity.
>And the entire tribe raises the children. This is why
>|> Mother, for 100,000 years, was the only parent, the Fertility
>|> was worshiped universally, and women and men shared power equally.
>|> This all changed with animal husbandry, agriculture, food surplus,
>|> the first division of haves/have nots.
>Careful - this golden age looks just as mythological as all the
>others. what data exists to support such a view?

>Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of
>me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you
>=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @

Thankyou Gerold!
I was wondering when someone was going to give my ramblings some
serious criticism. I'm an historian and a
wanna-be-an-anthropologist-someday. My anthro research is not very
extensive, but this is something I intend to remedy over the next
couple of years. A lot of this theory is pieced together using my
knowlege of medicine, biology, politics, history, and some
I certainly do not intend to imply that our pre-historical
ancestors lived in a Golden Age. Life was very tough and short - no
anti-biotics, no modern surgery, no agriculture to assure adequate food
supply. But culturally, to us, some aspects may appear to have been
golden. That's simply because the times we live in are so socially
disjointed and uncomfortable (but absolutely neccessary for the advance
of technology), and I don't believe evolution prepared us physically or
emotionally to live in class society for more than 6,000 years.
As late as the last century, it was generally believed in
scientific circles that women were merely repositories for sperm, which
supposedly carried the entire genetic potential. It's quite easy to
visualize pre-technological people being mislead on this, especially
considering the incest taboo. The incest taboo is the only sexual
taboo which is biologically and evolutionarily necessary - necessary to
expand the gene pool and resist parasites. In order to be successful,
people in clans must breed with strangers from other clans, especially
in nomadic societies. Does the evidence not indicate that our
ancestors were larely nomadic?
A nomadic existence is precarious without animal husbandry. Imagine
our ancestors looking for food all day, then bringing it back to the
collective and dividing it up. Hand-to-mouth. I suspect that most of
the pre-tecnological peoples we are privileged to study are sedentary
or semi-sedentary. Which means some measure of success at food
gathering, and therefore often the beginnings of social stratification.
Therefore the beginnings of private ownership of children and sexual
rules that are not biologically necessary. What think you all?
Some questions to better-informed anthropologists than I. . .
Before 4500 BCE in Europe and the Near East:
1. Were people (including men and women) buried in egalitarian graves?
2. Were female fertility figures produced in all times and places?
3. Were no fortifications built?
4. Is there any evidence of male war gods being worshiped?
5. Is there physical evidence that women waited any length of time
before getting pregnant in order to PREVENT overpopulation?

Thanks for you patience.

Dr. Doug