A propos this past Valentine’s Day


I routinely forget to count gibbons among primates, i.e. among our closest biological and evolutionary cousins, so it’s nice to be reminded of them and of their relatively unusual mating habits (life-long or nearly life-long monogamous pairings).  I do wonder, however, about the dimorphism business mentioned in the article linked to above.

While it’s true that both bonobos and gibbons show the least dimorphic tendencies among our closest biological relatives, it may well be that we, the human species, can overcome the biological compulsions of male competitiveness so obvious among the gorillas, for example, without necessarily having to evolve physically into less and less dimorphic differences between the sexes.  If that is so, it would have significant implications for the very possibility of establishing a political, social and economic order of human relations on both the local and the international level that could actually guarantee and deliver on the ages-long desideratum of world peace.  (I realize just how cryptic this statement is, but I don’t have the time or the energy to unpack it right now.)

This train of thought, of course, is highly speculative on my part, but I do note that the rise of feminism (an extension of democracy) did not have to wait for the disappearance of dimorphism in our species — or even for its significant abatement.

Moreover, if we look at our recent species history a little more carefully (at the period of the last 5,000 years, say), we can also find several documented instances of cultures in which women enjoyed a remarkable social parity with men despite the obvious physical dimorphism obtaining between the sexes.  This can be deduced even from such Stone Age cultural materials as parts of the Old Testament and certain of the poetic literature included and preserved by Judaism which predate it by a 1000 years or more.  It can also be deduced from parts of the canonical New Testament (not to mention certain of the Gnostic Gospels which have been coming to light over the past 150 years or so).  Similar examples of male-female near parity in social status were observed by ancient Romans among the Teutonic tribes they encountered on the territories of present-day Germany and are documented for pre- and early-Christian Celtic Ireland, too.

This leads me to conclude (and not just tentatively) that cultural evolution is a real phenomenon and that it can over-ride what we tend to think of as the “dictates” of our phylogenetic evolutionary heritage.  Obviously, for the argument to hold water among academic circles, it will need to be buttressed by all sorts of references to scholarly articles and monographs — which is the work for another time (a couple of years from now, perhaps).  Until then, I just wish to lay copyright claim to these observations of mine, as I publish them on this blog under the category “Occasional  Thoughts.”


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