Taboo and Genetics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 190 pages of information about Taboo and Genetics.

18.  Ellis, Havelock.  Man and Woman. 1904 ed., pp. 284f

19.  Thomas, W.I.  Sex and Society. 1907, p. 19.

20.  Schaefer, Sir Edw.  An Introduction to the Study of Internal Secretions.  London, 1916, pp. 106f.



Adaptation and specialization; Reproduction a group not an individual problem; Conflict between specialization and adaptation; Intelligence makes for economy in adjustment to environment; Reproduction, not production, the chief factor in the sex problem.

From the facts briefly stated in the preceding chapters it is quite evident that the general superiority of man over woman or vice versa cannot be proven by biology.  Such an idea arises from a careless and unscientific use of language.  Superiority is a term which, when used to express the rather exact ideas of biology, is employed in a carefully limited and specific, not in a general, sense.  That is, superiority, even if an apparently general idea like survival value is referred to, always implies a given, understood environment where such is not specifically mentioned.  Wolves, for example, might be found to possess superior chances for survival over foxes, beaver or partridges in a given environment.  A biologist would probably use more exact and less ambiguous terms to express such a fact, and say that wolves were the best adapted to the given surroundings.  If all these animals continued to live side by side in the given environment, they could be compared only as to specific details—­size, strength, cunning, fleetness in running, swimming or flying, concealment from enemies, etc.  Then the biologist would probably make his meaning perfectly clear by stating that one is specialized in one direction or another.

Especially is general superiority a vague idea when the things compared are different but mutually necessary or complementary.  If their functions overlap to some extent (i.e., if certain acts can be performed by either), we may say that one is better adapted to a certain activity than the other.  Thus it may be that women are generally better adapted to caring for young children than are men, or that men are on the whole better adapted to riveting boiler plates, erecting skyscrapers, or sailing ships.  Where their activities do not overlap at all, even the word adaptation hardly applies.  For example, women are not better “adapted” to furnishing the intra-maternal environment for the young, since men are not adapted to it at all.  It is a case of female specialization.

Men being neither specialized nor adapted, to any extent whatever, to this particular activity, any attempt at comparison is obviously fruitless, since one term is always zero.  This specialization, absolutely necessary to the survival of human groups, is either present or it is absent in a given individual.  Any attempt to formulate a general proposition about superiority either attaches purely arbitrary values to different kinds of activity or is absurd from the standpoint of the most elementary logic.

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Taboo and Genetics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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