Editor and ESS Secretariate: Johan M.G. van der Dennen, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Groningen, Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat 5/9, 9712 EA Groningen, The Netherlands, Fax: +31 50 3635635, E-mail:

Book Review Editor: Marcel Roele, Meeuwenlaan 111a, 1021 HX Amsterdam, The Netherlands, E-mail:

ISSN: 0929-0206. Published by Origin Press, Groningen, The Netherlands

Calendar of Forthcoming Meetings

* August 17-21, 1997: The 1997 Triennial Congress of the International Political Science Association (IPSA) will convene in Seoul, South Korea. For more information and paper proposals (title, 150 word abstract, your full adress and e-mail address) please contact Prof. Steven Peterson, Division of Social Sciences, 1 Saxon Drive, Alfred University, Alfred NY 14802, U.S.A. (fax: 607-871-2114; e-mail:
* August 17-21, 1997: Third World Congress of the International Association for Scientific Exchange on Violence and Human Coexistence (ASEVICO) at the University College, Dublin, Ireland. The general theme of the conference will be "Violence and the future of society". One of the suggested section themes is "Darwinian approaches to the future of society". For more information please contact: Prof. Don Bennett, Secretariat of the IIIrd World Congress of ASEVICO, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland.

Report on the 19th ESS meeting, July 23-26, 1996


For the first time in its history since 1982, ESS had its annual meeting in the United States of America. It was not the first time that we met outside Europe - those members who were present in Jerusalem in 1987 still speak with nostalgia about that meeting - but indeed ESS used to be geographically restricted in its presentation.
    With Steve Peterson as our host, we had the privilege to be the guests of Alfred University, a campus university which is also the home of one of the branches of the SUNY system. Alfred, a small town called after the King of the Saxons, is situated in the hilly north-western part of New York State, some 100 miles from Rochester. Alfred is one of the two centers of the evolutionary approach of politics, or biopolitics. This branch of political science florishes best in North America, and for this reason the main theme of the conference, 'Sociobiology and Politics', could not better be dealt with than in Alfred. From July 23 to 25, 23 papers were presented in a time schedule that gave optimal opportunity to discuss thoroughly the many problems that were raised. With in total 32 participants, 'Alfred' was a good conference in size as well as in substance. Since the book of abstracts does not have the program of the meeting, that is reproduced here to recreate the coherence which the conference absolutely had. Unfortunately, Valeri Dinev, Irwin Silverman, and Johan van der Dennen were not able to attend the meeting, and Howard Bloom's paper was read by Steve Peterson.

Tuesday, July 23
morning session:

Opening remarks: Dr. Chistine Grontowski, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Alfred University
Robert Cliquet: 'Below Replacement Fertility and Gender Politics'
Ada Lampert: 'Evolution and Development of Feminine and Masculine Values in Israeli Kibbutz Children'
[Valeri Dinev: 'Revolution and Violence']
[Irwin Silverman: 'Ethnocentrism vs. Pragmatism in the Conduct of Human Affairs']
William Dibrell: 'The Evolution of Morality'

afternoon session: Panel 'Sociobiology and Evolutionary Theory across Nations'
Dorothy Tennov: ' The Public Image of Sociobiology and Evolution'
Pierre Jaisson: 'Nouvelle Droite and Neo-Lamarckisme: The French Flavour of the Debate'
Vincent Falger: 'Evolutionary Theory as a Political Issue in the Netherlands'
evening: Trip to Letchworth State Park (optional activity)

Wednesday, July 24
morning session:

Alexander Oleskin: 'Non-Hierarchical Network Social Structures from Biopolitical Perspective'
[Johan van der Dennen: 'The Politics of War and Peace in Preliterate Societies']
Frand Salter and Kirsten Kruck: 'Family Resemblance and Mother's Facial Beauty'
Robin Allott: 'The Drugged Society, the Antheap, Or?'
Kevin MacDonald: 'Creating Evolutionary Significant Groups: Judaism as a Case Study'
afternoon session:
Panel: Human Abilities: Assessment and Implications
Seymour Itzkoff: 'The Permanent International Divide? Human Abilities and National Development'
Phillippe Rushton: 'The American Dilemma as an International Dilemma'
Edward Miller: 'Evolutionary Explanations for Racial Differences in Intelligence'
Timothy Keith: 'Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Validation of the DAS: Issues in Assessing Intellectual Ability'
[end panel]
Nancy Aiken: 'Power through Art'
Frank Salter: 'Sex Differences in Cross-Racial Mate Choice in the US: An Evolutionary Model'
ESS Business Meeting
Reception in the Knight Club

Thursday, July 25
morning session:

Panel: Group Selection
Howard Bloom: 'Group Selection and the Social Sciences'
Peter Corning: 'Holistic Darwinism: Synergy and the Bioeconomics of Darwinism'
David Smillie: 'Group Processes and Human Evolution'
James Fetzer: 'Group Selection and the Evolution of Culture'
[end panel]
Glendon Schubert: 'The Female Primate: A Critical Review'

afternoon session:
Patrick Peritore: 'Levels of Analysis in Biological Theory'
Ullica Segerstråle: 'Truth and Consequences in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond'

On Tuesday evening, July 23rd, Steve had organised an optional activity - a trip by car to the very charming colonial-style Letchworth House in the State Park of the same name, situated near the grand, imposing falls in the Delaware River. Socializing optima forma, we could not suppress the feeling to form a club of good friends, even if differences of opinion in many respects were constantly with us.
    However, the scale of our meeting and the degree of personal acquaintance with each other made some participants say that ESS should absolutely not sacrifice its own character by joining one of the bigger societies which also deal with the evolutionary approach to behaviour. One also could say that the role of the local host is a very important one to generate that constructive feeling. Steve, and his Dept. of Social Sciences, did everything to enhance that positive atmosphere, and at Letchworth State Park it was fully with us.
    Wednesday evening the traditional ESS business meeting was held, which produced one serious problem: the proposed location for the 1997 conference, Moscow (where Marina Butovskaya would have been our host) was rejected by a clear majority of the members present. At the moment of this writing, the ESS board has not found an alternative as yet.
    After the meeting, we were invited for a reception at the Knight Club in the campus main building. After two days of intensive discussions, we had the impression that once again an ESS meeting would be remembered as a constructive and scientifically valuable experience.

In Defence of Group Selectionism

by JOHN PRICE, Odintune Place, Plumpton, East Sussex, BN7 3AN, UK
3 September 1996

It saddens me to read that I cannot be both a sociobiologist and a group selectionist (Roes, 1996). I like to think that I am both. At least, I like to think that as a sociobiologist I have the right to consider the possibilities of selection at all levels. I would like to try to further the debate by giving an example, and I will choose a purely theoretical example which is also non- emotive, so that we are not affected by the emotions which surround the selection of altruistic traits.

A fishy example
Let us imagine a schooling fish which is preyed on by two predators. The big predator eats whole schools of fish in one gulp, and is not interested in a few individuals who stray from the group. The little predator cannot take on a whole school, but tends to concentrate on individuals who stray from the school. Already we can say that in the evolutionary history of this species the little predator has been more important, otherwise the fish would not school, and in so doing bundle themselves into convenient mouthfuls for the big predator.
    Let us also imagine that one of the predator avoidance strategies of this fish is to turn to the left or right when it senses a predator in front of it. It does not swim straight on into the predators mouth. Any fish that did that in the past have not lived to reproduce. The fish has to decide whether to turn to the left or the right when it senses a predator in front. The choice of left or right could be determined in a number of ways, such as by random isation, or by doing the opposite of what it did last time, or by sensing a slight deviation of the predator from the mid-line. All these methods have disadvantages, especially for a schooling fish. For instance, slight deviations from the midline might give opposite decisions in different members of the school who might have slightly different orientations in space, and also some fish might be paralysed by being unable to make a decision, and get into the condition of Pavlov's dogs asked to distinguish between a circle and a nearly circular ellipse.     Therefore we have the right to imagine that the choice between left and right is genetically determined, and it does not matter for our argument whether the genetic variation is monogenetic or multifactorial. There are left-turning fish and right-turning fish, and the difference is heritable.
    Let us imagine the situation in a habitat which is dominated by the small predator. Fish which do not turn with the school are at a disadvantage. Therefore, the rarer the genotype, the less its payoff. We are in a situation of positive frequency-dependent selection. The most frequent allele will increase in frequency until it becomes fixed. There is no intrinsic advantage in turning left or right, only in turning the same way as the others. Therefore, if there is not much genetic exchange between schools of fish, some schools will become fixed as left-turners, whereas other schools will become fixed as right-turners. There will be a lot of between-school variation but not much within-school variation.
    Enter the large predator. His success in devouring a whole school of fish depends on predicting which way it will turn when he approaches it. If he is in a habitat of largely right-turning schools, he will assume the school will turn to the right, and therefore a left-turning school is more likely to escape him.
Here we are in a situation of negative frequency-dependent selection. Schoolwise, it pays to be unlike the other schools. Therefore the variation between the schools will be maintained. Neither type of school can die out, because the less frequent it gets, the more it is likely to survive.
    The overall situation is one in which genetic homogeneity within schools is maintained by positive frequency-dependent selection, whereas genetic heterogeneity between schools is maintained by negative frequency-dependent selection. In order to understand the population dynamics of our fish, should we not consider selection both at the level of the school and at the level of the individual fish?

Has the expression of anti-group selectionist sentiment become a badge of biological respectability?
During the thirty odd years of my professional life, there has been a prejudice against group selection talk. I am sure that in biology generally, people who talked favourably about group selection did not get jobs, and lost respect from their peers. There was what might be called positive frequency-dependent social selection, because the more anti-group selection ists in the scientific establishment, the more it paid to be anti-group- selectionist. It could have gone the other way. Wynne-Edwards could have won the intellectual battle with his powerful book (Wynne-Edwards, 1962), and it could have become beyond the Pale to be a selfish genist. Then the population of scientific establishments could have become fixed as pro- group selectionist.
Now that pro-group selectionist material is beginning to appear in print again (Wilson and Sober, 1994; Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1982 and 1995; Bloom, 1995; Stevens and Price, 1996; Price and Stevens, in press) we are in some danger of splitting into two opposing camps. Should we not, as sociobiologists, recognise that we are dealing with a group process which has the effect of causing homogeneity within groups and emphasising differences between groups? As scientists, should we not be in favour of heterogeneity, both within and between groups?

Bloom, H. (1995) The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.
Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1982) Warfare, Man's indoctrinability and group selection. Zeitschrift für Tier psychologie, 60. 177-198.
Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1995) The evolution of familiality and its consequences. Futura, number 4, 10 Jahrgang 1995, pp 253-264.
Price, J.S. and Stevens, A. (in press) The group-splitting hypothesis of schizophrenia. In The Evolution of the Psyche (ed. D.Rosen, R.Gardner & M.Luebbert). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Roes, F. (1996) Against group-selectionism. ESS Newsletter, Number 41, April, 3-7.
Stevens, A. & Price, J. (1996) Evolutionary Psychiatry: A New Beginning. London: Routledge.
Wilson, D.S. & Sober, E. (1994) Reintroducing group selection to the human behavioral sciences. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 17, 585-608 (open peer commentary 608-654).
Wynne-Edwards, V.C. (1962) Animal Dispersion in Relation to Social Behaviour. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd.


Kaplan, Lawrence J. and Rosemarie Tong: Controlling our Reproductive Destiny: A Technological and Philosophical Perspective (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994, ISBN 0-262-11176-4 (hb). US$53.95. xiv + 418 pp).

by ROBERT H. BLANK, Department of Political Science, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 1, New Zealand.

Controlling Our Reproductive Destiny is the seventh book published under the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's New Liberal Arts Series. The goal of this program is to involve undergraduate students in meaningful experiences with technology. The aim of the book according to the authors is to provide students with enough scientific background to fully understand the technologies and enough legal cases, ethical principles, and social trends to analyze the risks and benefits, pros and cons, and rights and wrongs of reproductive technologies (at xiv). In large part, the book succeeds in meeting these expectations. It does a good job explaining competing perspectives and presenting opposing viewpoints in an objective manner. Only in several instances (eg. pages 108-109 on condom usage) is the editorializing explicit and out of place.
    This book is a comprehensive introduction to the subject written by a biochemist and a philosopher. Generally, it is a clearly written account of the technologies and the ethical and social issues surrounding their introduction and diffusion particularly in the United States.
    The book begins with a short and somewhat uneven introductory chapter on fertility and infertility followed by a more coherent chapter that presents the ethical and legal framework of reproductive technologies. Chapter 3 offers an overview of human reproduction. The figures and illustrations are very useful to the presentation and the appendix on basic biochemistry should be helpful to readers who lack a science background. Each of the remaining chapters focuses on one reproductive application including contraception, sterilization, abortion, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization/embryo transfer, and contracted motherhood. Each of these substantive chapters begins with a discussion of the state of the technology followed by an examination of the ethical, legal, and social dimensions, respectively.
    The problems in this book have much to do with its attempt to cover all aspects of these complex issues surrounding human reproduction. Although this book contains substantial information and discussion of the various dimensions of the subject, its coverage of the legal and political issues in particular is superficial and inconsistent. This results in discussions that are incomplete, misleading, and at least in several instances inaccurate. Many issues (i.e. resource allocation) are touched upon only briefly leaving the reader without adequate information to make an informed judgement. Also, some topics that deserve their own space appear to be inserted haphazardly in substantive chapters - for instance, the material on research protocol and informed consent which is relevant to most chapters is placed in the chapter on contraception along with a history of the birth control movement.
    Another problem with Controlling Our Reproductive Destiny is that with the exception of several chapters, the references are very dated. Reproductive issues have recently sparked considerable interest by law and social science journals and been the focus of innumerable books either on particular technologies or specific social, political, ethical or legal aspects of reproductive technologies in general. Major National commissions, task forces and other private and public bodies have debated the issues and published reports. It would seem appropriate that a book on this fast moving subject would be dominated by post-1990 citations. Instead, a large proportion of the references are mid-1980s and earlier, with an unacceptable number of sources from the 1970s. Moreover, on some key issues the references given are recounts by popular magazines instead of the original scientific or legal journal sources. For example, in the discussion of a lawsuit filed over a 1979 Illinois statute on IVF, the authors (at 284) cite a 1984 one-page Time magazine article as the only source. They go on to surmise what will happen if the action succeeds or fails but then return to a discussion of earlier Supreme Court cases. What did happen in the 1984 case? What case was it? More recent and more authoritative references to the case would have clarified an issue left in limbo by the authors.
    More troublesome are several factual errors which raise questions concerning the overall commitment to check facts. One page 256 for instance it is stated that "President Ronald Reagan disbanded the original EAB in 1980." This is wrong! In fact, Patricia Harris, President Carter's Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, for reasons that are debatable allowed the EAB to lapse on September 30, 1980, when its charter and funding expired. This might be a minor point except that the authors use this to support their argument that policymakers have "turned cold shoulders to U.S. reproductive researchers in order to appease powerful political lobbies such as the so-called right-to-life movement" (at 255). Although this might well be the case, the original disbanding of the EAB does not substantiate such a conclusion.
    Similarly, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare guidelines on voluntary sterilization applied only to federally-funded sterilizations and the actions taken by the Department and the courts throughout the 1970s were considerably more complicated than the discussion implies (at 127). Also, In re Grady is termed a "landmark decision" (at 130) but it is only one of many state court rulings and it should be put in perspective.
    Although these and other lapses in detail should not detract from the overall value of the broader discussions in this book and appear to be concentrated in the legal-policy sections, they along with the failure to provide more recent references diminish its value as an undergraduate textbook. As stated earlier, these shortcomings appear to be a function of the attempt to cover everything in one book. The book's strengths of the lucid coverage of the technologies and the philosophical debates therefore are tempered by its less adequate coverage of the legal dimension of our reproductive destiny.


Flohr, Anne Katrin: Fremdenfeindlichkeit: biosozialen Grundlagen von Ethnozentrismus (Opladen, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1994. 271 pp., biblio graphy. Deutsche Mark 46).

by VINCENT S.E. FALGER, Department of International Relations, University of Utrecht, the Netherlands

More often in continental Europe than in Great Britain and the US, Ph D theses are considered worth while to be published unabridgedly as books on their own. That has advantages - a junior researcher gets more attention, for example - but mostly also disadvantages - the digestibility is not at its maximum because of an inclination to over-detailing and completeness. Anne Katrin Flohr's book is clearly an example of such imperfect character, but I immediately add that it was a good decision to publish this thesis - that is, to make it available to the German reading public. Notwithstanding certain inadequacies, this book must be considered as a much needed contribution to: (a) the still underdeveloped European branch of evolutionary approach in the social sciences, and (b) the discussion of one of the most interesting research and political problems of the late twentieth century: ethnocentrism. First I condense the general argument of the book, then I evaluate the strong and weak points which struck me.
    Fremdenfeindlichkeit: biosoziale Grundlagen von Ethnozentrismus (litt. enmity towards strangers: biosocial foundations of ethnocentrism) is composed in two main, nearly equal parts, followed by a very clear conclusion and a provocative prospective. Part 1 deals with ethnocentrism as a social phenomenon and as a theme of research. Anne Katrin Flohr's starting point is that after the end of the Cold War, the social sciences in general and political science in particular have been surprised by the revival of a kind of conflict that was generally considered to have become vanquished by history. Ethnic conflict in this book generally is understood as crises and war between different ethnies, that is between groups of people differing on the basis of language, culture, historic experiences, phenotypic identification marks, religion, the belief in a common ancestry, or just we-feeling of the present moment (p. 20). This type of conflict is rightly presented as one of the main political problems of our time, having been remarkably neglected by peace researchers, international relations specialists and other variants of political scientists usually fixated by contemporanism. An overview of ethnic conflicts accentuates the many European cases (but omitting examples from Great Britain, The Netherlands and Poland), and within that group, the long list of incidents in Germany draws the attention. Of course, the author acknowledges similar cases outside Europe, also American examples, but it is not the aim to go beyond the point of illustrating the ubiquity of ethnic conflicts, also in the so-called modern industrialised societies. Actually, the resurgence of these conflicts in modern Europe has been the main incentive to wonder whether the traditional social scientific research did not satisfy her longing to convincing answers with regard to the tenacity of ethnocentrism. A short discussion of current traditional (that is, non-biologically oriented) social scientific explanatory frameworks - of which the modernisation theory is most prominent - leads her to the conclusion that no framework based on proximate causes or 'environmental' explanations only, can give convincing answers. Meanwhile, she has clarified the distinctions between ethnies, races, tribes, castes, peoples (Völker). In her eyes, common descent, or the belief in it, is the central (but not only) characteristic of any ethnic group. Ethnies are the oldest human social groups, if we disregard families, and following Pierre van den Berghe, Anne Katrin Flohr represents race as a much younger category. After this, the various isms are discussed, and ethnocentrism is seen here as the empirical inadequately based, (cognitively and affectively) positive evaluation of one's own ethny in conjunction with the negative evaluation of other ethnies, under certain conditions connected with the preparedness to act accordingly (preferential treatment and discrimination respectively) (p. 73). Acknowledging that ethnocentrism is getting more and more important to political and other social sciences, means that more encompassing theories than the traditional ones are needed, and the author thinks that the biological approach of human behaviour provides with the foundations for real understanding of the phenomenon. She then elaborates the biosocial approach in general, but not after having dealt on a very nuanced and clear way with the risks of using biology in the social sciences. Very much aware of the delicacy of this theme in the European social sciences - where the taboo on biology is much stronger than in America - she argues that the pre-Darwinian state of the social sciences is an effective blockade to further understanding of ethnocentrism.
    After having thus prepared the foundations, the central problem of the book - does ethnocentrism has biological roots? - is systematically dealt with in Part 2. A natural predisposition to ethnocentrism is argued to exist by inventarising literature well-known to the readers of this journal, supplemented by many references to German social science literature. And since the author claims that her study is in Germany the first encompassing effort, and theoretically the broadest based one, to prove such natural dispositions, we are introduced to the basics of sociobiology, evolutionary theory and biopolitics, and all these in particular geared to nepotism as the most relevant common ground in the behavioural repertoire of human and non-human animals. For those who are familiar with biopolitics, not too much news is added, but if we consider this book as an introduction to the usefulness of biological argumentation in social science, illustrated with an important theme, this book is quite complete.
    In the concluding section, a condensed but very good summary of the book's arguments is followed by discussing a common practical problem in many serious ethnic conflicts: given the high potential for violence in this type of conflict, is the prospect of granting minority rights or even a high level of autonomy enough for these minorities? The carefully formulated answer on the one hand illustrates the significance of ethnic problems in general, and on the other makes clear that political implications of (bio)political science can be closely related. "The phylogenetic conversion of ethnic togetherness and of susceptibility for ethnocentric attitudes, as developed in this book and stated most carefully, comes in the case of doubt [in casu: whether or not choosing for the stability of the state] closest to a decision in favour of separation. That goes anyhow if the highest aim of a particular policy is the restriction and prevention of violent resolution of conflicts." (p. 252-53). In escalating ethnic conflicts, unfortunately, this is rarely the highest aim, and one could even argue that ethnic conflicts typically provoke outbreaks of violence. This advice would not have withheld the Serbs in waging their war of conquest, and it is interesting to imagine what such an advice would elicit in countries with considerable minorities - indeed, an invitation to use violence in ethnic conflict 'resolution'. No state will voluntarily give up its sovereignty, and as long as humanitarian intervention remains exceptional, it is not realistic to expect states to abolish their monopolies of legitimate use of force. I think this advice, which concludes the book, is less valuable than the reflection on the potencies of regionalism in Western Europe. Here, the link between the theoretical argumentation of the biological roots of ethnocentrism and the historical political reality is more convincing.
    As an international relations specialist myself, I fully agree with Anne Katrin Flohr's complaint about the nearly absolute lack of interest in IR (and the same goes for peace research) for really fundamental questions. This book, though not the first one on the subject of ethnocentrism as is made clear in the many footnotes, indeed is best seen as an invitation to go on in this direction. However, I regret that Shaw and Wong's Genetic Seeds of Warfare apparently has not been recognised as highly relevant for this subject, if only for trying to match theory and political practice. For the sake of progress of fundamental research in ethnocentrism, it would have been more profitable to expand Shaw and Wong's work than writing another introductory book. Also I missed more recent developments in the ethnocentrism discussion (f.e. Moynihan's Pandaemonium), and in general the book, published in July 1994, gives a somewhat outdated impression (the description of Apartheid and the situation in Ethiopia, for example, predate the early 1992 developments, although on p. 139 November 11th 1992 is mentioned as the date of a source). It is, of course, possible that Ph D theses in Germany take a very long time to be approved of, but even so I wondered whether apparently it was not possible to update the text. The lay out of the book cannot be the reason because the text was produced by a matrix printer. Was it really impossible to adapt the text and use a laser printer with a nicer font? And although the book has a useful bibliography, a name and subject index should not have failed.
    But my critical comments on these details do not detract the strength of the book: the well-balanced structure in argumentation, a useful overview of the literature, an equally useful and convincing critical approach of environmental ism in social science, and - making this book remarkable - a courageous and nuanced effort of a German political scientist to write with critical sympathy on the biological roots of ethnocentrism. It is to be hoped that this book will become an impetus for further research in Germany and other European countries. The author herself could contribute to that by studying, for example, the anti-German attitude in the Netherlands as a typical expression of Fremden feindlichkeit. So far, this phenomenon has only been studied by political scientists and historians who are highly preoccupied with proximate descriptions and explanations. I would very much welcome such a case study, firmly based on the theoretical foundations described in the book under review and tested to empirical research. Perhaps cooperation with a historian specialised on bilateral relations could produce an ideal book on ethnocentrism in modern Europe, which would also be a complement to McGuire's Human Nature and the New Europe.

This review was also published in Politics and the Life Sciences, August 1995, 14 (2): ©Beech Tree Publishing.


Money, John: Biographies of Gender and Hermaphroditism in Paired Comparisons. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 1991, Pp. 388. ISBN 0-444-81403-5 (cloth) US$ 217.00 Dfl. 380.00 ISBN 0-444-89129-3 (paper) US$ 60.00 Dfl. 140.00).

by LUK GIJS, Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, Vakgroep Klinische Psychologie en Gezondheidspsychologie, Postbus 80.140, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands.

John Money, the renowned sexologist-psychologist, was born in New Zealand in 1921. In 1947 he emigrated to the United States of America and studied psychology at Harvard University. In 1952 he received his PhD with a dissertation on Hermaphroditism: An Inquiry into the Nature of a Human Paradox. Before he had formally received his PhD, he began working with the endocrinological paediatrician Lawson Wilkins at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
    From then on the story is well-known. Money was one of the first to develop the field of psychoendocrinology, and his (longitudinal) clinical studies of intersexes brought him worldwide fame. Although his contributions to sexology are manifold, his work on gender development and the treatment of its disorders are perhaps the topics on which his influence has been greatest.
    In this fascinating but lengthy book, Money offers a perspective on the day-to- day practical aspects of the treatment of people suffering from intersex syndromes. For that purpose, he presents 11 matched pairs of intersexes that are "two individuals concordant on the basis of one criterion, or set of criteria, but discordant on the basis of another" (p. 10). The goal of this comparative strategy is stated as: "Sometimes there are strategic and tactical limitations that impose a time delay between the enunciation of a concept and its orthodox experimental and statistical support or proof. At such juncture, there may be great scientific value in nonstatistical evidence - especially the evidence of the extreme case that disobeys established doctrine" (p. 9).
    The matched pairs are described in chapters 2 to 12. For each pair an overview is given of the diagnostic and clinical biography, of the "gender-coded social biography", of the "love-map biography", and finally of the clinical and theoretical sexological significance. In doing so, Money uses his own widely- known theory which is briefly and lucidly described in the Preface and in chapter 1 (pp. 1-22). For those who are well acquainted with his views, there is not much that is new: "gender-identity role (G-I/R) is multivariately and sequentially determined and includes sexuo-erotic orientation", and the most important variables are: chromosomal sex, testicular determining factor, H-Y antigen, gonadal dimorphism, prenatal hormones, internal morphologic dimorphism, external morphologic dimorphism, brain dimorphism, assigned sex, socially stereotyped sex of rearing, pubertal hormones, and G-I/R. Money emphasises that the development of G-I/R is not a matter of Nature or Nurture, but both are inevitably connected. Or in his own words: "this two-term proposition should be a three-term one: nature/critical period/nurture" (p. 3). For those less familiar with Money's views, these 20 pages give a clear introduction.
    Only a few sexologists will oppose a biopsychosocial view on these lines, although not every one will agree with Money's specific elaboration of it. In this respect, it is a pity that Money has chosen to neglect almost entirely alternative theories and their possible clinical consequences.
    This book is especially interesting when one realizes that the case-studies described cover many decades. As a result, the reader is brought to realize how primitive biological measures once were and that much more empirical knowledge has become available since 1952. It increases one's admiration for pioneers like Money who, with hardly any knowledge available at the time, were faced with the difficult task of taking hard decisions on the treatment of children suffering from intersex syndromes.
    And so we arrive at another attractive feature of this book: the clinical dialogues. How should you speak to children, adolescents and adults suffering from intersex problems? Money provides an excellent model: he talks to his patients in direct, lucid and understandable language. He takes them seriously, is unbiased, and gives them strong social support. In consequence, an analysis of these dialogues can be very useful in courses on therapy and counselling.
    What is the audience at which the book is directed? It is written so clearly that every health professional can read it. However, in our opinion, it is primarily best suited for sexologists who have a special interest in people suffering from intersex problems or who are working with them clinically. The reader, whilst appreciating that Money's own well-known theory is the main focus in this book and that other sources have to be consulted for alternative views, should enjoy this book very much and learn a good deal from it.


Quiatt, Duane & Vernon Reynolds: Primate Behaviour: Information, Social Knowledge, and the Evolution of Culture (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-521-35255-X (hardback), 322 pp, UK£42.50 US$74.95).

by ALEXANDRA MARYANSKI, University of California, Department of Sociology, Riverside, CA 92521-0419, U.S.A.

This book uses data on primate social skills to develop a new "information approach" to primate communication and a new theory on the evolution of culture. In their review of primate communication, Quiatt and Reynolds reject "selfish-gene models," "conspecific manipulation models," and "stimulus- response models" as too simplistic for primates. Instead, they wrap together neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, a socioecological approach and Robert Hinde's network scheme, to advance a provocative new thesis on primate communication.
    The first part of the book reviews field and laboratory data on primate intelligence. In these chapters an impressive body of literature is packaged together to support the case that primates have a highly evolved "cognitively organized" intelligence. This complex neurobiology, they aver, warrants a closer look at primate communication. Essentially, the authors press for less emphasis on abstract "genic models" and more emphasis on empirical "social relational models" to capture the complex reality of primate social networks, which are used to convey messages about predators and the location of food sources. Indeed, for Quiatt and Reynolds primate social relationships are "founded on the transmission of information" (1993:4). In light of this, they maintain, it is foolish to consider primate communication solely in terms of "ego-centered" individualism because it "omits emphasis on reciprocity, shared knowledge and the mechanisms by which primate relationships are maintained." It also misses "the system aspect of society - the flow of information through the group that constitutes the dynamics of its socio-ecological adaptation." (1993:4).
     To help the reader visualize how a system-wide information network operates in a primate society, Quiatt and Reynolds adopt Hinde's social relational scheme (Hinde, 1983). Hinde's model considers the relations among primates from the "inside out," depicting social action at three emergent levels: social interactions (the building blocks of relations); social relationships (the building blocks of social structure), and social structure (the total network of relationships). By fusing sociobiology concepts with Hinde's model, the authors contend that "ultimate causes" (i.e. genic forces) operate at the "interactional" and "relational" levels, while "proximate constraints" (sociological forces) operate at the "social structural" level. In other words, social structure is not reducible down to genic-driven binary relations. Instead, both socio-ecological conditions and social structure contribute to "variation" with fitness, they argue, dependent upon the abilities of individuals to capitalize upon their network ties for information at each level. Thus, to focus solely on individual attributes is to be blind to the relational regularities at other levels. For example, the genic level is normally highlighted for individual resource competition. Yet, as the authors point out "individual organisms are not genes...[and] it cannot be anticipated that they will act strictly according to the rules of genic logic (1993:55). Instead, we need to uncover the types of information logic that guide individuals at the social structural level.
    In turning to the "content of primate communication," the authors outline three distinct repositories for social knowledge: (1) individual memory, (2) group memory (i.e. current network information knowledge about relations and activities) and (3) "culturally" stored memory (stored knowledge about sites, discarded tools, etc). Using these categories, Quiatt and Reynolds suggest that the "Culture concept" should be modified and applied cross-species wise to refer to "the processing of information in the social domain" with an emphasis on degree rather than kind (1993:92).
    In the second half of the book, the authors switch their focus to human culture. Here, they apply the "information approach" to trace out the origins of human institutions and language by underscoring two of its key assumptions: the "institutional properties" of primate relationships (i.e., a patterned form and process), and, (2) the overriding importance of information as the central feature of primate communication. (1983: 106-111). In this analysis, they compare the kinship networks of both humans and primates. For Cercopithecoidea, the authors look at the organizational structures of baboons (Papio) and macaques (Macaca) who rely extensively upon ranked matrilineages to distribute scarce resources. After connecting status to fitness, they use the monkey lineage type as an archetype for understanding human kinship lineages and the origins of language.
    With a focus on lineages, the authors suggest that primate and human lineages differ only qualitatively in that both rest on a body of shared network information among conspecifics. In addition, both are generated from basic biological relationships, which might point to an evolutionary continuity between human and primate lineages (1993: 228). However, in the human case they emphasize that human lineages incorporated additional unique features: (1) a language system which allowed hominids to reshape their social structure by using lineage relations to convey information with greater precision (e.g., names for lineages) and (2) a marriage rule which lead to refinements in linking groups together as allies and coalition partners (1983: 212-241). Yet, they argue, Claude Lévi-Strauss is only partially right when he proposed that the function of marriage is to promote group solidarity. Another central function is mate exchange to enhance fitness through ties with other lineages (1983:256). Although over time human lineages evolved into "distinct cultural entities," their selection advantage was retained because of continued reproductive benefits. Here the authors note: "From these early beginnings have arisen all the different social systems in existence today." (1983: 256)
    This book is creatively rich and packed with information. In particular the "information approach" is especially appealing, in part because it imparts a theoretical sensitivity to primate communication networks. I also welcome the efforts of these scholars to connect human and primate cognition. Here, evolutionary continuity is clearly a telling theme when it comes to the ability of bonobo chimpanzees (Pan panicus) to employ grammatical rules for perceiving human speech at the level of a three year old human child. Finally, their sophisticated incorporation of Hinde's model for understanding primate communication is impressive. Hopefully, their efforts will help to bridge the gap between the micro and macro levels, and give added support to the reality of emergent properties. It would be nice to set aside purely "ego-centered" perspectives where social structure is ignored or outright dismissed as irrelevant.
    However, some assumptions in their "lineage theory" I found problematic. Essentially, a lineage is a network of known blood ties (or jural ties) along a recognized descent rule. This meaning easily fits the matrilineage of Old world terrestrial monkeys where, in the macaque case, up to four generations of blood- tied females form a strong-tie clique, providing monkey troops who practice male-biased dispersal with structural coherence and intergenerational continuity over time. While maternal bonds are common to both arboreal and terrestrial monkeys, only with open-country monkeys did the mother-daughter bond become elaborated into large matrilineage. In the monkey case, few would deny that an existing proclivity for female bonding allowed these mother-daughter bonds to serve as the core for extended matri-focal lineages when selection favored a shift for some monkey genera from forest living to savanna living.
    What of the hominid case? If we also assume that early hominid adaptive responses to change would be guided by existing proclivities - this time in the hominoid line - and we look to our extant ape relatives for some guidelines, we confront a peculiarity: as a point of departure hominoid networks connect few blood-ties into genealogical links. Let me elaborate on this point. In non- human hominoids, both males and females disperse at puberty (with male chimpanzees the exception). Typically, this means that hominoid mother- daughter bonds (and maternal genealogies) are disrupted at puberty. For this reason, hominoid networks must differ fundamentally from monkey networks.
    With few exceptions, the majority of hominoid adult ties are built from voluntary rather than kinship ties. While it can be argued that chimpanzees (Pan) males are organized into patrilineal networks, this is structurally impossible. For a lineal descent system must be rooted in parent-child links, either the mother-daughter bond (as in the monkey case) or the father-son bond. In chimpanzee society, mother-daughter ties are disrupted and father-son ties are non-existent because these pongids lack a stable hetero-sexual mating pattern. Thus for chimpanzees only two categories of adult kinship ties endure after puberty: (1) male sibling ties and (2) mother-son ties. Brother-brother ties preclude any expansion now or in future generations. Mother-son ties, in theory, could fashion a decidedly novel blood-line with continuity over time, but since they rarely mate with each other, this line is a reproductive dead end. Overall, if we imagine a chimpanzee structure as a "field of social relations" only a mother and dependent offspring form a stable kin group. Otherwise, adult individuals have few kinship ties with mostly volunteer "friendship ties." But few kinship obligations mean that individuals are free to move about and more individuals can come into contact. Thus, in contrast to monkeys, chimpanzees lack even stable groups but they do evidence an overall "sense of community" within a fluid, loose-knit, and stable regional population.
    Thus, in fact there is no intergenerational continuity in the non-human hominoid line. The monogamous gibbon (Hylobates) is a possible candidate for either matri- or patri-lineages, but this process is circumvented when both sexes depart after puberty. Indeed, for all ape genera - gibbon (Hylobates) gorilla (Gorilla) or orangutan (Pongo) - social structure discomposes within one generation (in gibbon with the death of the mated pair; in gorilla with the death of the leader silverback; and, of course, with the near solitary orangutan). Chimpanzees are somewhat of an exception but what endures over time is a loose-knit community social network.
    What of human lineages? I think that Reynolds and Quiatt are correct in their assumption that a stable pair bond (which evolved into a marriage rule) is the cornerstone of human kinship. And, if we stick with female-biased dispersal for early hominid societies (a good bet given our hominoid heritage), once a stable male-female bond was institutionized, patri-focal groups become a reality. While band-level societies usually lack formal lineages, they do practice female exogamy and patri-local residence. Here, it is easy to see how a patri-local residence pattern in band societies could easily gave rise to a system of patrilineal descent in horticultural societies.
    Thus, I think that Quiatt and Reynolds are correct in their assumptions about primate cognition. But, I think lineages rest more on ecological pressures and the dynamics of social structural forces. Indeed, it is fascinating that in Old World monkeys only a few terrestrial ones have full-blown, ranked matrilineage and that in humans unilineages are prominent mostly in horticultural societies. A comparison of both these social structures might illuminate the particular social relational dynamics of each one and reinforce the viability of purely structural analysis in primate research.
    In sum, this work is a must read for anyone interested in primate and human societies. It offers a new and dynamic approach to primate communication and, equally important, it opens the door to the asking of new questions about primate cognition, relations and primate social structure. I highly recommend this book.


Maryanski, Alexandra & Jonathan H. Turner (1992) The Social Cage: Human Nature and the Evolution of Society (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-8047-2002-9 (Hb) US$39.50 ISBN 0-8047-2003-7 (Pb) US$12.95 UK£9.95. Pp. viii + 213).

by DAVID SMILLIE, Zoology Department, 108 Biological Sciences Bldg., Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0325, U.S.A.

Social scientists in their various disciplines have been gradually recognizing the importance of understanding the human biological heritage. We have emerged as a novel species with language and culture and a capacity to dominate our environment through specific evolutionary steps. It is only as we understand these steps that we will be able to formulate social science theories in the proper sense of that term.
    Different social science disciplines have moved into the arena of sociobiology at a different pace. Sociologists, who have already formulated different accounts of human social life going back to the 19th century, have been slow in taking up the evolutionary challenge. A Darwinian account of natural selection operating only through hereditary traits has lacked an appeal to sociologists studying the highly variable and labile patterns of social organization found among humans.
    Maryanski and Turner, in The Social Cage, take on a dual challenge in bringing sociology into the fold of thinkers applying evolutionary theory to the understanding of human sociality. On the one hand they argue that sociobiology views humans from a perspective that is too individualistic, and on the other that traditional sociology has viewed human nature as far too social. It is this latter view, the argument with the sociological perspective, that takes center stage, however.
    In Chapters One through Three the authors, here primarily Maryanski, review the phylogenetic heritage of modern Homo sapiens, looking carefully at the social structures found in the great apes. In contrast to monkeys which are characterized by close ties between females and cohesive social structures, the great apes are somewhat individualistic with looser social bonds and, presumably, a greater emphasis on individual choice in social interactions. The ancestors of modern humans, so their argument goes, have had a biological commitment to the social patterns of the great apes which has been expressed throughout the australopithecines and the several species within the lineage of Homo. The emergence of human culture, two million or so years ago, prevented the hominid line from being influenced by selective factors that might have modified the relatively individualistic great ape social patterns in other directions.
    In Chapters Five through Seven Turner analyzes the shifts seen in human social organization in more recent times. He begins with the appearance of horticulture ten thousand years ago; humans started to acquire the capacity to control their food supply through the domestication of animals and plants. This brought about major changes in social organization, changes that stand in sharp contrast to the biologically rooted social needs of the species. Horticulture brought with it a shift to unilineal descent rules, distorting the patterns of true sexual reproduction involving descent from both male and female lineages. With an increase in size of communities there was also the elaboration of increasingly complex religious traditions and the creation of a professional clergy. Social decisions were made increasingly by a specific ruler or ruling class, with the accumulation of power in one small part of the society. Legal systems also came into existence, formulated as sets of rules imposed on citizens rather than arrived at through consensus. All of these changes are described as the beginning construction of a social cage that came to exist quite apart from the biological propensities of the individuals involved.
    With a shift to full scale agriculture, defined by the authors as the harnessing of animal power to the plow, the restrictive aspect of social life became a good deal more intense. Population increase resulted in the formation of cities and a high degree of specialization within the population. Power was much more intensely concentrated, now in a system of Big Men. Indeed the state emerged as the primary political institution. Land became extremely important, as did inter-community relations. Concentrations of power and technology led to the development of inter-group hostilities and the advent of war. Religious institu tions became highly ritualized. There was the appearance as well of educational institutions necessitated by the complex patterns of social specialization. All these developments constituted an ever more oppressive social cage for the individuals involved.
    For Maryanski and Turner industrialization, which began with persecution and poverty, steadily moved toward the creation of conditions that alleviated some of the cycles of oppression found in agricultural societies. Technological developments brought with them a new increase in resources. Religions moved toward secularization, and laws were modified to provide a wider distribution of justice. Stratification began to lose some of its arbitrariness and rigidity. In short, individualistic social needs rooted in biology could begin to be fulfilled for society as a whole and there was, as these authors describe it, a "breaking out of the social cage."
    The descriptive account of the phylogenetic heritage of modern humans, accompanied by the historical story of changes in human society during the past ten thousand years, makes an interesting and useful conjunction for those interested in the application of sociobiology to the various social sciences. While there are inconsistencies in their account, it is important that those considering either human nature or human sociality be reminded both of our biological heritage, and of the transformations brought about by historical forces. The story of historical change is too often ignored by those who are in a hurry to explain all human nature through a Darwinian theory of natural selection. It is also the case that within sociobiology the emphasis on natural selection as a set of universal laws does not always adequately recognize the importance of phylogeny in explaining biological outcomes.
    Having said this I still need to point out some limitations of the overall argument these authors present. Their characterization of the phylogeny of human sociality puts a good deal of emphasis on the social qualities presumed to characterize the last common ancestor of the great apes. These qualities derive from a comparative analysis of contemporary species of great apes and are presumed to define the biologically determined social characteristics of hominids over the past five or six million years. But this argument presupposes a high level of consistency in the social qualities of the great apes going back in time to some twenty million years ago. That hardly seems a reasonable view of the forces of natural selection bearing on social organization found among contemporary great apes which differs quite markedly from species to species. Even less does it account for shifting selective pressures on the social organizations in the clade of hominids moving out of Africa and into novel habitats in Europe and Asia over the last few million years. While our claims about social qualities of extinct species are bound to be speculative, we could do a good deal better than these authors have done in arriving at assessments of biologically rooted social qualities in Homo, and more specifically in Homo sapiens.
    Their argument for a social cage during the past ten thousand years, starting with the agricultural revolution, does have a certain validity. However we need a much clearer idea of the social characteristics of contemporary hunter- gatherers, and how these might have been modified by changes in the means of production initiated by the capacity to domesticate animals and plants. A close analysis of characteristics of contemporary hunter-gatherers, laboriously collected by generations of ethnographers, is available to us and that source was hardly tapped at all by Maryanski & Turner.
    The image of a social cage imposing restrictions on a biologically persisting set of social characteristics, as well as other claims made throughout the text, imply a sharp contrast between the influence of the external social environment and the biological heritage we carry in both our genes and our central nervous systems. We ought to be able to transcend the old dichotomy between nature and nurture that has plagued discussions of sociobiology and its opponents. Is it true that modern humans are not disposed to create hierarchies of differential power? How does that claim hold up against the careful analysis of the psychological characteristics of cultures found in the forests of New Guinea or among the pygmies of the Ituri Forest? These are questions that can be answered today, but are ignored in The Social Cage.
    In sum, then, I think Maryanski and Turner have initiated a bold set of arguments about ways we might understand the diversity of modern humans and their social organizations. They have brought together two quite different, almost divergent, intellectual traditions, that of phylogenetic analysis and that of human social history, to form a common core argument. But the task has only been begun here - its execution is flawed. Perhaps we should view their approach as a challenge more than as an accomplishment. We need the incorporation of different perspectives, some of which they have here supplied, but we also need their effective integration, and this they have not adequately accomplished.


Nesse, Randolph M. & George C. Williams: Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine (in the UK: Evolution and Healing: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine) (New York: Times Books / Toronto: Random House (in the UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson), 1995, ISBN 0-8129-2224-7. US$24.00 CAN$33.50. Pp. xi + 291).

by DOROTHY TENNOV, RD 9, Box 251, Millsboro, DE 19966, U.S.A.

Human beings have attempted to deal with the circumstances of their lives with the aid of such guiding principles as pantheism, monotheism, essentialism, capitalism, geocentrism and a host of others. But the ism of Darwin has, to the general view, seemed a largely irrelevant obsession of members of a cultural fringe, i.e. some scientists. In their timely book, Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine, psychiatrist Randolph M. Nesse and evolutionary ecologist George C. Williams not only bring evolutionary theory to the general public, but do so in a manner that convincingly puts to rest the view that it is without utility. In essence, their message is that procedures based on the use of evolutionary concepts can affect people directly by pointing a new direction to understanding disease. Traditional medicine is focused on the mechanisms, or proximate causes, of illness. In contrast, the evolutionist asks why.
    The authors demonstrate the benefits of the evolutionary approach to both medical practice and research through illustrations drawn from a wide variety of medical issues organized in six categories of explanation: (1) processes by which the human organism defends itself, (2) the dynamics of infection, (3) altered environments, (4) inherited traits, (5) constraints on design imposed by initial conditions, and (6) disorders brought into existence by events in adaptation history.
    Why We get Sick reveals a panorama of the battles fought daily within our bodies. Although selected illustrations vary in empirical verification - some are almost entirely speculative, others are well-substantiated by research findings _, in sum, they reveal a broad spectrum of possible ways in which evolutionary thinking accelerates progress toward effective handling of medical problems.
    Disclaimers in the preface warn that while the book is aimed at showing how consideration of ultimate causes can and should change approaches to medical issues, it does not propose yet another "alternative" medicine. It does urge that patients, doctors, and researchers alter their thinking and their procedures to bring medical practices into line with what is already known and what can further be known through the evolutionary perspective.
    Mechanisms of defense include pain, fever, inflammation, and expulsions (coughs, sneezes, diarrhea, etc.). While uncomfortable for the patient, these are best considered protective devices rather than disorders in themselves. The habits of earlier generations in which doctors hesitated to "treat symptoms" and would often "let nature take its course," are supported by recent studies. For example, administering iron supplements have been found to delay recovery from infectious disease because the reduction of iron in the blood which accompanies infection aids recovery by depriving bacteria of a scarce and vital substance.
    The enormous increase in the average length of life over the last two centuries is largely attributable not to medical advances, but to improved diet and to public works based on scientific knowledge of the processes whereby contagion occurs and can be stopped as well to improved diets. Bacteria and viruses are sophisticated opponents in a continual escalating competition in which pathogens evade host defenses via various techniques. While we have evolved resistance to smallpox and TB in the last dozen generations, when it comes to evolving new tactics, our opponents run rings around us. Bacteria can evolve as much in a day as we can in 1000 years and there are as many bacterial cells in each of our guts as there are people on earth. That even improbable mutations occur with frequency in populations of pathogens gives them a decided advantage. Although we counter by altering antibody ratios and catastrophic epidemics can sometimes increase host resistance in months, mostly it's not us, but the pathogens that change. As Nesse and Williams emphasize, the end of the war is nowhere in sight. The 20th century was the golden age of relief from infection, but it may be over and this may accurately be considered a "post- antimicrobial era."
    Many preventable diseases result from environmental changes. Our Stone Age tastes today cause overeating of foods abundant now (notably fats and sweets), but scarce then and needed in small quantities. We also evolved aversion to toxic substances, but we lack built-in aversions to contemporary dangers that were missing in ancient environments. For example, skin cancer, which has increased in recent years, results from a pattern of sun exposure characteristic of urban living in which exposure is irregular. Suntan is a defense. It is not heat that burns but a photochemical reaction which can overstimulate the immune system. Sun screens which block shorter ultraviolet rays (UV-B) but allow too much of the longer waves (UV-A) may harm in the long run. Exposure to the sun's rays should allow acquisition of a protective tan. Melanomas are a function not of time in the sun but the number of severe burns. The reduction in protective melanin evolved among those living in Northern climates. Today, people of darker skin who live in cold climates are subject to rickets since dark skin is a defense against over-exposure to sun. Pale skin, while subject to sunburn, allows more rapid acquisition of vitamin D.
    The allergic reaction is a major mystery. For one thing, it is increasing. Hay fever was unknown in England before 1830, in US before 1850, and in Japan before 1950. Known to be a defense, it is not known what it is a defense against. Furthermore, why are only some people affected and, among those, why do only certain substances bring it about? The evolutionist is wary about how to treat such manifestations when the normal function is still unknown. Is environmental change responsible? Has living with heavily carpeted interiors has brought an increase in contact with pathogens? Is asthma a "disease of civilization"? Some, but not all, published studies found people with allergies less likely to develop cancer, especially of the involved tissues. Could it be that allergy is a backup defense against toxins?
    In some cases, disease is a direct result of genes. But why would natural selection permit a harmful gene to persist in the population? For some illnesses the same gene that causes a specific disorder also produces an advantage. The best known example is the protection against malaria conferred by the same gene that causes sickle cell anemia among sub-Sahara Africans in areas in which malaria is common. Other cases are genes that produce benefits early in life and disease later. Huntington's disease, is not manifest until the fifth decade; well after reproduction has occurred. Schizophrenia's worldwide uniform rate of 1% suggests an ancient beginning and the likelihood that its genes confer an as yet unknown advantage. Could it be creativity? Reports indicate high levels of accomplishment among relatives. Or it might be that the gene for schizophrenia affords protection from some disease - as is probably the case with cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs disease. When a disadvantage is genetically attached to an advantage control is difficult. Even harder to control are genetic "quirks", harmless under prior conditions or selected because they bring benefits, but not beneficial under present conditions. Genes also bring disease through harmful mutations and through outlaw genes that facilitate their own transmission at the expense of the individual.
    It is in the nature of design by evolution that compromises are inevitable. Choking is the result of a structure shared among vertebrates in which the mouth is below and in front of the nose but the food-conveying esophagus is behind the air-conveying trachea. As a result the tubes cross and if the reflex that seals the opening fails causing food to block the intersection, air cannot get to the lungs. Thousands of people die yearly because of this evolutionary "mistake." Other compromises came with the shift to bipedalism and increases in the size of the cranium.
    The legacies of our evolutionary past also include plantar fascitis (heel spurs) which probably did not bother Stone Age people whose habits of walking and squatting in contrast with many hours of sitting in chairs. Nor was alcohol addiction a problem for people who had to make their own under primitive conditions of scarce raw materials and primitive equipment.
    Nesse and Williams note that psychiatry has had no coherent theory of emotions. By aping quantitative science and stressing proximate molecular processes, they focused on pathology before understanding the normal functions of the mechanisms involved. The authors advance the theory that emotions adjust cognition, physiology, subjective experience and behavior so that the organism can respond effectively to particular events.
    Perhaps it is not surprising that medicine is late in addressing evolutionary questions. In the traditional view, the question of why something maladaptive has been shaped by evolution is not of obvious relevance. Furthermore, there exists a persistent antipathy to evolutionary ideas in general and to natural selection in particular even among some biologists. Nesse and Williams launch strong criticisms against present-day methods of medical training with over crowded curricula that fail to find room for addressing evolutionary questions of what is there about the species makes it susceptible to particular disorders. The same problem exists in medical research, not only on the part of scientists, but also on the part of funding sources. Nesse and Williams suggest that Darwinian medicine needs its own funding.
    Darwinism places responsibility squarely on our own collective shoulders. The ways of natural selection are losing their mystery and with that we are losing faith that the best we can do is comfort the sick, obey the mores of our group, obey our natural instincts, and pray to unseen powers for deliverance. The authors of Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine, foresee a cultural revolution in which the search for external guidance while holding ourselves sacred and inviolate, is replaced with awareness that humanity must take responsibility for its own fate. The free lunch counter is permanently closed.
    In a sense, this is a political document. It says to doctors and patients that they better look out. With the best of intentions, they may be doing the wrong things. The difference between the evolutionary perspective and the approach it would supplement is not insignificant; it leads to conceptions that will upset the favorite assumptions of the political Left as well as those of the Right.
    The first step is to understand the process of evolution. Only then can we effectively fight it. But in recommending change based on Darwinism, these authors do not propose eugenics. In the view of evolutionary scientists it is time to begin the journey that will take us from being victims of our genes to being their masters. From the gene's eye view, there is no reason why natural selection should be concerned with the health, welfare or happiness of the creatures it produces; only the inexorable progression from one generation to another with the criteria being only that of which genetic material is or is not passed on to subsequent generations. To know evolution is to try to counteract its fearsome methods and effects. We, with our phenotypic wants, desires and ideologies, are separate from our genes. What is good for them may not be so good for us. And what our genetic heritage gives us as the apparatus with which we must work in wending our way through the vicissitudes that constitute our life space, may often be good for neither our genes nor us. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in medical practices and theories. To know that we are sick, even to know how we are sick, may not lead to knowing how to prevent or cure that sickness. In addition, we need to know why we are sick for the suggestions such knowledge conveys about how to deal with the sickness.
    The headlines are alarming. Diseases believed conquered are re-emerging. There are outbreaks of Ebola in Africa, cholera in South America, diphtheria in Russia, tuberculosis in American inner cities, and AIDS everywhere. The spread of contagion is widely agreed to be the result of such factors as increases in mobility which allow the spread of vectors, urbanization which brings diverse people in close proximity to one another, and the dramatic explosion of human populations. Medical experts call for concerted, global action. Furthermore, DNA specialists testifying as expert witnesses in televised court proceedings, a spate of best sellers, and educational documentaries are introducing genetics to the public. This book will increase receptivity to a new direction in medical thinking in all who read it and help to find the means for dealing effectively with increasingly recalcitrant medical problems.

Back to the top of this document
Back to the ESS homepage?
Purpose of the ESS?
Publications of the ESS?
Future activities of the ESS?
Recent ESS Newsletters
ESS Membership List
Websites of ESS members
ESS Associates and Links

Please send your reactions to