Yesterday, the famous anthropologist Holly Dunsworth posted a page to her blog about a contribution she made to a symposium to commemorate 150 years since Darwin’s “Descent of Man” (1871).
Here’s the link to the page.
I posted a criticism of it but as it has to be moderated first (by Holly herself, I expect) I am a little skeptical if it will be shown under her article.
So I thought I’d put a slightly modified version of it here too, just in case…
Holly Dunsworth has written a justifiable critique of Darwin’s undoubted racism and sexism in my opinion. Although his opinions were perhaps somewhat understandable, considering the historical context in which they were formed, it is surely right and proper that they should nevertheless be called out.
I cannot let it pass without comment, however, that the first woman to make this point is neither cited, let alone given any credit for doing so. She wrote her famous critique a hundred years after Darwin’s classic. It was not so much railing against Darwin’s sexism but that of the whole field of anthropology. In the fifty years since, that field have averted their gaze to her contribution, not because of great perceived fault in her pioneering critique of the “Man the Mighty Hunter” view of human evolution, but because in addition she dared to raise the seemingly heretical spectre that moving through water might have had some influence on our evolution. Her book was aptly named “The Descent of Woman”. The author at the center of Holly’s blind spot is, of course, Elaine Morgan.
The racism and sexism of Darwin 150 years ago is indeed shameful. But I think a greater scandal continues to this day. The very simple, plausible and evidence-based model of human evolution, promoted so ably by Elaine Morgan for over forty years, continues to be ignored, even to the extent that her name dare not be mentioned when joining her in criticising the sexism of Darwin. For a full historical account of this shameful set of circumstances read the latest book about the subject, published to commemorate her own centenary. Just go to Amazon and search “Elaine Morgan 100 Years.”
Perth 15th February 2021