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Before The Dawn Evolutionary Psychology Essay

1769 words - 8 pages

4/10/14
Book Report: Before the Dawn
Before the Dawn was published in 2006 and was written by Nicholas Wade. It has been praised by many for its meaty content as well as readability, and can be enjoyed by people who are not so scientifically literate. The book covers a comprehensive range of topics relating to the history of human evolution and migration. He begins the book with a couple of short stories, one about finding the date of the evolution of body hair loss, and another about discovering whether President Jefferson had a slave mistress, and he delves into his theories on why the genome provides a recorded history of an organism, primarily humans. The next chapters talk about our ...view middle of the document...

Unlike chimps and bonobos, human females are primarily monogamous (147). Men needed to be empathetic enough to understand their mates’ needs as well as their brothers in arms, and to be aggressive enough to defend their mate as well as their only home. This tug of war caused us to form increasingly complex societies, since the society with better tools and coordination would tend to win out. For warfare in general, he offers an explanation towards the fact that the deadliest warriors (in one tribal location) have on average 3 times more children, meaning the genetic merits of dying after many glorious battles outweighs the longer life of being peaceful (150). He also notes the fact that more civilized societies are less violent. Had we had similar casualty rates to tribal societies, we would have lost two billion to war in the 20th century (152). I believe this is due to the fact that trade and having females in power are both more common. Evidence of change has been found towards our female ancestors having a narrower pelvis compared to homo habilis, which means a smaller infant head would have been needed to fit. With less instincts, and therefore more care and protection being required by the parent, parent/child behavior would be modified (22). I believe this would lead to infants and children having a less violent upbringing overall, which would cause them to be more peaceful later in life.
Later in the chapter, Wade talks about the privatization of sex. Trying to have private sex in a chimp or bonobo society would bring it to a standstill (169). Making sex a private, pair-bonded affair is what makes jealousy a valid emotion in humans. He notes that it causes a separation of roles and goals between men and women. I believe this is an asset of humans, as it allowed for greater specialization of each gender. He also talks about the mother’s baby, dad’s maybe theory. Many times, twins will be from different fathers. “Of fraternal twins born to white women in the United States, 1 in 400 pairs is estimated to have two fathers” (171). He goes on to talk about how a baby doesn’t resemble anyone in particular, with a general fat face, but will often times have its mother and grandparents tell the father that the baby resembles its father. It is unclear whether or not this is a subconsciously deceitful tactic to build trust towards paternity.
The author relates reciprocal behavior to the formation of religion and language. He believes that reciprocal altruism within a community has an issue of freeloaders. Freeloaders can use language to deceive others into believing that they are worth existing in a group (politicians, for example). By binding everyone to the overwatch that is eminent in religion, people are held accountable (165). These three items also would have had to rise with each other, since religion cannot exist without a vehicle to transport its meanings. He also notes that this would have made all early civilizations theocratic,...

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