To validate flawed sociological dogmas such as cultural determinism and feminism, generations of American anthropologists have bravely ventured into remote deserts, jungles and other dangerous, primitive and inhospitable corners of the globe in an effort to discover (or, if necessary, to fabricate) the existence of a society in which traditional western sex-roles are reversed.
However, way back in the early-1970s, Milner and Milner, two American anthropologists, discovered precisely what their colleagues have been searching for in vain, namely a culture in which sex roles are reversed, right in America’s own backyard – or rather in America’s own backstreets.
This was the underground subculture of pimps and ‘hos’. Here, in stark contrast to the traditional sexual division of labour in western (and indeed many non-western) societies:
“Women are the economic providers… [whereas] a man may spend hours a day on his hair, clothes and toilette while his women are out working to support the household” (p5).
Another feature of the pimp lifestyle at odds with mainstream American culture is the prevalence of polygyny. Thus, Milner report that many pimp-ho households are polygynous, being composed of a single pimp and several prostitutes, and polygyny is regarded as the ideal (p5).
Interestingly, this family structure and pattern of economic activity in many respects parallels that still prevailing in much of sub-Saharan Africa, where polygyny is ubiquitous and women are self-supporting and perform most agricultural labour (Draper 1989).
One controversial interpretation, then, is that people of black African descent are genetically predisposed such a mating system since it was adaptive in much of sub-Saharan African, and that African-Americans are simply recreating in America an approximation of the mating system, and economic system, of their African forebears.
Of course, since pimp culture has now been popularized by generations of ‘gangsta rappers’, the “secret world” promised by the authors in their subtitle may be more familiar to modern readers than on the book’s first publication in 1972 (though even then blaxploitation films had introduced the black pimp archetype). However, the picture created in rap lyrics is necessarily so comically caricatured out of all recognition that the Milners’ exploration of the reality behind the absurd caricature remains as revelatory as ever.
Male Dominance and Pimp Philosophy
Of course, although women are the economic providers and pimps concerned with their clothes and appearance, in one crucial respect, conventional sex roles appear to be, not reversed, but rather accentuated in American pimp culture.
Thus, in American pimp culture, male dominance was, the Milners’ emphasize, absolute and categorical.
However, what the Milners refer as ‘pimp philosophy’, namely the worldview and philosophy passed down among pimps from mentor to student and described by the Milners in detail, raises serious questions about whether this too, in some respects, represents a reversal of the sex roles apparent in mainstream society and whether, in ‘square’ society, it is indeed men who are really dominant (see also The Myth of Male Power: reviewed here).
Thus, according to the ‘pimp philosophy’:
“White men (and square blacks) are thought to be ‘pussy-whipped’ by their wives after having been brain washed by their mothers to accept female dominance as the natural order of things. Most families today are controlled by women, who direct the goals and manage the money… by withholding sexual favours” (p161).
Thus, according to ‘pimp philosophy’, square husbands are ‘pimped’ by their wives every bit as ruthlessly as street-prostitutes, by being obliged to earn money and financially support their wives in return for sexual favours.
Thus, according to ‘pimp philosophy’, the Milners report: “The highest level of prostitution is—the wife!” (p221).
“Whether the men want to admit it or not, every woman is a ho regardless of what the status is—housewife, nun, prostitutes, whatever you want to say. The Housewife gets longevity, you know. She gets the vacation every year, she gets the security with the fella on the twenty-five-dollar-a-year job. Vacation every summer, the golf club, country club” (p227)
Interestingly, this view of male-female relations directly converges with that of anti-feminists such as Esther Vilar who expressed similar ideas in her book 1971 classic, The Manipulated Man, which I have reviewed here.
For example, one pimp describes how wives supposedly bear children only, or at least primarily, because:
“She knows once she has one or two babies she’s gonna have him locked down tight and even if he leaves she can still get four or five hundred dollars a month [in maintenance payments] if he’s making any kind of money” (p227).
This parallels Vilar’s description in The Manipulated Man of offspring as “hostages” in her chapter title “children as hostages”, since they are used, like hostages kidnapped in order to make a ransom demand, to demand additional monies from the unfortunate father. Thus, the pimp quoted by the Milners explains:
“His wife is pimping him, see? She gets him to get up every morning, cooks his breakfast to make sure he’s good and strong, gives him his vitamin pills and everything, hands him his little briefcase, you know, so he can get out there and get the buck so she can go play bridge, go get her hair done, understand?” (p229)
The pimp-ho relationship is then directly analogous to the relationship between husband and wife, only with the gender roles reversed. Thus, in the endnote to chapter one, the Milners approvingly quote sociologist Travis Hirschi as observing:
“The similarity of the pimp-prostitute relationship to the husband-wife relationship, with the economic roles reversed, is too obvious to overlook” (p285; Hirschi 1962).
According to the pimps interviewed by the Milner’s during their research, the process of socializing and indoctrinating males to willingly accept their assigned role as ‘beta providers’ begins in childhood. Thus, the Milners report:
“[Whereas] several pimps asserted that pimping comes from Black men being supported by their mothers as kids and deciding to continue the arrangement… Most pimps… believe that they were raised by their mothers not to be pimps, but to be tricks. ‘Trick marriage’ is seen by the pimps as a man’s servitude to women in exchange for ‘her pussy’” (p174-5).
Thus, since it is mothers who are responsible for most childcare, they indoctrinate their sons from infancy to accept ‘trick marriage’ and female dominance as the natural, normal and healthy state of affairs.
“She is, from the time you are a kid, understand, giving you a certain set of values which in reality is a woman’s set of values. She is brainwashing you to the extent of how to treat a woman” (p176).
As a result of this indoctrination:
“If you are a boy, say twelve years old, and you see Mom and Dad fighting you naturally come to the defense of Mom… [because] from the time you were young, she’s the one who changed your diapers, bathed you, made sure that you were clothed and shoed and everything else, so you naturally come to the defense of Mom. And you forget entirely the fact that it was Dad was the one who made the money that put her in the position to do all these things in the first place. So when you become a man and encounter a woman you automatically accept the values which were taught to you there.” (p177)
“Men have been trained and conditioned by women, not unlike Pavlov conditioned his dogs, into becoming their slaves.”
Thus, Vilar observes:
“The advice a mother gives to her teenage son going out on his first date is a good example of woman’s audacity: Pay the taxi; get out first; open the door on the girl’s side and help her out. Offer her your arm going up the steps or, if they are crowded, walk behind her in case she stumbles so that you can catch her. Open the door into the foyer for her; help her out of her coat; take the coat to the cloakroom attendant; get her a program. Go in front of her when you are taking your seats and clear the way. Offer her refreshments during the intermissions – and so on” (The Manipulated Man: p40-41).
As a consequence of such early indoctrination, even one otherwise resolutely ‘red-pilled’ player acknowledged:
“There are things in me right now that I can’t help that have been conditioned over a period of time. I do things automatically, you know. I open doors for old ladies and if I go through a doorway, and hesitate and let the woman go first” (p177).
Thus, whereas the family structure of the ghetto has, on account of the prevalence of female-headed households and absent fathers, been characterized by sociologists as matriarchal, black players suggest a more nuanced interpretation:
“Although the ghetto leans towards matriachy, players admit, it isn’t as all-pervasive or as smoothly functioning as the White matriarchy of the majority. For the White man is not even aware that he lives in a matriarchy, while Black men are becoming more sensitive to being pimped by both White society and their own Black women… White men, like Samson, are still sound asleep and unaware that Delilah has cut their hair” (p171).
Indeed, the analogy with ‘red pill philosophy’ and the so-called men’s rights movement is made all but explicit by the Milners when they write:
“Woman’s liberation movement is not revolutionary, say the players. What would be truly revolutionary would be the liberation of men” (p227).
However, the black players are capitalists at heart and hence reject all political liberation movements, including, not only women’s liberation, but also black liberation:
“In this… the pimp expresses a common ghetto sentiment: ‘Fuck Black power and White power; I believe in green power’” (p223).
Thus, the Milners recount one anecdote of how:
“[When] a militant black man in the bar loudly proclaimed ‘I’ gonna get my piece and shoot all the whiteys’… another player replied, ‘Don’t do that, brother. Shit, you gonna take all my business away’” (p237).
The same would apply to the liberation of men. After all, according to pimp philosphy, it is only because:
“So-called normal and moral marriage is aberrant… [that] many husbands… pay hos for sex they cannot get at home, which [pimps] point to as the final degradation of the American male under the heel of the almighty bitchy American wife. She not only doesn’t give him what he is paying for, but forces him to go out and also pay some other woman if he wants sex. Often he pays another woman only to have a shoulder to cry on, because the wife loses respect for a man she can dominate and is unhappy in her unnatural unwomanly role as boss” (p175).
Thus, the Milners envisage one pimp commiserating with the henpecked husband, but then rationalizing:
“But, of course… I wouldn’t have it any other way, trick. Because, without you and your f*cked-up illusions, without your fucked-up sex life—I’d be out of business tomorrow” (p251).
Pimp Philosophy Evaluated
Pimp philosophy is certainly illuminating and thought-provoking.
It is moreover undoubtedly more insightful than feminist theory, which represents the dominant paradigm for understanding the relations between the sexes among social scientists, journalists in the mainstream media, the academic establishment, politicians, women’s rights activists and other such professional damned fools.
Indeed, although they never quite go so far as to endorse it, the Milners themselves are nevertheless clearly taken by ‘pimp philosophy’, and acknowledge:
“Once the world, and particularly the relations between the sexes, is viewed from a black player’s vantage point, things never again seem quite the same” (p243).
Indeed, according to the Milners, this is hardly surprising.
“Like the sociologist and anthropologist, pimps and hustlers depend for their livelihood on an awareness of social forces and the human psyche… [but whereas] the social scientist rarely applies his knowledge directly, and so has far more leeway than the hustler or the pimp in being wrong before he is out of a job” (p242).
In other words, unlike feminist sociologists (and indeed anthropologists like themselves), who are insulated in universities behind ivory towers at the taxpayer’s expense and can therefore can hold fast to their flawed ideological dogmas with blind faith notwithstanding all evidence to the contrary, the pimp’s psychological and sociological analysis is subject to ruthless falsification at the hands of the market forces beloved of neoliberal economists.
However, in claiming that male dominance is the natural state of humanity, pimp philosophy seems, to me, to have taken a wrong turn.
Thus, according to the pimps, male dominance is the natural and harmonious order of mankind, and this was disrupted only when, according to ‘pimp mythology’ (an ingenious reinterpretation of biblical mythology), Adam gave in to sexual temptation, and was tempted by Eve to bite into the forbidden fruit (i.e. pay for sexual favours), thereby becoming, not the first man, but rather the first trick (p168-70; p259-60).
Therefore, according to the pimps, as a result of this decision to bite into the forbidden fruit, most men are no longer ‘real men’ but rather mere ‘tricks’. Pimps themselves therefore represent, according to the ‘players’:
“The only real men [left] in America today” (p162).
However, viewing male dominance as the natural and harmonious order of mankind necessarily raises the question: If, as pimps contend, male dominance is so natural and harmonious, why then is it found today only among a small and exclusive subculture of pimps? What is more, why, even among pimps, is it maintained only by levels of violence and of self-control on the part of pimps far greater than that typically apparent in ‘square’ relationships?
However, the real flaw in the pimp perception of male dominance as the natural and harmonious state of nature lies in the nature of the pimps’ own dominance over their prostitutes and the lifestyle and occupation of the prostitutes themselves.
Thus, as the Milners themselves observe:
“[Although] the Book [i.e. the unwritten code of how to pimp passed from mentor to student] provides a blueprint for a male-dominated society and a rationale for wrestling all control over men from women… ironically, this condition is achieved by making women’s full-time occupation the control of men who are outside the subculture” (p48).
In other words, the pimp’s exploitation of his women necessarily relies and depends on those women’s own exploitation of other men.
“A ho… is both ‘pimping’ off her customers and is being a trick [i.e. being pimped] by her man” (p213).
The ‘Book’ provides, then, not a blueprint for male domination throughout society, but rather a blueprint for domination by a necessarily small subset of men – an exploitation both of women (i.e. the prostitutes whom the pimp controls) but also, indirectly, of other men (i.e. the clients of these prostitutes).
The pimp survives, then, not only through the exploitation of women, but also, more fundamentally, by the vicarious exploitation of other men (namely the prostitutes’ clients, or, aptly named, ‘tricks’).
“A pimp is really a whore who has reversed the game on whores. So Slim, be sweet as the scratch, no sweeter, and always stick a whore for a bundle before you sex her. A whore ain’t nothing but a trick to a pimp. Don’t let ’em georgia you. Always get your money in front just like a whore.” (Pimp: The Story of My Life: xxi).
On this view, with their characteristically feminine concern for clothing, fashion, hair and hygiene and their ability, like housewives, to leech off the income of their sexual partners, pimps represent, not so much, as they themselves contend, “the only real men in America today” (p162), but rather second-rate female-impersonators.
 Indeed, many aspects of sex roles (e.g. sex differences in intraspecific aggression, and in levels of parental care) appear to be, not only cross-culturally universal, but also universal throughout the mammalian order, and indeed widespread among animals in general. This, of course, reflects the fact that they are not only innate, but moreover the product of analogousselection pressures operating among many different species (see Bateman 1948; Trivers 1972). Thus, for example, in all human societies for which data is available, men are responsible for an overwhelming majority of homicides, and also represent the majority of victims. Similarly, in all documented cultures, mothers rather than fathers provide the vast majority of direct care for infants and babies.
 To illustrate just how comically caricatured public perceptions of the pimp lifestyle have become, it is worth pointing out that, in response to the use of the term in many rap songs, many people seem to believe that a ‘pimp stick’ is, to quote one definition, “an ornate or gaudy cane, as might be used by a stereotypical pimp”. In fact, however, pimps traditionally carried no such stick. Instead, the phrase ‘pimp stick’ originally referred, and among pimps presumably still refers, to a weapon composed of “two wire coat hangers twisted together” which is used by pimps as a whip with which to discipline disobedient whores (Whoreson: p212).
 Curiously, the Milners claim to have interviewed Iceberg Slim (alias Robert Beck, née Robert Lee Maupin) and refer to this supposed interview at various points in their book. However, Beck himself, without mentioning them by name, denies this in The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim (p200), where he accuses the Milners of stealing black culture, i.e. what would today be called ‘cultural appropriation’. The mysterious interview is supposedly contained in the recently published collection, Iceberg Slim: The Lost Interviews With The Pimp.
“Baker’s treatise, compendious and ponderous, is possible the last major statement of traditional race science written in English” (The Race Gallery: p61).
Inevitably for a scientific work first published over forty years ago, ‘Race’ is dated. In particular, the DNA revolution in population genetics has revolutionized our understanding of the genetic differences and relatedness between different human populations.
Lacking access to such data, Baker had only indirect phenotypic evidence (i.e. the morphological similarities and differences between different peoples), as well as historical and geographic evidence, with which to infer such relationships and hence construct his racial phylogeny and taxonomy.
Phenotypic similarity is obviously a less reliable method of determining the relatedness between groups than is provided by genome analysis, since there is always the problem of distinguishing homology from analogy and hence misinterpreting a trait that has independently evolved in different populations as evidence of relatedness.
However, I found only one case of genetic studies decisively contradicting Baker’s conclusions. Thus, whereas Baker classes the Ainu People of Japan as “Europid” (p158; p173; p424; p625), recent genetic studies suggest that the Ainu have little or no genetic affinities to Caucasoid populations and are most closely related to other East Asians.
On the other hand, however, Baker’s omission of genetic data means that, unusually for a scientific work, in the material he does cover, ‘Race’ scarcely seems to have dated at all. This is because the primary focus of Baker’s book – namely, morphological differences between races – is a field of study that has become politically suspect and in which new research has now all but ceased.
Thus, Baker’s ‘Race’ can be viewed as the final summation of the accumulated findings of the ‘old-style’ physical anthropology of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, published at the very moment this intellectual tradition was in its death throes.
Baker’s ‘Race’ is indeed a magnum opus. Unfortunately, however, at over 600 pages, embarking on reading ‘Race’ might seem almost like a lifetime’s work in and of itself.
Not only is it a very long book, but, in addition, much of the material, particularly on morphological race differences and their measurement, is highly technical, and will be readily intelligible only to the dwindling band of biological anthropologists who, in the genomic age, still study such things.
This inaccessibility is exacerbated by the fact that Baker does not use endnotes, except for his references, and only very occasionally uses footnotes. Instead, he includes even technical and peripheral material in the main body of his text, but indicates that material is technical or peripheral by printing it in a smaller font-size.
Baker’s terminology is also confusing. He prefers the ‘-id’ suffix to the more familiar ‘-oid’ and ‘-ic’ (e.g. ‘Negrid‘ and ‘Nordid‘ rather than ‘Negroid’ and ‘Nordic‘) and eschews the familiar terms ‘Caucasian’ or ‘Caucasoid’, on the grounds that:
“The inhabitants of the Caucasus region are very diverse and very few of them are typical of any large section of Europids” (p205).
However, his own preferred alternative term, ‘Europid’, is arguably equally misleading as it contributes to the already common conflation of Caucasian with white European, even though, as Baker is at pains to emphasize elsewhere in his treatise, populations from the Middle East, North Africa and even the Indian subcontinent are also ‘Europid’ (i.e. Caucasoid) in Baker’s judgement.
In contrast, the term ‘Caucasoid’, or even ‘Caucasian’, causes little confusion in my experience, since it is today generally understood as a racial term and not as a geographical reference to the Caucasus region.
Certainly, the term ‘Caucasoid’ makes little etymological sense. However, this is also true of a lot of words which we nevertheless continue to make use of. Indeed, since all words change in meaning over time, the original meaning of a word is almost invariably different to its current accepted usage.
Yet we continue to use these words so as to make ourselves intelligible to others, the only alternative being to invent an entirely new language all of our own which only we would be capable of understanding.
Unfortunately, however, too many racial theorists, Baker included, have insisted on creating entirely new racial terms of their own coinage, or sometimes new entire lexicons, which, not only causes confusion among readers, but also leads the casual reader to underestimate the actual degree of substantive agreement between different authors, who, though they use different terms, often agree regarding both the identity of, and relationships between, the major racial groupings.
Another problem is the book’s excessive historical focus.
Judging the book by its contents page, one might imagine that Baker’s discussion of the history of racial thought is confined to the first section of the book, titled “The Historical Background” and comprising four chapters that total just over fifty pages.
However, Baker acknowledges in the opening page of his preface that:
“Throughout this book, what might be called the historical method has been adopted as a matter of deliberate policy” (p3).
Thus, in the remainder of the book, Baker continues to adopt an historical perspective, briefly charting the history behind the discovery of each concept, archaeological discovery, race difference or method of measuring race differences that he introduces.
In short, it seems that Baker is not content with writing about science; he wants to write history of science too.
A case in point is Chapter Eight, which, despite its title (“Some Evolutionary and Taxonomic Theories”), actually contains very little on modern taxonomic or evolutionary theory, or even what would pass for ‘modern’ when Baker wrote the book over forty years ago.
Instead, the greater part of the chapter is devoted to tracing the history of two theories that were, even at the time Baker was writing, already wholly obsolete and discredited (namely, recapitulation theory and orthogenesis).
Let me be clear, Baker himself certainly agrees that these theories are obsolete and discredited, as this is his conclusion at the end of the respective sections devoted to discussion of these theories in his chapter on “Evolutionary and Taxonomic Theories”.
However, this only begs the question as to why Baker chooses to devote so much space in this chapter to discussing these theories in the first place, given that both theories are discredited and also of only peripheral relevance to his primary subject-matter, namely the biology of race.
Anyone not interested in these topics, or in history of science more generally, is well advised to skip the majority of this chapter.
“The Historical Background”
Readers not interested in the history of science, and concerned only with contemporary state-of-the-art science (or at least the closest an author writing in 1974 can get to modern state-of-the-art science) may also be tempted to skip over the whole first section of the book, entitled, as I have said, “The Historical Background”, and comprised of four chapters or, in total, just over fifty pages.
These days, when authoring a book on the biology of race, it seems to have become almost de rigueur to include an opening chapter, or chapters, tracing the history of race science, and especially its political misuse during nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries (e.g. under the Nazis).
The usual reason for including these chapters is for the author or authors to thereby disassociate themselves from the earlier supposed ‘misuse’ of race science for nefarious political purposes, and emphasize how their own approach is, of course, infinitely more scientific and objective than that of their sometimes less than illustrious intellectual forebears.
However, Baker’s discussion of “The Historical Background” is rather different, and refreshingly short on disclaimers, moralistic grandstanding and benefit-of-hindsight condemnations that one usually finds in such potted histories.
Instead, Baker strives to give all views, howsoever provocative, a fair hearing in as objective and sober a tone as possible.
Only Lothrop Stoddard, strangely, is dismissed altogether. The latter is, for Baker, an “obviously unimportant” thinker, whose book “contains nothing profound or genuinely original” (p58-9).
Yet this is perhaps unfair. Whatever the demerits of Stoddard’s racial taxonomy (“oversimplified to the point of crudity,” according to Baker: p58), Stoddard’s geopolitical and demographic predictions have proven prescient.
Overall, Baker draws two general conclusions regarding the history of racial thought in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
First, he observes how few of the racialist authors whom he discusses were anti-Semitic. Thus, Baker reports:
The rest of the authors whom he discusses evince, according to Baker, “little or no interest in the Jewishproblem”, the only exception being Friedrich Nietzsche, who is “primarily an anti-egalitarian, but [who] did not proclaim the inequality of ethnic taxa”, and who, in his comments regarding the Jewish people, or at least those quoted by Baker, is positively gushing in his praise.
Yet anti-Semitism often goes hand-in-hand with philo-Semitism. Thus, both Nietzsche and Count de Gobineau indeed wrote passages that, at least when quoted in isolation, seem highly complementary regarding the Jewish people. However, it is well to bear in mind that Hitler did as well, the latter writing in Mein Kampf:
“The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew. In hardly any people in the world is the instinct of self- preservation developed more strongly than in the so-called ‘chosen’. Of this, the mere fact of the survival of this race may be considered the best proof” (Mein Kampf, Manheim translation).
“All anti-Semites agree that the Jews have a certain superiority. If you read anti-Semitic literature, you’re struck by the fact that the Jew is considered to be more intelligent, more cunning, that he is credited with having singular financial talents – and, moreover, greater communal solidarity. Result: six million dead” (Platform: p113)
Baker’s second general observation is similarly curious, namely that:
“None of the authors mentioned in these chapters claims superiority for the whole of the Europid race: it is only a subrace, or else a section of the Europid race not clearly defined in terms of physical anthropology, that is favoured” (p59).
However, this focus on the alleged superiority of certain European subraces rather than Caucasians as a whole likely reflects the fact that, during the time period in which these works were written, European peoples and nations were largely in competition and conflict with other European peoples and nations.
Only in European overseas colonies were Europeans in contact and conflict with non-European races, and, even here, the main obstacle to imperial expansion was, not so much the opposition of the often primitive non-European races whom the Europeans sought to colonize, but rather that of rival colonizers from other European nations.
Therefore, it was the relative superiority of different European populations which was naturally of most concern to Europeans during this time period.
In contrast, the superiority of the Caucasian race as a whole was of comparably little interest, if only because it was something that these writers already took very much for granted, and hence hardly worth wasting ink or typeface over.
The Rise of Racial Egalitarianism
There are two curious limitations that Baker imposes on his historical survey of racial thought. First, at the beginning of Chapter Three (‘From Gobineau to Houston Chamberlain’), he announces:
“The present chapter and the next [namely, those chapters dealing with the history of racial thinking from the mid-nineteenth century up until the early-twentieth century] differ from the two preceding ones… in the more limited scope. It is are concerned only with the growth of ideas that favoured belief in the inequality of ethnic taxa or are supposed—rightly or wrongly—to have favoured this belief” (p33).
Given that I have already criticised ‘Race’ as overlong, and as having an excessive historical focus, I might be expected to welcome this restriction. However, Baker provides no rationale for this self-imposed restriction.
Certainly, it is rare, and enlightening, to read balanced, even sympathetic, accounts of the writings of such infamous racialist thinkers as Gobineau, Galton and Chamberlain, whose racial views are today usually dismissed as so preposterous as hardly to merit serious consideration. Moreover, in the current political climate, such material even acquires a certain ‘allure of the forbidden’.
However, thinkers championing racial egalitarianism have surely proven more influential, at least in the medium-term. Yet such enormously influential thinkers as Franz Boas and Ashley Montagu pass entirely unmentioned in Baker’s account.
Moreover, the intellectual antecedents of the Nazism have already been extensively explored by historians. In contrast, however, the rise of the dogma of racial equality has passed largely unexamined, perhaps because to examine its origins is to expose the weakness of its scientific basis and its fundamentally political origins.
The second restriction that Baker imposes upon his history is that he concludes it, prematurely, in 1928. He justifies closing his survey in this year on the grounds that this date supposedly:
“Marks the close of the period in which both sides in the ethnic controversy were free to put forward their views, and authors who wished to do so could give objective accounts of the evidence pointing in each direction” (p61).
Yet this cannot be entirely true, for, if it were, then Baker’s own book could never have been published – unless, of course, Baker regards his own work as something other than an “objective account of the evidence pointing in each direction”, which seems doubtful.
Certainly, the influence of what is now called political correctness is to be deplored for impact on science, university appointments, the allocation of research funds and the publishing industry. However, there has surely been no abrupt watershed but rather a gradual closing of the western mind over time.
Thus, it is notable that other writers have cited dates a little later than that quoted by Baker, often coinciding with the defeat of Nazi Germany and exposure of the Nazi genocide, or sometimes the defeat of segregation in the American South.
Indeed, not only was this process gradual, it has also proceeded apace in the years since Baker’s ‘Race’ first came off the presses, such that today such a book would surely never would have been published in the first place, certainly not by as prestigious a publisher as Oxford University Press (who, surely not uncoincidently, soon gave up the copyright).
Moreover, Baker is surely wrong to claim that it is impossible:
“To follow the general course of controversy on the ethnic problem, because, for the reason just stated [i.e. the inability of authors of both sides to publicise their views], there has been no general controversy on the subject” (p61).
Having dealt in his first section with what he calls “The Historical Background”, Baker next turns to what he calls “The Biological Background”. He begins by declaring, rightly, that:
“Racial problems cannot be understood by anyone whose interests and field of knowledge stop short at the limit of purely human affairs” (p3).
This is surely true, not just of race, but of all issues in human biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology and political science, as the recent rise of evolutionary psychology attests. Indeed, Baker even coins a memorable and quotable aphorism to this effect, when he declares:
“No one knows Man who knows only Man” (p65).
However, Baker sometimes takes this thinking rather too far, even for my biologically-inclined tastes.
Certainly, he is right to emphasise that differences among human populations are analogous to those found among other species. Thus, his discussion of racial differences among our primate cousins are of interest, but also somewhat out-of-date.
However, his intricate and fully illustrated nine-page description of race differences among the different subspecies of crested newt stretched the patience of this reader (p101-109).
Are Humans a Single Species?
Whereas Baker’s seventh chapter (“The Meaning of Race”) discusses the race concept, the preceding two chapters deal with the taxonomic class immediately above that of race, namely ‘species’.
For sexually-reproducing organisms, ‘species’ is usually defined as the largest group of organisms capable of breeding with one another and producing fertile offspring in the wild.
However, as Baker explains, things are not quite so simple.
Moreover, in respect of extinct species, it is often impossible to know for certain whether two ostensible ‘species’ interbred with one another (p72-3). Therefore, in practice, the fossils of extinct organisms are assigned to either the same or different species on morphological criteria alone.
On purely morphological criteria, Baker questions humanity’s status as a single species:
“Even typical Nordids and typical Alpinids, both regarded as subraces of a single race (subspecies), the Europid, are very much more different from one another in morphological characters—for instance in the shape of the skull—than many species of animals that never interbreed with one another in nature, though their territories overlap” (p97).
That morphological differences between human groups do indeed often exceed those between closely-related but non-interbreeding species of non-human animal has recently been quantitatively confirmed by Vincent Sarich and Frank Miele in their book, Race the Reality of Human Differences (which I have reviewed here, here and here).
However, even if one defines ‘species’ strictly by the criterion of interfertility (i.e. in Baker’s terminology, “species in the genetical sense”) matters remain less clear than one might imagine.
These two ostensible species (or subspecies), both found in the UK, do not interbreed with one another, but each does interbreed with intermediaries that, in turn, interbreed with the other, such that there is some indirect gene-flow between them. Interestingly, the species ranges of the different intermediaries form a literal ring around the Arctic, such that genes will travel around the Artic before passing from lesser black backed gull to herring gull or vice versa (p76-79).
Indeed, even the ability to produce fertile offspring is a matter of degree. Thus, some pairings produce fertile offspring only rarely.
For example, often, Baker reports, “sterility affects [only] the heterogametic sex [i.e. the sex with two different sex chromosomes]” (p95). Thus, in mammals, sterility is more likely to affect male offspring. Indeed, this pattern is so common that it even has its own name, being known as Haldane’s Rule, after the famous Marxist-biologist JBS Haldane who first noted this pattern.
Other times, Baker suggests, interfertility may depend on the sex of the respective parents. For example, Baker suggests that, whereas sheep may sometimes successfully reproduce with he-goats, rams may be unable to successfully reproduce with she-goats (p95).
Moreover, the fertility of offspring is itself a matter of degree. Thus, Baker reports, some hybrid offspring are not interfertile with one another, but can reproduce with one or other of the parental stocks. Elsewhere, the first generation of hybrids are interfertile but not subsequent generations (p94).
Indeed, though it was long thought impossible, it has recently been confirmed that, albeit only very rarely, even mules and hinnies can successfully reproduce, despite donkeys and horses, the two parental stocks, having, like goats and sheep, a different number of chromosomes (Rong et al 1985; Kay 2002).
Thus, Baker concludes:
“There is no proof that hybridity among human beings is invariably eugenesic, for many of the possible crosses have not been made, or if they have their outcome does not appear to have been recorded. It is probable on inductive grounds that such marraiges would not be infertile, but it is questionable whether the hybridity would necessarily be eugenesic. For instance, statistical study might reveal a preponderance of female offpsring” (p97-8).
Is there then any evidence of reduced fertility among mixed-race couples? Not a great deal.
However, this is a simple reflection of the differences in average stature of between whites and Asians, with smaller-framed Asian women having difficult birthing larger half-white offspring. Thus, the same study also found that white women birthing offspring fathered by Asian men actually have lower rates of caesarean delivery than did women bearing offspring fathered by men of the same race as themselves (Stanford University Medical Center 2008).
This lack of selection against either European-derived (or African-derived) genes in African-Americans suggests that discordant genes did not result in reduced fitness among African-Americans.
Humans – A Domesticated Species?
A final complication in defining species is that some species of nonhuman animal, wildly recognised as separate species because they do not interbreed in the wild, nevertheless have been known to successfully interbreed in captivity.
A famous example are lions and tigers. While they have never been known to interbreed in the wild, if only because they rarely if ever encounter one another, they have interbred in captivity, sometimes even producing fertile offspring in the form of so-called ligers and tigons.
This is, for Baker, of especial relevance to question of human races since, according to Baker, we ourselves are a domesticated species. Thus, he approvingly quotes Blumenbach’s claim that:
“Man is ‘of all living beings the most domesticated’” (p95).
Thus, with regard to the question of whether humans represent a single species, Baker reaches the following controversial conclusion:
“The facts of human hybridity do not prove that all human races are to be regarded as belonging to a single ‘species’. The whole idea of species is vague because the word is used with such different meanings, none of which is of universal application. When it is used in the genetical sense [i.e. the criterion of interfertility] some significance can be attached to it, in so far as it applies to animals existing in natural conditions… but it does not appear to be applicable to human beings, who live under the most extreme conditions of domestication” (p98).
Thus, Baker goes so far as to question whether:
“Any two kinds of animals, differing from one another so markedly in morphological characters (and in odour) as, for instance, the Europid and Sanid…, and living under natural conditions, would accept one another as sexual partners” (p97).
Certainly, in our ‘natural environment’ (what evolutionary psychologists call the environment of Evolutionary adaptedness or EEA), many human races would never have interbred, if only for the simple reason that they would never come into contact with one another.
On the contrary, they were separated from one another by the very geographic obstacles (oceans, deserts, mountain-ranges) that reproductively isolated them from one another and hence permitted their evolution into distinct races.
Thus, Northern Europeans surely never mated with sub-Saharan Africans for the simple reason that the former were confined to Northern Europe and surrounding areas while the latter were largely confined to sub-Saharan Africa, such that they are unlikely ever to have interacted.
Only with the invention of technologies facilitating long-distance travel (e.g. ships, aeroplanes) would this change.
However, whether humans can be said to be domesticated depends on how one defines ‘domesticated’. If we are domesticated, then humans are surely unique in having domesticated ourselves (or at least one another).
Ultimately then, the question of whether the human race is a single species is a purely semantic one. It depends how one defines the word ‘species’.
Likewise, whether human races can be said to exist ultimately depends on one’s definition of the word ‘race’.
Using the word ‘race’ interchangeably with that of ‘subspecies’, Baker provides no succinct definition. Instead, he simply explains:
“If two populations [within a species] are so distinct that one can generally tell from which region a specimen was obtained, it is usual to give separate names to the two races” (p99).
Neither does he provide a neat definition of any particular race. On the contrary, he is explicit in emphasizing:
“The definition of any particular race must be inductive in the sense that it gives a general impression of the distinctive characters, without professing to be applicable in detail to every individual” (p99).
Is Race Real?
At the conclusion of his chapter on “Hybridity and The Species Question”, Baker seems to reach what was, even in 1974, an incendiary conclusion – namely that, whether using morphological criteria or the criterion of interfertility, it is not possible to conclusively prove that all extant human populations belong to a single species (see above).
Nevertheless, in the remainder of the book, Baker proceeds on the assumption that differences among human groups are indeed subspecific (i.e. racial) in nature and that we do indeed form a single species.
Indeed, Baker criticises the notion that the existence persons of mixed racial ancestry, and the existence of clinal variation between races, disproves the existence of human races by observing that, if races did not interbreed with one another, then they would not be mere different races, but rather entirely separate species, according to the usual definition of this term. Thus, Baker explains:
“Subraces and even races sometimes hybridise where they meet, but this almost goes without saying: for if sexual revulsion against intersubracial or interracial marriages were complete, one set of genes would have no chance of intermingling with the other, and the ethnic taxa would be species by the commonly accepted definition. It cannot be too strongly stressed that intersubracial and interracial hybridization is so far from indicating the unreality of subraces and races, that it is actually a sine qua non of the reality of these ethnic taxa” (p12).
Some people seem to think that, since races tend to blend into one another and hence have blurred boundaries (i.e. what biologists refer to as clinal variation), they do not really exist. Yet Baker objects:
“In other matters, no one questions the reality of categories between which intermediaries exist. There is every graduation, for instance, between green and blue, but no one denies these words should be used” (p100).
However, this is perhaps an unfortunate example, since, as psychologists and physicists agree, colours, as such, do not exist.
Instead, the spectrum of light varies continuously. Distinct colours are imposed on this continuous variation only by the human brain and visual system.
Using colour as an analogy for race is also potentially confusing because colour is already often conflated with race. Thus, races are referred to by their ostensible colours (e.g. ‘blacks’, ‘whites’, ‘browns’ etc.) and the very word ‘colour’ is sometimes even used as a synonym, or perhaps euphemism, for race, even though, as Baker is at pains to emphasize, races differ in far more than skin colour.
Using colour as an analogy for race differences is only likely to exacerbate this confusion.
Yet Baker’s other examples are similarly problematic. Thus, he writes:
“The existence of youths and human hermaphrodites does not cause anyone to disallow the use of the words, ‘boy’, ‘man’ and ‘woman’” (p100).
However, hermaphrodites, unlike racial intermediaries, are extremely rare. Meanwhile, words such as ‘boy’ and ‘youth’ are colloquial terms, not really scientific ones. As anthropologist John Relethford observes:
“We tend to use crude labels in everyday life with the realization that they are fuzzy and subjective. I doubt anyone thinks that terms such as ‘short’, ‘medium’ and ‘tall’ refer to discrete groups, or that humanity only comes in three values of height” (Relethford 2009: p21).
In short, we often resort to vague and impressionistic language in everyday conversation. However, for scientific purposes, we must surely try, wherever possible, to be more precise.
“Is social class… a useless concept because of its cline-like tendency to merge smoothly from case to case across the distribution, of because its discrete categories are determined by researchers according to their research purposes and are definitely not ‘pure’” (Race and Crime: A Biosocial Analysis: p6).
However, the same leftist social scientists who insist the race concept is an unscientific social construction, nevertheless continue to employ the concept of social class almost as if it were entirely unproblematic.
However, the objection that races do not exist because races are not discrete categories, but rather have blurred boundaries, is not entirely fallacious.
After all, sometimes intermediaries can be so common that they can no longer be said to be intermediaries at all and all that can be said to exist is continuous clinal variation, such that wherever one chose to draw the boundary between one race and another would be entirely arbitrary.
With increased migration and intermarriage, we may fast be approaching this point.
Thus, even if races do not exist, race differences still surely do – and, just as skin colour varies on a continuous, clinal basis, so might average IQ, brain-size and personality!
Anticipating Jared Diamond
Remarkably, Baker even manages to anticipate certain erroneous objections to the race concept that had not, to my knowledge, even been formulated at the time of his writing, perhaps because they are so obviously fallacious to anyone without an a priori political commitment to the denying the validity of the race concept.
Certainly, he is at pains to emphasise that, among humans, differences between racial groups go far beyond skin colour. Indeed, he observes, one has only to look at an African albino to realize as much:
“An albino…Negrid who is fairer than any non-albino European, [yet] appears even more unlike a European than a normal…Negrid” (p160).
For Baker, these are what he calls “secondary characters” that cannot be used for the purposes of racial classification because they are not present among all members of any group, but differ only in their relative prevalence (p186).
It is therefore irrelevant from the perspective of cladistic taxonomy, whereby organisms are grouped, not on the basis of shared traits as such, but rather of shared ancestry. From the perspective of cladistic taxonomy, shared traits are relevant only to the extent they are (interpreted as) evidence of shared ancestry.
“One must always be on the lookout for the possibility of independent mutation wherever two apparently unrelated taxa resemble one another by the fact that some individuals in both groups reveal the presence of the same gene” (p189).
In evolutionary biology, this is referred to as distinguishing analogy from homology.
But Diamond’s proposed classification is especially preposterous, since he proposes to classify races on the basis of a single trait in isolation, the trait in question (either lactose tolerance or the sickle-cell gene) being chosen either arbitrarily or, more likely, to illustrate the point that Diamond is attempting to make.
Yet even pre-Darwinian taxonomies proposed to classify species, not on the basis of a single trait, but rather on the basis of a whole suit of traits that intercorrelate together.
In short, Diamond proposes to classify races on the basis of a single character that has evolved independently in distantly related populations, instead of a whole suite of inter-correlated traits indicative of common ancestry.
Interestingly, a similar error may underlie an even more frequently cited paper by Marxist-geneticist Richard Lewontin, which argued the vast majority of genetic variation was within-group rather than between-group – since Lewontin, like Diamond, also relied on ‘secondary characters’ such as blood-groups to derive his estimates (Lewontin 1972).
The reason for the recurrence of this error, Baker explains, is that:
“Each of the differences that enable one to distinguish all the most typical individuals of any one taxon from those of another is due, as a general rule, to the action of polygenes, that is to say, to the action of numerous genes, having small cumulative effects” (p190).
Therefore, this leads to the “unfortunate paradox” whereby:
“The better the evidence of relationship or distinction between ethnic taxa, the less susceptible are the facts to genetic analysis” (p190).
As a consequence, Baker laments:
“Attention is focussed today on those ‘secondary differences’… that can be studied singly and occur in most ethnic taxa, though in different proportions in different taxa… The study of these genes… has naturally led, from its very nature, to a tendency to minimise or even disregard the extent to which the ethnic taxa of man do actually differ from one another” (p534).
“From the perspective of taste-deficiency the Europids are much closer to the chimpanzee than to the Sinids and Paiwan people; yet no one would claim that this resemblance gives a true representation of relationship” (p188).
However, applying the logic of Diamond’s article, we would be perfectly justified and within our rights to use this similarity in taste deficiency in order to classify Caucasians as a sub-species of chimpanzee!
The third section of Baker’s book, “Studies of Selected Human Groups”, focusses on the traditional subject-matter of physical anthropology – i.e. morphological differences between human groups.
Baker describes the physiological differences between races in painstaking technical detail. These parts of the book makes for an especially difficult read, as Baker carefully elucidates both how anthropologists measure morphological differences, and the nature and extent of the various physiological differences between the races discussed revealed by these methods.
Yet, curiously, although many of his measures are quantitative in nature, Baker rarely discusses whether differences are statistically significant. Yet without statistical analysis, all of Baker’s reports of quantitative measurements of differences in the shapes and sizes of the skulls and body parts of people of different races represent little more than subjective impressions.
This is especially problematic in his discussion of so-called ‘subraces’ (subdivisions within the major continental races, such as Nordics and the Meditaranean race, both supposed subdivisions within the Caucasiod race), where differences could easily be dismissed as, if not wholly illusory, then at least as clinal in nature and as not always breeding true.
Yet nowhere in his defence of the reality of subracial differences does Baker cite statistics. Instead, his argument is wholly subjective and qualitative in nature:
“In many parts of the world where there have not been any large movements of population over a long period, the reality of subraces is evident enough” (p211).
One suspects that, given increased geographic mobility, those parts of the world are now reduced in number.
Thus, even if subracial differences were once real, with increased migration and intermarriage, they are fast disappearing, at least within Europe.
“Studies of Selected Human Groups”
This third section of the book focuses on certain specific selected human populations. These are presumably chosen because Baker feels that they are representative of certain important elements of human evolution, racial divergence, or are otherwise of particular interest.
Unfortunately, Baker’s choice of which groups upon which to focus seems rather arbitrary and he never explains why these groups were chosen ahead of others.
In particular, it is notable that Baker focuses primarily on populations from Europe and Africa. East Asians (i.e. ‘Mongoloids’), curiously, are entirely unrepresented.
After a couple of introductory chapters, and one chapter focussing on “Europids” (i.e. Caucasians) as a whole, Baker’s next chapter discusses Jewish people.
In the opening paragraphs, he observes that:
“In any serious study of the superiority or inferiority of particular groups of people one cannot fail to take note of the altogether outstanding contributions made to intellectual and artistic life, and to the world of commerce and finance, generation after generation by persons to whom the name of Jews is attached” (p232).
However, having taken due “note” of this, and hence followed his own advice, he says almost nothing further on the matter, either in this chapter or in those later chapters that deal specifically with the question of racial superiority (see below).
Instead, Baker first focuses on justifying the inclusion of Jews in a book about race, and hence arguing against the politically-correct notion that Jews are not a race, but rather mere practitioners of a religion. Baker gives short-shrift to this notion:
“There is no close resemblance between Judaism in the religious sense and a proselytizing religion such as the Roman Catholic” (p326).
In other words, Baker seems to be saying, because Judaism is not a religion that actively seeks out converts (but rather one that, if anything, discourages converts), Jews have retained an ethnic character distinct from the host populations alongside whom they reside, without having their racial traits diluted by the incorporation of large numbers of converts of non-Jewish ancestry.
Yet, actually, even proselytizing religions like Christianity, Catholicism and Islam, that do actively seek to convert nonbelievers, often come to take on an ethnic character, since offspring usually inherit (i.e. are indoctrinated in) the faith of their parents, apostates are persecuted, conversion remains, in practice, rare, and people are admonished to marry ‘within the faith’.
These include a short but wide skull and a nose that is “large in all dimensions” (p239), the characteristic shape of which Baker even purports to illustrate with a delightfully offensive diagram (p241).
Likewise, Baker claims that Sephardic Jews, the other main subgroup of European Jews, are likewise “distinguishable from the Ashkenazim by physical characters”, being slenderer in build, with straighter hair, narrower noses, and different sized skulls, approximately more to the Mediterranean racial type (p245-6).
But, if Sephardim and Ashkenazim are indeed “distinguishable” or “recognisable” by “physical characters”, either from one another or from other European Gentiles, as Baker claims, then with what degree of accuracy is he claiming such distinctions can be made? Surely far less than 100%.
Moreover, are the alleged physiological differences that Baker posits between Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and other Europeans based on recorded quantitative measurements, and, if so, are the differences in question statistically significant? On this, Baker says nothing.
The next chapter concerns “The Celts”, a term surrounding which there is so much confusion and which has been used in so many different senses – racial, cultural, ethnic, territorial and linguistic (p183) – that some historians have argued that it is best abandoned altogether.
Baker, himself British, is keen to dispel the notion that the indigenous populations of the British Isles were, at the time of the Roman invasion, a primitive people, and is very much an admirer of their artwork.
Thus, Baker writes that:
“Caesar… nowhere states that any of the Britons were savage (‘immanis’), nor does he speak specifically of their ignorance (‘ignorantia’), though he does twice mention their indiscretion (‘imprudentia’) in parleying” (p263).
Of course, Caesar, though hardly unbiased in this respect, did regard the indigenous Britons as less civilized than the Romans themselves. However, I suppose that barbarism, like civilization (see below), is a matter of degree.
“Their skulls scarcely differ from those of the Anglo-Saxons who subsequently dominated them, except in one particular character, namely, that the skull is slightly (but significantly) lower in the Iron Age man than in the Anglo-Saxon” (p257).
Thus, dismissing the politically-correct notion that the English were, in the words of another author, “a truemultiracialsociety”, Baker claims:
Citing remains found in an ancient cemetery in Berkshire supposedly containing the skeletons of Anglo-Saxon males but indigenous British females and hybrid offspring, he concludes that, rather than extermination, a process of intermarriage and assimilation occurred (p266).
However, the indigenous pre-Celtic inhabitants of the British Isles were, he concludes, less Nordic than Mediterranid in phenotype.
Such influences remain, Baker claims, in the further reaches of Wales and Ireland, as evidenced by the distribution of blood groups and of hair colour.
“The tendency towards the possession of dark hair was much more marked in Wales than in England, and still more marked in the western districts of Ireland” (p265).
This conclusion is based upon the observations of nineteenth century English ethnologist John Beddoe, who travelled the British Isles recording the distribution of different hair and eye colours, reporting his findings in The Races of Britain, which was first published in 1862 and remains, to my knowledge, the only large body of data on the distribution of hair and eye colour in the British Isles to this day.
Yet recent population genetic studies suggest that even the so-called Celts, like the later Anglo-Saxons, Normans and Vikings, actually had only a quite minimal impact on the ancestry of the indigenous peoples of the British Isles.
The Celts, moreover, likely arrived from on the British Isles from continental Europe by the same route as the later Anglo-Saxons and Normans – i.e. across the English channel (or perhaps the south-west corner of the North Sea), by way of Southern England. This is, after all, by far the easiest, most obvious and direct route.
This leads Baker to conclude that the Celts, like the Anglo-Saxons after them, imposed their language on, but had little genetic impact on, the inhabitants of those parts of the British Isles furthest from this point of initial disembarkation (i.e. Scotland, Ireland, Wales). Thus, Baker concludes:
“The Iron Age invaders transmitted the dialects of their Celtic language to the more ancient Britons whom they found in possession of the land [and] pushed back these less advanced peoples towards the west and north as they spread” (p264).
But these latter peoples, though adopting the Celtic tongue, were not themselves (primarily) descendants of the Celtic invaders. This leads Baker to follow Carleton Coon in concluding:
“It is these people, the least Celtic—in the ethnic sense—of all the inhabitants of Great Britain, that have clung most obstinately to the language that their conquerors first taught them two thousand years ago” (p269).
In other words, in a racial and genetic, if not a linguistic, sense, the English are actually more Celtic than are the self-styled ‘Celtic Nations’ of Scotland, Ireland and Wales!
However, this is not what Baker means by referring to Aboriginals as “primitive”. Indeed, unlike his later chapters on black Africans, Baker says nothing regarding the technology or culture of indigenous Australians.
Instead, he talks exclusively about their morphology. In referring to them as “primitive”, Baker is therefore using the word in the specialist phylogenetic sense. Thus, he argues that Australian Aboriginals:
“Retain… physical characters that were possessed by remote ancestors but have been lost in the course of evolution by most members of the taxa that are related to it” (p272-3).
In other words, they retain traits characteristic of an earlier state of human evolution which have since been lost in other extant races.
Baker purports to identify twenty-eight such “primitive” characters in Australian aboriginals. These include prognathism (p281), large teeth (p289), broad noses (p282), and large brow ridges (p280).
Baker acknowledges that all extant races retain some primitive characters that have been lost in other races (p302). For example, unlike most other races (but not Aboriginals), Caucasoids retain scalp hair characteristic of early hominids and indeed other extant primates (p297).
However, Baker concludes:
“The Australids are exceptional in the number and variety of their primitive characters and in the degree to which some of them are manifested” (p302).
“As brain tissue expanded… it did so at the expense of the temporalis muscles, which… close the jaw. Since smaller temporalis muscles cannot close as large a jaw, jaw size was reduced. Consequently, there is less room for teeth” (Race, Evolution and Behavior: Preface to Third Edition: p20-1).
More obviously, phylogentically ‘primitive’ brains obviously also imply lesser intelligence, given the increase in human brain size and intelligence that has occurred over the course of human evolution.
In this sense, then, Australian Aboriginals ‘primitive’ brains may indeed be linked to the primitive state, in the more familiar sense of the word ‘primitive’, of their technology and culture.
San Bushmen and Paedomorphy
Whereas Australian Aboriginals are morphologically “primitive” (i.e. retain characters of early hominids), the San Bushmen of Southern Africa (“Sanids”), together with the related Khoi (collectively Khoisan, or, in racial terms, Capoid) are, Baker contends, “paedomorphic”.
By this, Baker means that the San people retain into adulthood traits that are, in other taxa, restricted to infants or juveniles, and is more often referred to as neoteny.
“The penis, when not erect, maintains an almost horizontal position… This feature is scarcely ever omitted in the rock art of the Bushmen, in their stylized representations of their own people. The prepuce is very long; it covers the glans completely and projects forward to a point. The scrotum is drawn up close to the root of the penis, giving the appearance that only one testis has descended, and that incompletely” (p319).
Humans in general are known to be neotenous in many of our distinct characters, and we are also, of course, the most intelligent known species. However, Baker argues:
“Although mankind as a whole is paedomorphous, those ethnic taxa (the Sanids among them) that are markedly more paedomorphious than the rest have never achieved the status of civilization, or anything approaching it, by their own initiative. It would seem that, when carried beyond a certain point, paedomorphosis is antagonistic to purely intellectual advance” (p324).
As to why this might be the case, he speculates in a later chapter:
“Certain taxa have remained primitive or become paedomorphous in their general morphological characters and none of these has succeeded in developing a civilization. It is among these taxa in particular that one finds some indication of a possible cause of mental inferiority in the small size of the brain” (p428).
Having discussed male genitalia, Baker also emphasizes the primary and secondary sexual characteristics of Sanid women – in particular their protruding buttocks (“steatopygia”) and alleged elongated labia.
The protruding buttocks of Sanid women are, Baker contends, qualitatively different in both shape and indeed composition from those of other populations, including the much-celebrated ‘big butts’ of contemporary African-Americans (p318).
Thus, whereas, among other populations, the shape of the buttocks, even if very large, are “rounded” in shape:
“It is particular characteristic of the Khoisanids that the shape of the projecting part is that of a right-angled triangle, the upper edge being nearly horizontal … [and] internally… consist of masses of fat incorporated between criss-crossed sheets of connective tissue said to be joined to one another in a regular manner.”
Regarding the function of these enlarged buttocks, Baker rejects any analogy with the humps of the camel, which evolved as reserves of fat upon which the animal could call in the event of famine or draught.
Unlike camels, which are, of course, adapted to a desert environment, Baker concludes:
However, although he does not directly discuss this, Baker presumably regards this as a recent displacement, resulting from the Bantu expansion, in the course of which the less advanced San were displaced from their traditional hunting grounds in southern Africa by Bantu agriculturalists, and permitted to eke out an undisturbed existence only in an arid desert environment of no use to Bantu agriculturalists.
Instead of having evolved as fat reserves in the event of famine, drought or scarcity, Baker instead suggests that Khoisan buttocks evolved through sexual selection.
The caloric demands of pregnancy and lactation are indeed the probable reason women of all races have greater fat deposits than do males.
Indeed, an analogy might be provided by female breasts, since these, unlike the mammary glands of other mammalian species, are present permanently, from puberty on, and, save during pregnancy and lactation, are composed predominantly of fatty tissues, not milk.
Elusive Elongated Labia?
In addition to their enlarged buttocks, Baker also discusses the alleged elongated labia of Sanid women, sometimes referred to, rather inaccurately in Baker’s view, as the “the Hottentot apron”.
Some writers have discounted this notion as a sort of nineteenth-century anthropological myth. However, Baker himself insists that the elongated labia of the San are indeed real.
The fourth and final section of ‘Race’ turns to the most controversial topic addressed by Baker in this most controversial of books, namely whether any racial group can be said to be superior or inferior to another, a question that Baker christens “the Ethnic Question”.
He begins by critiquing the very nature of the notion of superiority and inferiority, observing in a memorable and quotable aphorism:
Thus, if one is “concerned simply with the question whether the taxa are similar or different”, then, Baker concludes, “there can be no doubt as to the answer” (p421).
Indeed, this much is clear, not simply from the huge amount of data assembled by Baker himself in previous chapters, but also from simple observation.
However, Baker continues:
“The words ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ are not generally used unless value judgements are concerned” (p421).
Any value judgement is, of course, necessarily subjective.
On objective criteria, each race can only be said to be, on average, superior in a specific endeavour (e.g. IQ tests, basketball, mugging, pimping, drug-dealing, tanning, building civilizations). The value to be ascribed to these endeavours is, however, wholly subjective.
On these grounds, contemporary self-styled ‘race realists’ typically disclaim any association between their theories and any notions of racial superiority.
Yet these race realists are often the very same individuals who emphasise the predictive power of IQ tests in determining many social outcomes (income, criminality, illegitimacy, welfare dependency) which are generally viewed in anything but value-neutral terms (see The Bell Curve: which I have reviewed here; here and here).
From a biological perspective, no species (or subspecies) is superior to any other. Each is adapted to its own ecological niche and hence presumably superior at surviving and reproducing within the specific environment in which it evolved.
Although he alludes in passing to race differences in athletic ability, Baker, in discussing superiority, is concerned primarily with intellectual and moral achievement. Therefore, in this final section of the book, he turns from physiological differences to psychological ones.
Of course, the two are not entirely unconnected. All behaviour must have an ultimate basis in the brain, which is itself a part of an organism’s physiology. Thus:
“Cranial capacity is, of course, directly relevant to the ethnic problem since it sets a limit to the size of the brain in different taxa; but all morphological differences are also relevant in an indirect way, since it is scarcely possible that any taxa could be exactly the same as one another in all the genes that control the development and function of the nervous and sensory systems, yet so different from one another in structural characters in other parts of the body” (p533-4).
Indeed, Baker observes:
“Identity in habits is unusual even in pairs of taxa that are morphologically much more similar to one another than [some human races]. The subspecies of gorilla, for instance, are not nearly so different from one another as Sanids are from Europids, but they differ markedly in their modes of life” (426).
In other words, since human races differ significantly in their physiology, it is probable that they will also differ, to a roughly equivalent degree, in psychological traits, such as intelligence, temperament and personality.
In discussing the question of the intellectual and moral superiority of different racial groups, Baker focusses on two lines of evidence in particular:
While his data on race differences in IQ is therefore now dated, Baker’s discussion of the track-record of different races in founding civilizations remains of interest today, if only because this is a topic studiously avoided by most contemporary authors, historians and anthropologists on account of its politically-incorrect nature – though Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs and Steel, represents an important recent exception to this trend.
The first question, of course, is precisely how one is to define ‘civilizations’ in the first place, itself a highly contentious issue.
Thus, Baker identifies twenty-one criteria for recognising civilizations (p507-8).
However, the latter are inherently problematic. What constitutes moral superiority itself involves a moral judgement that is necessarily subjective.
In other words, whereas technological and scientific superiority can be demonstrated objectively, moral superiority is a mere matter of opinion.
Thus, the ancient Romans, transported to our times, would surely accept the superiority of our technology – and, if they did not, we would, as a consequence of the superiority of our technology, outcompete them both economically and militarily and hence prove it ourselves.
Take, for example, Baker’s first requirement for civilization, namely that:
“In the ordinary circumstances of life in public places they [i.e. members of the society under consideration] cover the external genitalia and greater part of the trunk with clothes” (p507).
This criterium is not only curiously puritanical, but also blatantly biased against tropical cultures. Whereas in temperate and arctic zones clothing is essential for survival, in the tropics the decision to wear clothing represents little more than an arbitrary fashion choice.
The requirement that a civilization’s religious beliefs not be “purely or grossly superstitious” (p507) is also problematic. As a confirmed atheist, I suspect that all religions are, by very definition, superstitious. If some forms of Buddhism and Confucianism are perhaps exceptions, then they are perhaps simply not religions at all in the western sense.
As for his complaint that the religion of the Mayans “did not enter into the fields of ethics” (p526), a complaint he also raises in respect of indigenous black African religions (p384), contemporary moral philosophers generally see this as a good thing, believing that religion is best kept of moral debates.
In conclusion, any person seeking to rank cultures on moral criteria will, almost inevitably, rank his own society as morally superior to all others – simply because he is judging these societies by the moral standards of his own society that he has internalized and adopted as his own.
However, in doing so, he is judging the cultures in question by distinctly Western moral standards. The Aztecs, in contrast, may have viewed human sacrifice as a moral imperative and may therefore have viewed European cultures as morally deficient precisely because they did not butcher enough of their people in order to propitiate the gods.
Likewise, whereas Baker views cannibalism as incompatible with civilization (p507), I personally view cannibalism as, of itself, a victimless crime. A dead person, being dead, is incapable of suffering by virtue of being eaten. Indeed, in this secular age of environmental consciousness, one might even praise cannibalism as a highly ‘sustainable’ form of recycling.
Whereas his previous chapters discussing specific selected human populations focussed primarily, or sometimes exclusively, on their morphological peculiarities, in the last four of these chapters, focussing on African blacks, his focus shifts from morphology to culture.
Thus, Baker writes:
“The physical characters of the Negrids are mentioned only briefly. Members of this race are studied in Chapters 18-21 mainly from the point of view of the social anthropologist interested in their progress towards civilization at a time when they were still scarcely influenced over a large part of their territory, by direct contact with members of more advanced ethnic taxa” (p184).
Unlike some racialist authors, Baker acknowledges the widespread adoption of advanced technologies throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa prior to modern times. However, he attributes the adoption of these technologies to contact with, and borrowings from, outside non-Negroid civilizations (e.g. Arabs, Egyptians, Moors, Berbers, Europeans).
Therefore, in order to distinguish the indigenous, homegrown capacity of black Africans to develop advanced civilization, Baker relies on the reports of seven nineteenth century explorers of what he terms “the secluded area” of Africa, by which term Baker seems to mean the bulk of inland Southern, Eastern and Central Africa, excluding the Horn of Africa, the coast of West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea (p334-5).
In these parts of Africa, at the time these early European explorers visited the continent, the influence of outside civilizations was, Baker reports, “non-existent or very slight” (p335). The cultural practices observed by these explorers therefore, for Baker, provide a measure of black Africans’ indigenous capacity for social, cultural and technological advancement.
On this perhaps dubious basis, Baker thus concludes that there is no evidence black Africans ever:
Fully domesticated any plants (354-6) or animals (p373-7); or
Invented the wheel (p373); or other ‘mechanical’ devices with interacting parts (p354).
Also largely absent throughout ‘the secluded area’, according to Baker, were:
Let’s review these claims in turn. First, it certainly seems to be true that few if any species of either animals or plants were domesticated in what Baker calls the “the secluded area” of sub-Saharan Africa.
However, with respect to plants, there may be a reason for this. Many important, early domesticates were annuals. These are plants that complete their life-cycle within a single year, taking advantage of predictable seasonal variations in the weather.
“Within their mere one year of life, annual plants inevitably remain small herbs. Many of them instead put their energy into producing big seeds, which remain dormant during the dry season and are then ready to sprout when the rains come. Annual plants therefore waste little energy on making inedible wood or fibrous stems, like the body of trees and bushes. But many of the big seeds… are edible by humans. They constitute 6 of the modern world’s 12 major crops” (Guns, Germs and Steel: p136).
However, the wild auroch, from whom modern cattle derive, was undoubtedly even more formidable, being, not only larger, more muscled and with bigger horns, but also surely even more aggressive than modern bulls. After all, one of the key functions of domestication is to produce more docile animals that are more amenable to control by human agriculturalists.
Compared to the domestication of aurochs, the domestication of the zebra would seem almost straight forward. Indeed, the successful domestication of aurochs in ancient times might even cause us to reserve our judgement regarding the domesticability of such formidable African mammals as hippos and African buffalo, the possibility of whose domestication Diamond dismisses a priori as preposterous.
Certainly, the domestication of the auroch surely stands as one of the great achievements of ancient Man.
Reinventing the Wheel?
Baker also seems to be correct in his claim that black Africans never invented the wheel.
However, it must be borne in mind that the same is also probably true of white Europeans, who, rather than independently inventing the wheel for themselves, had the easier option of simply copying the design of the wheel from other civilizations and peoples, namely those from the Middle East, probably Mesopotamia, where the wheel seems to be have first been developed.
Indeed, most cultures with access to the wheel never actually invented it themselves, for the simple reason that it is far easier to copy the invention of a third-party through simple reverse engineering than to independently invent afresh an already existing technology all by oneself.
The real question, then, is not why the wheel was never invented in sub-Saharan Africa, but rather why it failed to spread throughout that continent in the same way it did throughout Eurasia.
Thus, if the wheel was known, as Baker readily acknowledges it was, in those parts of sub-Saharan Africa that were in contact with outside civilizations (notably in the Horn of Africa), then this raises the question as to why it failed to spread elsewhere in Africa prior to the arrival of Europeans. This indeed is acknowledged to remain a major enigma within the field of African history and archaeology (Law 2011; Chavez et al 2012).
After all, there are no obvious insurmountable geographical barriers preventing the spread of technologies across Africa other than the Sahara itself, and, as Baker himself acknowledges, black Africans in the ‘penetrated’ area had proven amply capable of imitating technological advances introduced from outside.
Why then did the wheel not spread across Africa in the same way it did across Eurasia? Is it possible that African people’s alleged cognitive deficiencies were responsible for the failure of this technology to spread and be copied, since the ability to copy technologies through reverse engineering itself requires some degree of intellectual ability, albeit less than that required for original innovation?
One might argue instead that the African terrain was unsuitable for wheeled transport. However, one of the markers of civilization is surely its very ability to alter the terrain by large, cooperative public works engineering projects, such as the building of roads.
Thus, most of Eurasia is now suitable for wheeled transport in large part only because we, or more specifically our ancestors, have made it so.
Another explanation sometimes offered for the failure of African to develop wheeled transportation is that they lacked a suitable draft animal, horses being afflicted with sleeping sickness spread by the tsetse fly.
However, as we have seen above, Baker argues a race’s track record in successfully domesticating wild animals is itself indicative of the intellectual ability and character of that race. For Baker, then, the failure of sub-Saharan African to successfully domesticate any suitable species of potential draft animal (e.g. the zebra: see above) is itself indicative of, and a factor in, their inability to successfully develop advanced civilization.
At any rate, even in the absence of a suitable draft animal, wheels are still useful.
On the one hand, they can be used for non-transport-related purposes (e.g. the spinning wheel, the potter’s wheel, even water wheels). Indeed, in Eurasia the invention of the potter’s wheel is actually thought to have preceded the use of wheels for the purposes of transportation.
In other words, humans can themselves be employed as a draft animal, whether by choice or by force, and, if there is one arguable marker for civilization for which Africa did not lack, and which did not await introduction by Europeans, Moors and Arabs, it was, of course, the institution of slavery.
African Writing Systems?
What then of the alleged failure of sub-Saharan Africans to develop a system of writing? Baker refers to only a single writing system indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa, namely the Vai syllabary, invented in what is today Liberia in the nineteenth century in imitation of foreign scripts. Was this indeed the only writing system indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa?
Of course, writing has long been known in North Africa, and ancient Egypt even lays claim to have invented the first written script, namely hieroglyphs, although most archaeologists believe that they were beaten to the gun, once again, by Mesopotamia, with its cuneiform script.
However, this is obviously irrelevant to the question of black African civilization, since the populations of North Africa, including the ancient Egyptians, were largely Caucasoid.
However, save for those of recent origin, almost all of these writing systems seem, from the descriptions on their respective wikipedia pages, to have been restricted to areas outside of ‘the secluded area’ of Africa as defined by Baker (p334-5).
The only ancient writing system mentioned on this wikipedia page that was found in what Baker calls ‘the secluded area’ of Africa isLusona. This seems to have been developed deep in the interior of sub-Saharan Africa, in parts of what is today eastern Angola, north-western Zambia and adjacent areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thus, it is almost certainly of entirely indigenous origin.
It therefore appears to fall far short of a fully developed script in the modern sense.
Indeed, the same seems to be true, albeit to a lesser extent, of most of the indigenous writing systems of sub-Saharan Africa listed on the wikipedia page, namely Nsibidi and Adrinka, which each seem to represent only a form of proto-writing.
Only Ge’ze seems to have been a fully-developed script, and this was used only in the Horn of Africa, which not only lies outside ‘the secluded area’ as defined by Baker, but whose population is, again according to Baker, predominantly Caucasoid (p225).
Also, Ge’ze seems to have developed from an earlier Middle Eastern script. It is therefore not of entirely indigenous African origin.
It therefore seems to indeed be true that sub-Saharan Africans never produced a fully-developed script in those parts of Africa where they developed beyond the influence of foreign empires.
However, it must here be emphasized that the same is again probably also true of indigenous Europeans.
Indeed, most writing systems were developed, if not directly from, then at least in imitation of, pre-existing scripts. Like the wheel, writing has only been independently reinvented afresh a few times in history.
The question, then, as with the wheel, is, not so much why much of sub-Saharan Africa failed to invent a written script, but rather why those written scripts that were in use in certain parts of the continent south of the Sahara, nevertheless failed to spread or be imitated over the remainder of that continent.
African Culture: Concluding Thoughts
In conclusion, it certainly seems clear that much of sub-Saharan Africa was indeed backward in those aspects of technology, social structure and culture which Baker identifies as the key components of civilization. This much is true and demands an explanation.
However, blanket statements regarding the failure of sub-Saharan Africans to develop a writing system or two-storey buildings seem, at best, a misleading simplification.
Indeed, Baker’s very notion of what he calls ‘the secluded area’ of Africa is vague and ill-defined, and he never provides a clear definition, or, better still, a map precisely delineating what he means by the term (p334-5).
Indeed, the very notion of a ‘secluded area’ is arguably misconceived, since even relatively remote and isolated areas of the continent that did not have any direct contact with non-Negroid peoples, will presumably have had some indirect influence from outside of sub-Saharan Africa, if only by contact with peoples from those regions of the continent south of the Sahara which had been influenced by foreign peoples and civilizations.
After all, as we have seen, Europeans also failed to independently develop either the wheel or a writing system for themselves, instead simply copying these innovations from the neighbouring civilizations of the Middle East.
Why then were black Africans south of the Sahara, who were indeed exposed to these technologies in certain parts of their territory, nevertheless unable to do the same?
Pre-Columbian Native American Cultures
Baker’s discussion of status of the pre-Columbian civilizations, or putative civilizations, of America is especially interesting. Of these, the Mayans definitely stand out, in Baker’s telling, as the most impressive in terms of their scientific and technological achievements.
Baker ultimately concludes, however, that even the Maya do not qualify as a true civilization, largely on moral grounds – namely, their practice of mass sacrifices and cannibalism.
No doubt if western cultures were to be judged by the moral values of the Mayans, we too would be judged just as harshly. Perhaps they would condemn us precisely for not massacring enough of our citizens in order to propitiate the gods.
However, even seeking to rank the Mayans based solely on their technological and scientific achievements, they still represent something of a paradox.
Indeed, Baker educates us that it is was Mayans, not the Hindus or Arabs more often credited with the innovation, who first invented the concept of zero – or rather, to put the matter more precisely, “invent[ed] a ‘local value’ (or ‘place notational’) system of numeration that involved zero: that is to say, a system in which the value of each numberical symbol depended on its position in a series of such symbols, and the zero, if required, took its place in this series ” (p552).
Thus, Baker writes:
“The Maya had invented the idea [of zero] and applied it to their vegisimal system [i.e. using a base of twenty] before the Indian mathematicians had thought of it and used it in denary[i.e. decimal] notation” (p522).
However, on the other hand, according to Baker’s account:
“They had no weights… no metal-bladed hoes or spades and no wheels (unless a few toys were actually provided with wheels and really formed part of the Mayan culture)” (p524).
Yet, as Baker alludes to in his rather disparaging reference to “a few toys”, it now appears the these toys were indeed part of the Maya culture.
Thus, far from failing to invent the wheel, Native Americans are one of the few peoples in the world with an unambiguous claim to have indeed invented the wheel entirely independently, since the possibility of wheels being introduced through contact with Eurasian civilizations is exceedingly remote.
Thus, the key question is, not why Native American civilizations failed to invent the wheel, for they did indeed invent the wheel, but rather why they failed to make full use of this remarkably useful invention, seemingly only employing it for seemingly frivolous items resembling toys (but whose real purpose is unknown) rather than for transport, or indeed the production of ceramics, textiles or energy.
Terrain may have been a factor. As mentioned above, one of the markers of a true civilization is arguably its very ability to alter its terrain by large-scale engineering projects such as the building of roads. However, obviously some terrains pose greater difficulties in this respect, and the geography of much of Mesoamerica is particularly uninviting.
The Inca, but not the Aztecs and Maya, did have the llama. However, llama are not strong enough to carry humans, or to pull large carts.
Of course, for Baker, as we have seen above, a race’s track record in domesticating non-human animals, including for use as draft animals, is itself indicative of that race’s ability and capacity to build and maintain advanced civilization.
However, in the Americas, most large wild mammals of the sort possibly suited for domestication as a draft animal were wiped out by the first humans to arrive on the continent, the former having evolved in complete isolation from humans, and hence being completely evolutionarily unprepared for the sudden influx of humans with their formidable hunting skills.
However, it is simply not true that, in the absence of a draft animal, wheels vehicles “offered no advantage over human porters”, as claimed by Diamond. On the contrary, as dicussed above, humans themselves can be employed as draft animals (e.g. the wheelbarrow and pulled rickshaw), and, as Diamond himself observes in a later chapter:
“Human-powered wheelbarrows… enabled one or more people, still using just human muscle power, to transport much greater weights than they could have otherwise” (Guns Germs and Steel: p359).
Moreover, as again discussed above, the wheel also has other uses besides transport, one of which, the potter’s wheel, actually seems to have been adopted before the use of wheels for transportation purposes in Europe. Yet there is no evidence for the use of the potter’s wheel in the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans.
As for the Mayan script, this was also, according to Baker, quite limited. Thus, Baker reports:
“There was no way of writing verbs, and abstract ideas (apart from number) could not be inscribed. It would not appear that the technique even of the Maya lent itself to a narrative form, except in a very limited sense. Most of the Middle Americans conveyed non-calendrical information only by speech or by the display of a series of paintings” (p524).
Indeed, he reports that “nearly all their inscriptions were concerned with numbers and the calendar” (p524).
“The Middle Americans had nothing that could properly be called a narrative script” (p523-4).
Baker vs Diamond: The Rematch
However, departing from Baker’s conclusions, I regard the achievements of the Mesoamerican civilizations as, overall, quite impressive.
This is especially so, not only when one takes into account, not only their complete isolation from the Old World civilizations of Eurasia, but also of other factors identified by Jared Diamond in his rightly-acclaimed Guns, Germs and Steel.
Thus, whereas the Eurasian cultural zone is oriented largely on an east-to-west axis, spreading from China and Japan in the East, to western Europe and North Africa in the West, America is a tall, narrow continent that spreads instead from north-to-south, quite narrow in places, especially at the Isthmus of Panama, where the North American continent meets South America, which, at the narrowest point, is less than fifty miles across.
As Diamond emphasizes, because climate varies with latitude (i.e. distance from the equator), this means that different parts of the Americas have very different climates, making the movement and transfer of crops, domesticated animals and people much more difficult.
This, together with the difficulty of the terrain, might explain why even the Incas and Aztecs, though contemporaneous, seem to have been largely if not wholly unaware of one another’s existence, and certainly had no direct contact.
As a result, Native American cultures developed, not only in complete isolation from Old World civilizations, but even largely in isolation even from one another.
Moreover, the Americas had few large domesticable mammals, almost certainly because the first settlers of the continent, on arriving, hunted them to extinction on first arrival, and the mammals, having evolved in complete isolation from humans, were entirely unprepared for the arrival of humans, with their formidable hunting skills, to whom they were wholly unadapted.
In these conditions, the achievements of the Mesoamerican civilizations, especially the Mayans, seem to me quite impressive, all things considered – certainly far more impressive than the achievements of, say, sub-Saharan Africans or Australian Aboriginals.
This is especially so in comparison to sub-Saharan Africa when one takes into consideration the fact that the latter region was neither completely isolated from Eurasian civilizations nor as narrowly oriented on a north-west as are the Americas.
Thus, as has been emphasized by astrophysicist Michael Hart in his book, Understanding Human History, Diamond’s theory is a rather more successful explanation for the technological backwardness and underdevelopment of the pre-Columbian Americas than it is for the even greater technological backwardness and underdevelopment of sub-Saharan Africa.
Thus, if these black Africans and Australian Aboriginals can then indeed be determined to possess lesser innate intellectual capacity as compared to, say, Europeans or East Asians, then I feel it is nevertheless premature to say the same of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
In addition to ranking cultures on scientific, technological and moral criteria, Baker also assesses the quality of their artwork (p378-81; p411-17; p545-549). However, judgements of artistic quality, like moral judgements, are necessarily subjective.
However, interestingly, with regard to styles of music, Baker recognises the possibility of cultural bias, suggesting that European explorers, looking for European-style melody and harmony, failed to recognise the rhythmical qualities of African music which are, Baker remarks, “perhaps unequalled in the music of any other race of mankind” (p379).
“A Reminder of What Was Possible”?
The fact that ‘Race’ remains a rewarding some read forty years after first publication, is an indictment of the hold of politically-correctness over both science and the publishing industry.
In the intervening years, despite all the advances of molecular genetics, the scientific understanding of race seems to have progressed but little, impeded by political considerations.
Meanwhile, the study of morphological differences between races seems to have almost entirely ceased, and a worthysuccessor to Baker’s ‘Race’, incorporating the latest genetic data, has, to my knowledge, yet to be published.
Today, some forty years after Baker penned these very words and as the boundaries of acceptable opinion have narrowed yet further, I recommend Baker’s ‘Race’ in much the same spirit – as both an historical document and “a reminder of what was possible”.
 Genetic studies often allow us distinguish homology from analogy, because the same or similar traits in different populations often evolve through different genetic mutations. For example, Europeans and East Asians evolved lighter complexions after leaving Africa, in part, by mutations in different genes (Norton et al 2007). Similarly, lactase persistence has evolved through mutations in different genes in Europeans than among some sub-Saharan Africans (Tishkoff et al 2009). Of course, at least in theory, the same mutation in the same gene could occur in different populations, thus providing an example of convergent evolution and homoplasy even at the genetic level. However, with the analysis of a large number of genetic loci, especially in non-coding DNA, where mutations are unlikely to be selected for or against and hence are lost or retained at random in different populations, this problem is unlikely to lead to errors in determining the relatedness of populations.
In his defence, the Ainu are not one of the groups upon whom Baker focuses in his discussion, and are only mentioned briefly in passing (p158; p173; p424) and at the very end of the book, in his “Table of Races and Subraces”, where he attempts to list, and classify by race, all the groups mentioned in the book, howsoever briefly (p624-5).
Although we no longer need to rely on morphological criteria in order to determine the relatedness between populations, differences between racial groups in morphology and bodily structure remain an interesting, and certainly a legitimate, subject for scientific study in their own right. Unfortunately, however, the study and measurement of such differences seems to have all but ceased among anthropologists. One result is that much of the data on these topics is quite old. Thus, HBDers, Baker included, are sometimes criticized for citing studies published in the nineteenth and early-twentieth century. In principle, there is, however, nothing wrong with citing data from the nineteenth or early-twentieth century, unless critics can show that the methodology adopted have subsequently been shown to be flawed. However, it must be acknowledged that the findings of such studies with respect to morphology may no longer apply to modern populations, as a result of recent population movements and improvements in health and nutrition, among other factors. At any rate, the reason for the paucity of recent data is the taboo associated with such research.
This is a style of formatting I have not encountered elsewhere. It makes it difficult to bring oneself to skip over the material rendered in smaller typeface since it is right there in the main body of the text, and indeed Baker himself claims that this material is “more technical and more detailed than the rest (but not necessarily less interesting)” (pix).
Yet another source of potential terminological confusion results from the fact that, as will be apparent from many passages from the book quoted in this review, Baker uses the word “ethnic” to refer to differences that would better to termed “racial” – i.e. when referring to biologically-inherited physical and morphological differences between populations. Thus, for example, he uses the term “ethnic taxon” as “a comprehensive term that can be used without distinction for any of the taxa that are minor to species: that is to say, races, subraces and local forms” (p4). Similarly, he uses the phrase “the ethnic problem” to refer to the “whole subject of equality and inequality among the ethnic taxa of man” (p6). However, as Baker acknowledges, “English words derived from the Greek ἔθνος (ethnic, ethnology, ethnography, and others) are used by some authors in reference to groups of mankind distinguished by cultural or national features, rather than descent from common ancestors” (p4). However, in defending his adoption of this term, he notes “this usage is not universal” (p4). This usage has, I suspect, become even more prevalent in the years since the publication of Baker’s book. However, in my experience, the term ‘ethnic’ is sometimes also used as politically correct euphemism for the word ‘race’, both colloquially and in academia.
In both cases, the source of potential confusion is the same, since both terms, though referring to a race, are derived from geographic terms (Europe and the Caucasus region, respectively), yet the indigenous homelands of the races in question are far from identical to the geographic region referred to by the term. The term ‘Asian’, when used as an ethnic or racial descriptor, is similarly misleading. For example, in British-English, ‘Asian’, as an ethnic term, usually refers to South Asians, since South Asians form a larger and more visible minority ethnic group in the UK than do East Asians. However, in the USA, the term ‘Asian’ is usually restricted to East Asians and Southeast Asians – i.e. those formerly termed ‘Mongoloid’. The British-English usage is more geographically correct, but racially misleading, since populations of the Indian subcontinent, like those from the Middle East (also part of the Asian continent) are actually genetically closer to southern Europeans than to East Asians and were generally classed as Caucasian by nineteenth and early-twentieth century anthropologists, and are similarly classed by Baker himself. This is one reason that the term ‘Mongoloid’, despite pejorative connotations, remains useful.
Moreover, the term ‘Mongoloid’ is especially confusing given that it has also been employed to refer to people suffering from a developmental disability and chromosomal abnormality (Down Syndrome), and, while both usages are dated, and the racial meaning is actually the earlier one from which the later medical usage is derived, it is the latter usage which seems, in my experience, to retain greater currency, the word ‘Mongoloid’ being sometimes employed as a rather politically-incorrect insult, implying a mental handicap. Therefore, while I find annoying the ‘euphemism treadmill’ whereby terms once quite acceptable terms (e.g. ‘negro’, ‘coloured people’) are suddenly and quite arbitrarily deemed offensive, the term ‘Mongoloid’ is, unlike these other etymologically-speaking, quite innocent terms, understandably offensive to people of East Asian descent given this dual meaning.
 For example, another ethnonym, ‘Asian’, is also etymologically problematic. Thus, the word ‘Asia’, the source of the ethnonym, ‘Asian’, derives from the Greek Ἀσία, which originally referred only to Anatolia, at the far western edge of what would now be called Asia, the inhabitants of which region are not now, nor have ever likely been, ‘Asian’in the current American sense. Indeed, the very term Asia is a Eurocentric concept, grouping together many diverse peoples, fauna, flora and geographic zones, and whose border with Europe is quite arbitrary. Another even more etymologically suspect ethonym is, of course, the term ‘Indian’ (and its derivatives ‘Amerindian’, ‘Red Indian’ and ‘American Indian’) when applied to the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
 The main substantive differences between the rival taxonomies of different racial theorists reflect the perennial divide between lumpers and splitters. There is also the question of precisely where the line is to be drawn between one race and another in clinal variation between groups, and whether a hybrid or clinal population sometimes constitutes a separate race in and of itself.
 Indeed, somewhat disconcertingly, even Hitler’s Mein Kampf is taken seriously by Baker, the latter acknowledging that “the early part of [Hitler’s] chapter dealing with the ethnic problem is quite well-written and not uninteresting” (p59) – or perhaps this is only to damn with faint praise.
To clarify, both Boas and Montagu are briefly mentioned in later chapters. For example, Boas’snow largely discredited work on cranial plasticity is discussed by Baker at the end of his chapter on ‘Physical Differences Between the Ethnic Taxa of Man: Introductory Remarks’ (p201-2). However, this is outside of Baker’s chapters on “The Historical Background”, and therefore Boas’s role in (allegedly) shaping the contemporary consensus of ‘race denial’ is entirely unexplored by Baker. For discussion on this topic, see Carl Degler’s In Search of Human Nature; see also Chapter Two of Kevin Macdonald’s The Culture of Critique (which I have reviewed here) and Chapter Three of Sarich and Miele’s Race: The Reality of Human Differences (which I have reviewed here, here and here).
Thus, there was no new scientific discovery that presaged or justified the abandonment of biological race as an important causal factor in the social and behavioural sciences. Later scientific developments, notably in genetics, were certainly later co-opted in support of this view. However, there is no coincidence in time between these two developments. Therefore, whatever the true origins of the theory of racial egalitarianism, whether one attributes it to horror at the misuse of race science by the Nazi regime, or the activism of certain influential social scientists such as Boas and Montagu, one thing is certain – namely, the abandonment, or at least increasing deemphasis, of the race category in the social and behavioural sciences was originally motivated by political rather than scientific considerations. See Carl Degler’sIn Search of Human Nature; see also Chapter 2 of Kevin Macdonald’s Culture of Critique (which I have reviewed here) and Chapter Three of Sarich and Miele’s Race: The Reality of Human Differences (which I have reviewed here, here and here).
 That OUP gave up the copyright is, of course, to be welcomed, since it means, rather than gathering dust on the shelves of university libraries, while the few remaining copies still in circulation from the first printing rise in value, it has enabled certain dissident publishing houses to release new editions of this now classic work.
This is, at least, how Baker describes this ‘species complex’ and how it was traditionally understood. Researching the matter on the internet, however, suggests whether this species complex represents a true ring species is a matter of some dispute (e.g. Liebers et al 2006).
 In cases of matings between sheep and goats that result in offspring, the resulting offspring themselves are usually, if not always, infertile. Moreover, actually, according to the wikipedia page on the topic, the question of when sheep and goats can ever successfully interbreed is more complex than suggested by Baker.
“The form of the skull of a child is directly connected with the characteristics of the structure of the mother’s pelvis—they should correspond to each other in the goal of eliminating death in childbirth. The mixing of the races unavoidably leads to this, because the structure of the pelvis of a mother of a different race does not correspond to the shape of the head of [the] mixed infant; that leads to complications during childbirth” (Raciology: p157).
“Women on lower races endure births very easily, sometimes even without any pain, and only in highly rare cases do they die from childbirth. But this can never be said of women of lower races who birth children of white fathers” (Raciology: p157).
Thus, he quotes an early-twentieth century Russian race theorist as claiming:
“American Indian women… often die in childbirth from pregnancies with a child of mixed blood from a white father, whereas pure-blooded children within them are easily born. Many Indian women know well the dangers [associated with] a pregnancy from a white man, and therefore, they prefer a timely elimination of the consequence of cross-breeding by means of fetal expulsion, in avoidance of it” (Raciology: p157-8).
This, interestingly, accords with the claim of infamous late-twentieth century race theorist J Philippe Rushton, in the ‘Preface to the Third Edition’ of his book Race, Evolution and Behavior (which I have reviewed here), that, as compared to whites and Asians, blacks have “narrower hips”, giving them “a more efficient stride”, which provides an advantage in many athletic events, and that:
“The reason Whites and East Asians have wider hips than Blacks, and so make poorer runners, is because they give birth to larger brained babies” (Race, Evolution and Behavior: p11-12).
However, contrary to the claim of Avdeyev, I find support from contemporary delivery room data, for the claim that women from so-called ‘lower-races’ experience greater birth complications, and mortality rates, when birthing offspring fathered by European males. On the contrary, it is only differences in overall body-size, not brain-size, that seem to be the key factor, with East Asian women having greater difficulties birthing offspring fathered by European males because of the smaller frames of East Asian women, even though East Asians have brains as large as or larger than those of Europeans (Nystrom et al 2008). Neither is it true that, where inter-racial mating has not occurred, then, on account of the small brain-size of their babies, “Women on lower races endure births very easily, sometimes even without any pain, and only in highly rare cases do they die from childbirth” (Raciology: p157). On the contrary. data from the USA seems to indicate a somewhat higher rate of caesarean delivery among African-American women as compared to white American women (Braveman et al 1995; Edmonds et al 2013; Getahun et al 2009; Valdes 2020.
 Examining the effects of interracial hybridization on other traits besides fertility, there are mixed results. Thus, one study reported what the authors interpreted as a hybrid vigour effect on g-factor of general intelligence among the offspring of white-Asian unions in Hawaii, as compared to the offspring of same-race couples matched for educational and occupational levels (Nagoshi & Johnson 1986). Similarly, Lewis (2010) attributed the higher attractiveness ratings accorded to the faces of mixed-race people to heterosis. Meanwhile, another study found that height was positively correlated with the distance between the birthplaces of one’s parents, itself presumably a correlate of their relatedness (Koziel et al 2011). On the other hand, however, behavioural geneticist Glayde Whitney suggests that hybrid incompatibility may explain the worse health outcomes, and shorter average life-spans, of African Americans as compared to whites in the contemporary USA, owing to the former’s mixed African and European ancestry (Whitney 1999). One specific negative health outcome for some African-Americans resulting from a history racial admixture is also suggested by Helgadottir et al (2006). It is notable that, whereas recent studies tend to emphasize the (supposed) positive genetic effects resulting from interracial unions, the older literature tends to focus on (supposed) negative effects of interracial hybridization (see Frost 2020). No doubt this reflects the differing zeitgeister of the two ages (Provine 1976; Khan 2011c).
Interestingly, while languages and cultures vary in the number of colours that they recognise and have words for, both the ordering of the colours recognised, and the approximate boundaries between different colours, seems to be cross-culturally universal. Thus, some languages have only two colour terms, which are always equivalent to ‘light’ and ‘dark’. Then, if a third colour terms is used, it is always equivalent to ‘red’. Next come either ‘green’ or ‘yellow’. Experimental attempts to teach colour terms not matching the familiar colours show that individuals learn these terms much less quickly than they do the colour familiar terms recognised in other languages. This, of course, suggests that our colour perception is both innately programmed into the mind and cross-culturally universal (see Berlin & Kay, Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution).
Indeed, as I discuss later, with respect to what Baker calls ‘subraces’, we may already have long previously passed this point, at least in Europe and North America. While morphological differences certainly continue to exist, at the aggregate, statistical level, between populations from different regions of Europe, there is such overlap, such a great degree of variation even within families, and the differences are so fluid, gradual and continuous, that I suspect such terms as the Nordic race, Alpine race, Mediterranid race and Dinaric race have likely outlived whatever usefulness they may once have had and are best retired. The differences are now best viewed as continuous and clinal.
 While Ethiopians and other populations from the Horn of Africa are indeed a hybrid or clinal population, representing an intermediate position between Caucasians and other black Africans, Baker perhaps goes too far in claiming:
“Aethiopids (‘Eastern Hamites’ or ‘Erythriotes’) of Ethiopia and Somaliland are an essentially Europid subrace with some Negrid admixture” (p225).
Thus, Lewontin famously showed that, when looking at individual genetic loci, most variation is within a single population, rather than between populations, or between races (Lewontin 1972). However, when looking at phenotypic traits that are caused by polygenes, it is easy to see that there are many such traits in which the variation within the group does not dwarf that between groups – for examp7e, differences in skin colour as between Negroes and Nordics, or differences in stature between as Pygmies and even neighbouring tribes of Bantu.
 In addition to discussing morphological differences between races, Baker also discusses differences in scent (170-7). This is a particularly emotive issue, given the negative connotations associated with smelling ‘bad‘. However, given the biochemical differences between races, and the fact that even individuals of the same race, even the same family, are distinguishable by scent, it is inevitable that persons of different races will indeed differ in scent, and unsurprising that people would generally prefer the scent of their own group. There is substantial anecdotal evidence that this is indeed the case. In general, Baker reports that East Asians have less body odour, whereas both Caucasoids and blacks have greater body odour. Partly this is explained by the relative prevalence of dry and wet ear wax, which is associated with body odour, varies by population and is one of the few easily detectable phenotypic traits in humans that is determined by simply Mendelian inheritance (see McDonald, Myths of Human Genetics). Intriguingly, Nicholas Wade speculates that dry earwax, which is associated with less strong body-odour, may have evolved through sexual selection in colder climates where, due to the cold, more time is spent indoors, in enclosed spaces, where body odour is hence more readily detectable, and producing less scent may have conferred a reproductive advantage (A Troublesome Inheritance: p91). This may explain some of the variation in the prevalence of dry and wet ear wax respectively, with dry earwax predominating only in East Asia, but also being found, albeit to a lesser degree, among Northern Europeans. On the other hand, however, although populations inhabiting colder climates may spend more time indoors, populations inhabiting tropical climates might be expect to sweat more due to the greater heat and hence build up greater bodily odour.
A few exceptions include where Baker discusses the small but apparently statistically significant differences between the skulls of ‘Celts’ and Anglo-Saxons (p257), and where he mentions statistically significant differences between ancient Egypian skulls and those of Negroes (p518).
 Thus, of the infamous Khazar hypothesis, now almost wholly discredited by genetic data, but still popular among some anti-Zionists, because it denies the historical connection between (most) contemporary Jews and the land of Israel, and among Christian anti-Semites, because it denies that the Ashkenazim are indeed ‘chosen people’ of the Old Testament, Baker writes:
“It is clear they [the Khazars] were not related, except by religion, to any modern group of Jews” (p34).
 Baker thus puts the intellectual achievements of the Ashkenazim in the broader context of other groups within this same subrace, including the Assyrians, Hittites and indeed Armenians themselves. Thus, he concludes:
“The contribution of the Armenid subrace to civilization will bear comparison with that of any other” (p246-7).
Some recent genetic studies have indeed suggested affinities between Ashkenazim and Armenian populations (Nebel et al 2001; Elhaik 2013).
“Weisbach‘s nineteen Jews vied with the Patagonians in possessing the longest nose (71 mm.) of all the nineteen races examined by him … while they had at the same time the narrowest noses (34 mim)” (Jacobs 1886).
This data, suggesting that Jewish noses are indeed long but are also very narrow, contradicts Baker’s claim that the characteristic Ashkenazi nose is “large in all dimensions [emphasis added]” (p239). However, such a nose shape is consistent Jews having evolved in an arid desert environment, such as the Nagev or other nearbydeserts, or in the Judean mountains, where the earliest distinctively Jewish settlements are thought to have developed. Thus, anthropologist Stephen Molnar writes:
Hans Eysenck refers in his autobiography to a study supposedly conducted by one of his PhD students that ostensibly demonstrated statistically that people, both Jewish and Gentile, actually perform at no better than chance when attempting to distinguish Jews from non-Jews, even after extended interaction with one another (Rebel with a Cause: p35). However, since he does not cite a source or reference for this study, it was presumably unpublished, and must be interpreted with caution. Eysenck himself, incidentally, was of closetedhalf-Jewish ancestry, practising what anti–SemiteKevinMacdonald calls ‘crypsis’, which may be taken to suggest he was not entirely disinterested with regard to to question of the extent to which Jews can be recognized by sight. The only other study I have found addressing the quite easily researchable, if politically incorrect, question of whether some people can or cannot identify Jews from non-Jews on the basis of phenotypic differences is Andrzejewski et al (2009).
 This is one of the few occasions in the book where I recall Baker actually mentioning whether the morphological differences between racial groupings that he describes are statistically significant.
 Interestingly, Stephen Oppenheimer, in his book Origins of the British, posits a link between the so-called ‘Celtic’ regions of the British Isles and populations from one particular area of the Mediterranean, namely the Iberian peninsula, especially the Basques, themselves probably the descendants of the original pre-Indo-European inhabitants of the peninsula (see Oppenheimer 2006; see also Blood of the Isles). This seemingly corroborates the otherwise implausible mythological account of the peopling of Ireland provided in Lebor Gabála Érenn, which claims that the last major migration to, and invasion of, Ireland, from which the modern Irish primarily descend, arrived from Spain in the form of the Milesians. This mythological account may derive from the similarity between the Greek and Latin words for the two regions, namely ‘Iberia’ and ‘Hibernia’ respectively, and between the words ‘Gael’ and ‘Galicia’, and the belief of some ancient Roman writers, notably Orosius and Tacitus, that Ireland lay midway between Britain and Spain (Carey 2001). However, while some early population genetic studies were indeed interpreted to suggest a connection between populations from Iberia and the British Isles, this interpretation has largely been discredited by more recent research.
On the other hand, the Welsh, in addition to being darker-haired than the English, are also darker-eyed, with a particularly high prevalence of dark eyes being found in certain more isolated regions of Wales (The Races of Europe: p389). Interestingly, as far back as the time of the Roman Empire, the Silures, a Brittonic tribe occupying most of South-East Wales and known for their fierce resistance to the Roman conquest, were described by Roman writers Tacitus and Jordanes (the Romans themselves being, of course, a Mediterranean people) as “swarthy” in appearance and as possessing black curly hair. The same is true of the, also until recently Celtic-speaking, Cornish people, who are, Coon reports, “the darkest eyed of the English” (The Races of Europe: p389). Dark hair is also more common in Cornwall(The Races of Europe: p386). Cornwall is, Coon therefore reports, “the darkest county in England” (The Races of Europe: p396). (However, with the historically unprecedented mass migration of non-whites into the UK in the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond, this is, of course, no doubt no longer true.) Yet another complicating factor is the prevalence of red hair, which is also associated with the ‘Celtic’ regions of the British Isles, but is hardly a Mediterranean character, and which, like dark hair, reaches its highest prevalence in Wales (The Races of Europe: p385). Baker, for his part, does not dwell on this point, but does acknowledge, “there is rather a high proportion of people with red hair in Wales”, something for which, he claims “no satisfactory explanation… has been provided” (p265). Interestingly, Baker is skeptical regarding the supposed association of the ancient Celts with ginger or auburn hair. He traces this belief to a single casual remark of Tacitus. However, he suggests that the Latin word used ‘rutilai’ is actually better translated as “red (inclining to golden yellow)”, and was, he observes, also used to refer to the Golden Fleece and to gold coinage (p257).
“We are an ancient people, and though the [British] Isles has been the target of invasion and opposed settlement from abroad ever since Julius Caesar first stepped onto the shingle shores of Kent, these have barely scratched the topsoil of our deep rooted ancestry” (Blood of the Isles: p338).
However, population genetics is an extremely fast moving science, and recent research has revised this conclusion, suggesting a replacement of around 90% of the population of the British Isles, albeit in very ancient times (around 2000BCE) associated with the spread of the Bell Beaker culture and Steppe-related ancestry, presumably deriving from the Indo-European expansion (Olalde et al 2018). Also, recent population genetic studies suggest that the Anglo-Saxons actually made a greater genetic contribution to the ancestry of the English, especially those from Eastern England, than formerly thought (e.g. Martiniano et al 2016; Schiffels et al 2016).
 However, in The Origins of the British, Stephen Oppenheimer proposes an alternative route of entry and point of initial disembarkation, suggesting that the people whom we today habitually refer to as ‘Celts’ arrived, not from Central Europe as traditionally thought, but rather up the Atlantic seaboard from the west coasts of France and Iberia. This is consistent with some archaeological evidence (e.g. the distribution of passage graves) suggesting longstanding trade and cultural links up the Atlantic seaboard from the Mediterranean region, through the Basque country, into Brittany, Cornwall, Wales and Ireland. This would also provide an explanation for what Baker claims is a ‘Mediterranid’ component in the ancestry of the Welsh and Irish, as supposedly evidenced in distribution of blood groups and the prevalence dark hair and eye colours as recorded by Beddoe.
 Actually, the meaning of the two terms is subtly different. ‘Paedomorphy’ refers to the retention of juvenile or infantile traits into adulthood. ‘Neoteny’ refers to one particular process whereby this end-result is achieved, namely slowing some aspects of physiological development. However, ‘paedomorphy’ can also result from another process, namely ‘progenesis’, where, instead, some aspects of development are actually sped up, such that the developing organism reaches sexual maturity earlier, before reaching full maturity in other respects. In humans, most examples of paedomorphy result from the former process, namely ‘neoteny’.
 These genitalia, of course, contrast with those of neighbouring Negroids, at least according to popular stereotype. For his part, Baker accepts the stereotype that black males have large penes. However, he cites no quantitative data, remarking only:
“That Negrids have large penes is somtimes questioned, but those who doubt it are likely to change their minds if they will look at photographs 8, 9, 20, 23, 29, and 37 in Bernatzig’s excellently illustrated book ‘Zwischen Weissem Nil und Belgisch-Kongo’. They represent naked male Nilotids and appear convincing” (p331).
But five photos, presumably representing just five males, hardly represents a convincing sample size. (I found several of the numbered pictures online by searching for the book’s title, and each showed only a single male.) Interestingly, Baker is rightly skeptical regarding claims of differences in the genitalia between European subraces, given the intimate nature of the measurements required, writing:
“It is difficult to obtain reliable measurements of theses parts of the body and statements about subracial differences in them must not be accepted without confirmation” (p219).
 Among the traits that have been associated with neotenty in humans are our brain size, growth patterns, hairlessness, inventiveness, upright posture, spinal curvature, smaller jaws and teeth, forward facing vaginas, lack of a penis bone, the length of our limbs and the retention of the hymen into adulthood.
 Baker does discuss the performance of East Asians on IQ tests, but his conclusions are ambivalent (p490-492). He concludes, for example, “the IQs of Mongolid[i.e. East Asian] children in North America are generally found to be about the same as those of Europids” (p490). Yet recent studies have revealed a slight advantage for East Asians in general intelligence. Baker also mentions the relatively higher scores of East Asians on tests ofspatio-visual ability,as compared to verbal ability.However, he attributes this to their lack of proficiency in the language of their host culture, as he relied mostly on American studies of first and second-generation immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants, who were often raised in non-English-speaking homes, and hence only learnt English as a second-language (p490). However, recent studies suggest that East Asians score relatively lower on verbal ability, as compared to their scores on spatio-visual ability, even when tested in a language in which they are wholly proficient (see Race Differences in Intelligence: reviewed here).
 Indeed, in proposing tenable environmental-geographical explanations for the rise and fall of civilizations in different parts of the world, Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel represents a substantial challenge to Baker’s conclusions in this chapter and the two books are well worth reading together. Another recent work addressing the question of why civilizations rise and fall among different races and peoples, but reaching less politically-correct conclusions, is Michael Hart’s Understanding Human History, which seems to have been conceived of as a rejoinder to Diamond, drawing heavily upon, but also criticizing the former work.
 Interestingly, Baker quotes Toynbee as suggesting that:
“An ‘identifying mark’ (but not a definition) [of] civilization might be equated with ‘a state of society in which there is a minority of the population, however small, that is free from the task, nor merely of producing food, but of engaging in any other form of economic activities-e.g. industry or trade” (p508).
Yet a Marxist would view this, not as a marker of civilization, but rather of exploitation. Those free from engaging in economic activity are, from a Marxist perspective, clearly extracting surplus value, and hence exploiting the labour of others. Toynbee presumably had in mind the ‘idle rich’ or ‘leisure class’, as well perhaps as those whom the latter patronize, e.g. artists, though the latter, if paid for their work, are surely engaging in a form of economic activity, as indeed are the patrons who subsidize them. (Indeed, even the ‘idle rich’ or ‘leisure class’ engage in economic activity, if only as consumers.) However, this criterion, at least as described by Baker, is at least as capable of applying to the opposite end of the social spectrum – i.e. the welfare-dependent underclass. Did Toynbee really intend to suggest that the existence of the long-term unemployed is a distinctive marker of civilization? If so, is Baker really agreeing with him?
 The full list of criteria for civilization provided by Baker is as follows:
“In the ordinary circumstances of life in public places they cover the external genitalia and greater part of the trunk with clothes” (p507);
“They order their society by a system of laws, which are enforced in such a way that they ordinarily go about their various concerns in times of peace without danger of attack or arbitrary arrest” (p507);
“They permit accused people to defend themselves and call witnesses” (p507);
“They do not use torture to extract information or punishment” (p507);
“There is some appreciation of the fine arts” (p508);
“Knowledge and understanding are valued as ends in themselves” (p508).
 Actually, some of the criteria include both technological and moral elements. For example, the second requirement, namely that the culture in question “keep the body clean and take care to dispose of its waste elements”, at first seems a purely moral requirement. However, the disposal of sewage is, not only essential for the maintenance of healthy populations living at high levels of population density, but also often involves impressive feats of engineering (p507). Similarly, the requirement that some people “live intowns or cities” seems quite arbitrary. However, to sustain populations at the high population density required in towns and cities usually requires substantial technological, not to mention social and economic, development. Likewise, the building and maintenance ofroads linking these settlements, also mentioned by Baker as part of the same criterion, is a technological achievement, often requiring, like the building of facilities for sewage disposal, substantial coordination of labour.
“Until the arrival of Europeans there was no literate civilization in the continent’s black belt. The Negro had no written language, no numerals, no calendar, no system of measurement. He never developed a plow or wheel. He never domesticated any animal. With the rarest exceptions, he built nothing more elaborate than mud huts and thatched stockades” (IQ and Racial Differences: p2).
 This, of course, depends on precisely how we define the words ‘machine’ and ‘mechanical’. Thus, many authorities, especially military historians, class the simple bow as the first true ‘machine’. However, the only indigenous people known to lack even the bow and arrow at the time of their first contact with Europeans were the Australian Aboriginals of Australia and Tasmania.
 With regard to the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, Baker emphasizes that “the buildings in question are in no sense houses; the great majority of them are simply walls” (p402). Nor do they appear to have been part of a two-storey building (p402). Unlike some other racialist authors who have attributed their construction to the possiblypart-JewishLemba people, Baker attributes their construction and design to indigenous Africans (p405). However, he suggests their anomalous nature reflected that they had been constructed in (crude) imitation of buildings constructed outside of the “secluded area” of Africa by non-Negro peoples with whom the former were in a trading relationship (p407-8). This would explain why the structures, though impressive by the standards of other constructions within the “secluded zone” of Africa from the same time-period, where buildings of brick or stone were rare and tended to be on a much smaller scale (so impressive, indeed, that, in the years since Baker’s book was published, they have even had an entire surrounding country named after them), are, by European or Middle Eastern standards of the same time period, quite shoddy. Baker also emphasizes:
“The splendour and ostentation were made possible by what was poured into the country from foreign lands. One must acknowledge the administrative capacity of the rulers, but may question the utility of the ends to which much of it was put” (p409).
 Several plants seem to have been domesticated in the Sahel region, and the Horn of Africa, both of which are part of sub-Saharan Africa. However, these areas lie outside of what Baker calls the “secluded area”, as I understand it. Also, populations from the Horn of Africa are, according to Baker predominantly Caucasoid (p225).
 The sole domestic animal that was perhaps first domesticated by black Africans is the guineafowl. Guineafowl are found wild throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but not elsewhere. It has therefore been argued, plausibly enough, that it was first domesticated in sub-Saharan Africa. However, Baker reports that the nineteenth-century explorers whose work he relies on “nowhere mention its being kept as a domestic animal by Negrids” (p375). Instead, he proposes it was probably first domesticated in Ethiopia, outside the “secluded area” as defined by Baker, and whose population are, according to Baker, predominantly Caucasoid (p225). However, he admits that there are no “early record of tame guinea-fowl in Ethiopia” (p375).
 This may partly be because other continents have depleted their numbers of many wild mammalian species in recent times (e.g. wolves have been driven to extinction in Britain and Ireland, bison to the verge of extinction in North America). However, it is likely that Africa had a comparatively large number of large wild mammalian species even in ancient times. This is because outside of Africa (notably in the Americas), many wild mammals were wiped out by the sudden arrival of humans with their formidable hunting skills to whom indigenous fauna were wholly unadapted. However, Africa is where humans first evolved. Therefore, prey species will have gradually evolved fear and avoidance of humans at the same time as humans themselves first evolved to become formidable hunters. Thus, Africa, unlike other continents, never experienced a sudden influx of human hunters to whom its prey species were wholly unadapted. It therefore retains many of large wild game animals into modern times.
 Of course, rather conveniently for Diamond’s theory, the wild ancestors of many modern domesticated animals, including horses and aurochs, are now extinct, so we have no way of directly assessing their temperament. However, we have every reason to believe that aurochs, at least, posed a far more formidable obstacle to domestication than does the zebra.
 Actually, a currently popular theory of the domestication of wolves/dogs holds that humans did not so much domesticate wolves/dogs as wolves/dogs domesticated themselves.
Aurochs, and contemporary domestic cattle, also evince another trait that, according to Diamond, precludes their domestication – namely, it is not usually possible to keep two adult males of this species in the same field enclosure. Yet, according to Diamond, the “social antelope species for which Africa is famous” could not be domesticated because:
“The males of [African antelope] herds space themselves into territories and fight fiercely with one another when breeding. Hence, those antelope cannot be maintained in crowded enclosures in captivity” (Guns, Germs and Steel: p174).
Evidently, the ancient Eurasians who successfully domesticated the auroch never got around to reading Diamond’s critially acclaimed bestseller. If they had, they could have learnt in advance to abandon the project as hopeless and hence save themselves the time and effort. It is fortunate for us that they did not.
“More study has been devoted to the craniology of ancient Egypt than to that of any other country in the world” (p517).
From such data, Baker reports:
“Morant showed that all the sets of ancient Egyptian skills that he analysed statistically were distinguishable by each of six criteria from Negrid skulls” (p518).
For what it’s worth, this conclusion is also corroborated by their self-depiction in artwork:
“In their monuments the dynastic Egyptians represented themselves as having a long face, pointed chin with scanty beard, a straight or somewhat aquiline nose, black irises, and a reddish-brown complexion” (p518).
“It was a common artistic style in many ancient Mediterranean cultures to portray men with red skins and women with white skins. This was done, presumably to reflect the fact that the men would have been outside working in the fields” (Children of Ra: p33).
Actually, according to anthropologist Peter Frost, this artistic convention reflects real and innate differences, as well as differing sexually selected ideals of male and female beauty (see Dark Men, Fair Women). Most interestingly, Kemp also includes photographs of some Egyptian mummies, including Ramses II, apparently with light-coloured hair. At first, I suspected this might reflect loss of pigmentation owing to the process of decay occurring after death, or perhaps to some chemical process involved in mummification. Robert Brier, an expert on mummification, confirms that Ramses’s “strikingly blond” hair was indeed a consequence of its having been “dyed as a final step in the mummification process so that he would be young forever” (The Encyclopedia of Mummies: p153). However, he also reports in the next sentence that:
“It would appear that their head-hair was curly, wavy, or almost straight, and very dark brown or black” (p518).
This conclusion is again based on the evidence of their mummies, and, since mummification was a costly procedure largely restricted to the wealthy, it again contradicts Kemp’s notion of a ‘Nordic elite’ ruling ancient Egypt. On this and other evidence, Baker therefore concludes:
“There is general agreement… that the Europid element in the Egyptians from predynastic times onwards has been primarily Mediterranid, though it is allowed that Orientalid immigrants from Arabia made a contribution to the stock” (p518).
Writing appears to have been developed first in Mesopotamia, then shortly afterwards in Egypt (though some Egyptologists claim priority on behalf of Egypt). However the relative geographic proximity of these two civilizations, their degree of contact with one anther and the coincidence in time, make it likely that one writing system was copied from the other. It then seems to have been independently developed in China. Writing was also developed, almost certainly entirely independently, in Mesoamerica. Other possible candidates for the independent development of writing include the Indus Valley civilization, and Easter Island, though, since neither script has been deciphered, it is not clear that they represent true writing systems, and the Easter Island script has also yet to be reliably dated.
Actually, it is now suggested that both the Mayans and Indians may have been beaten to this innovation by the Babylonians, although, unlike the later Indians and Muslims, neither the Mayans nor the Babylonians went on to take full advantage of this innovation, by developing mathematics in a way made possible by their innovation. For this, it is Indian civilization that deserves credit. The invention of the concept by both the Maya and the Babylonians was, of course, entirely independent of one another, but the Indians, the Islamic civilization and other Eurasian civilizations probably inherited the concept ultimately from Babylonia.
Interestingly, this excuse is not available in Africa. There, large mammals survived, probably because, since Africa was where anatomically modern humans first evolved, prey species evolved in concert with humans, and hence gradually evolved to fear and avoid humans, at the same time as humans themselves gradually evolved to be formidable predators. In contrast, the native species of the Americas would have been totally unprepared to protect themselves from human hunters, to whom they were completely ill-adapted, owing to the late, and, in evolutionary terms, sudden, peopling of the continent. This may be why, to this day, Africa has more large animals than any other continent.
 Baker also uses the complexity of a people’s language in order to assess their intelligence. Today, there seems to be an implicit assumption among many linguists that all languages are equal in their complexity. Thus, American linguists rightly emphasize the subtlety and complexity of, for example, African-American vernacular, which is certainly, by no means, merely a impoverished or corrupted version of standard English, but rather has grammatical rules all of its own, which often convey information that is lost on white Americans not conversant in this dialect. However, there is no a priori reason to assume that all languages are equal in their capacity to express complex and abstract ideas. The size of vocabularies, for example, differs in different languages, as does the number of different tenses that are recognised. For example, the Walpiri language of some Australian Aboriginals is said to have only a few number terms, namely words for just ‘one’ ‘two’ and ‘many’, while the Pirahã language of indigenous South Americans is said to get by with no number terms at all. Thus, Baker contends that certain languages, notably the Arunta language of indigenous Australians, as studied by Alf Sommerfelt, and also the Akan language of Africa, are inherently impoverished in their capacity to express abstract thought. He may well be right.
This does not reflect merely the prurience of researchers. Rather, given that reproductive success is the ultimate currency of natural selection, mating behaviour is, perhaps along with parental investment, the form of behaviour most directly subject to selective pressures.
Almost all of this research traces its ancestry ultimately to Donald Symons’ ‘The Evolution of Human Sexuality’ by Donald Symons. Indeed, much of it was explicitly designed to test claims and predictions formulated by Symons himself in this very book.
For example, in his discussion of the age at which women are perceived as most attractive by males, Symons formulated two alternative hypotheses.
However, if human evolutionary history were characterized instead by long-term pair bonds, then men would have evolved to be maximally attracted to somewhat younger women (i.e. those at the beginning of their reproductive careers), so that, by entering a long-term relationship with the woman at this time, a male is potentially able to monopolize her entire lifetime reproductive output (p189).
More specifically, males would have evolved to prefer females, not of maximal fertility, but rather of maximal reproductive value, a term borrowed from demography and population genetics which refers to a person’s expected future reproductive output given their current age. Unlike fertility, a woman’s reproductive value peaks around her mid- to late-teens.
On the basis of largely anecdotal evidence, Symons concludes that human males have evolved to be most attracted to females of maximal reproductive value rather than maximal fertility.
Subsequent research designed to test between Symons’s rival hypotheses has largely confirmed his speculative hunch that it is younger females in their mid- to late-teens who are perceived by males as most attractive (e.g. Kenrick and Keefe 1992).
Why Average is Attractive
Symons is also credited as the first person to recognize that a major criterion of attractiveness is, paradoxically, averageness, or at least the first to recognize the significance of, and possible evolutionary explanation for, this discovery. Thus, Symons argues that:
“[Although] health and status are unusual in that there is no such thing as being too healthy or too high ranking… with respect to most anatomical traits, natural selection produces the population mean” (p194).
Consistent with this theory, studies have found that women’s mate preferences vary throughout their menstrual cycle in a manner compatible with a so-called ‘dual mating strategy’, preferring males evidencing a willingness to invest in offspring at most times, but, when at their most fertile, preferring characteristics indicative of genetic quality (e.g. Penton-Voak et al 1999).
Interestingly, Symons even anticipated some of the mistakes evolutionary psychologists would be led into.
Thus, he warns that researchers in modern western societies may be prone to overestimate the importance of female choice as a factor in human evolution, because, in their own societies, this is a major factor, if not the major factor, in determining marriage and sexual and romantic relationships (p203).
However, in ancestral environments (i.e. what evolutionary psychologists now call the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness or EEA) arranged marriages were likely the norm, as they are in most premodern cultures around the world today (p168).
However, whereas Symons’s book set out much of the theoretical basis for what would become the modern science of evolutionary psychology, Wilson’s chapter on “Sex” has dated rather less well, and a large portion of chapter is devoted to introducing a now faintly embarrassing theory of the evolution of homosexuality which has subsequently received no empirical support (see Bobrow & Bailey 2001).
In contrast, Symons’s own treatment of homosexuality is innovative. It is also characteristic of his whole approach and illustrates why ‘The Evolution of Human Sexuality‘ has been described by David Buss as “the first major treatise on evolutionary psychology proper” (Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology: p251).
Rather than viewing all behaviours as necessarily adaptive (as critics of evolutionary psychology, such as Stephen Jay Gould, have often accused sociobiologists of doing), Symons instead focuses on admittedly non-adaptive (or, indeed, even maladaptive) behaviours, not because he believes them to be adaptive, but rather because they provide a unique window on the nature of human sexuality.
Accordingly, Symons does not concern himself with how homosexuality evolved, implicitly viewing it as a rare and maladaptive malfunctioning of normal sexuality. Yet the behaviour of homosexuals is of interest to Symons because it provides a window on the nature of male and female sexuality as it manifests itself when freed from the constraints imposed by the conflicting desires of the opposite sex.
This desire for sexual variety is, of course, obviously reproductively unproductive among homosexual men themselves. However, it evolved because it enhanced the reproductive success of heterosexual men by motivating them to attempt to mate with multiple females and thereby father multiple offspring.
In contrast, burdened with pregnancy and lactation, women’s potential reproductive rate is more tightly constrained than that of men. They therefore have little to gain reproductively by mating with multiple males, since they can usually gestate, and nurse, only one offspring at a time.
It is therefore notable that, among lesbians, there is little evidence of the sort of rampant promiscuity common among gay men. Instead, lesbian relationships seem to be characterized by much the same features as heterosexual coupling (i.e. long-term pair-bonds).
The similarity of heterosexual coupling to that of lesbians, and the striking contrast with that of male homosexuals, suggests that it is women, not men, who exert decisive influence in dictating the terms of heterosexual coupling.
Thus, Symons reports:
“There is enormous cross-cultural variation in sexual customs and laws and the extent of male control, yet nowhere in the world do heterosexual relations begin to approximate those typical of homosexual men… This suggests that, in addition to custom and law, heterosexual relations are structured to a substantial degree by the nature and interests of the human female” (p300).
This conclusion is, of course, diametrically opposite to the feminist contention that it is men who dictate the terms of heterosexual coupling and for whose exclusive benefit such relationships are structured.
It also suggests, again contrary to feminist assumptions of male dominance, that most men are ultimately frustrated in achieving their sexual ambitions to a far greater extent than are most women.
Thus, Symons concludes:
“The desire for sexual variety dooms most human males to a lifetime of unfulfilled longing” (p228).
Here, Symons anticipates Camille Paglia who was later to famously observe:
“Men know they are sexual exiles. They wander the earth seeking satisfaction, craving and despising, never content. There is nothing in that anguished motion for women to envy” (Sexual Personae: p19).
Criticisms of Symons’s Use of Homosexuality as a Test-Case
There is, however, a potential problem with Symons’s use of homosexual behaviour as a window onto the nature of male and female sexuality as they manifest themselves when freed from the conflicting desires of the opposite sex. The whole analysis rests on a questionable premise – namely that homosexuals are, their preference for same-sex partners aside, otherwise similar, if not identical, to heterosexuals of their own sex in their psychology and sexuality.
Symons defends this assumption, arguing:
“There is no reason to suppose that homosexuals differ systematically from heterosexuals in any way other than their sexual object choice” (p292).
Indeed, in some respects, Symons seems to see even “sexual object choice” as analogous among homosexuals and heterosexuals of the same sex.
For example, he observes that, unlike women, both homosexual and heterosexual men tend to evaluate prospective mates primarily on the basis their physical appearance and youthfulness (p295).
Thus, in contrast to the failure of periodicals featuring male nudes to attract a substantial female audience (see below), Symons notes the existence of a market for gay pornography parallel in most respects to heterosexual porn – i.e. featuring young, physically attractive models in various states of undress (p301).
This, of course, contradicts the feminist notion that men are led to ‘objectify’ women only due to the sexualized portrayal of the latter in the media.
Instead, Symons concludes:
“That homosexual men are at least as likely as heterosexual men to be interested in pornography, cosmetic qualities and youth seems to me to imply that these interests are no more the result of advertising than adultery and alcohol consumption are the result of country and western music” (p304).
As Buller notes, although gay men seem, like heterosexual men, to prefer youthful sexual partners, they also appear to prefer sexual partners who are, in other respects highly masculine.
Thus, Buller observes:
“The males featured in gay men’s magazines embody very masculine, muscular physiques, not pseudo-feminine physiques” (Adapting Minds: p227).
Indeed, the models in such magazines seem in most respects similar in physical appearance to the male models, pop stars, actors and other ‘sex symbols’ and celebrities fantasized about by heterosexual women and girls.
How then are we to resolve this apparent paradox?
One possible explanation that some aspects of the psychology of male homosexuals are feminized but not others – perhaps because different parts of the brain are formed at different stages of prenatal development, at which stages the levels of masculinizing androgens in the womb may vary.
Indeed, there is even some evidence that homosexual males may be hyper-masculinized in some aspects of their physiology.
For example, it has been found that homosexual males report larger penis-sizes than heterosexual men (Bogaert & Hershberger 1999).
This, researchers Glenn Wilson and Qazi Rahman propose, may be because:
“If it is supposed that the barriers against androgens with respect to certain brain structures (notably those concerned with homosexuality) lead to increased secretion in an effort to break through, or some sort of accumulation elsewhere… then there may be excess testosterone left in other departments” (Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation: p80).
Another possibility is that male homosexuals actually lie midway between heterosexual men and women in their degree of masculinization.
On this view, homosexual men come across as relatively feminine only because we naturally tend to compare them to other men (i.e. heterosexual men). However, as compared to women, they may be relatively masculine, as reflected in the male-typical aspects of their sexuality focused upon by Symons.
Interestingly, this latter interpretation suggests the slightly disturbing possibility that, freed from the restraints imposed by women, heterosexual men would be even more indiscriminately promiscuous than their homosexual counterparts.
Evidence consistent with this interpretation is provided by one study from the 1980s which found that, when approached by a female stranger (also a student), on a University campus, with a request to go to bed with them, fully 72% of male students agreed (Clark and Hatfield 1989).
In contrast, in the same study, not a single one of the 96 females approached by male strangers with the same request on the same university campus agreed to go to bed with the male stranger.
Yet what percentage of the female students subsequently sued the university for sexual harassment was not reported.
Pornography as a “Natural Experiment”
For Symons, fantasy represents another window onto sexual and romantic desires. Like homosexuality, fantasy is, by its very nature, unconstrained by the conflicting desires of the opposite sex (or indeed by anything other than the imagination of the fantasist).
Symons later collaborated in an investigation into sexual fantasy by means of a questionnaire (Ellis and Symons 1990).
However, in the present work, he investigates fantasy indirectly by focusing on what he calls “the natural experiment of commercial periodical publishing” – i.e. pornographic magazines (p182).
In many respects, this approach is preferable to a survey because, even in an anonymous questionnaire, individuals may be less than honest when dealing with a sensitive topic such as their sexual fantasies. On the other hand, they are unlikely to regularly spend money on a magazine unless they are genuinely attracted by its contents.
Before the internet age, softcore pornographic magazines, largely featuring female nudes, commanded sizeable circulations. However, their readership (if indeed ‘readership’ is the right words, since there was typically little reading involved) was almost exclusively male.
In contrast, there was little or no female audience for magazines containing pictures of naked males. Instead, magazines marketed towards women (e.g. fashion magazines) contain, mostly, pictures of other women.
Indeed, when, in the 1970s, attempts were made, in the misguided name of feminism and ‘women’s liberation’, to market magazines featuring male nudes to a female readership, one such title, Viva, abandoned publishing male nudes after just a few years due to lack of interest or demand, then subsequently went bust just a few years after that, while the other, Playgirl, although it did not entirely abandon male nudes, was notorious, as a consequence, for attracting a readership composed in large part of homosexual men.
Symons thus concludes forcefully and persuasively:
“The notion must be abandoned that women are simply repressed men waiting to be liberated” (p183).
Indeed, though it has been loudly and enthusiastically co-opted by feminists, this view of women, and of female sexuality – namely women as “repressed men waiting to be liberated” – represents an obviously quintessentially male viewpoint.
Indeed, taken to extremes, it has even been used as a justification for rape.
Thus, the curious, sub-Freudian notion that female rape victims actually secretly enjoy being raped seems to rest ultimately on the assumption that female sexuality is fundamentally the same as that of men (i.e. indiscriminately enjoying of promiscuous sex) and that it is only women’s sexual ‘repression’ that prevents them admitting as much.
Unfortunately, however, there is notable omission in Symons’s discussion of pornography as a window into male sexuality – namely, he omits to consider whether there exists any parallel artistic genre that offers equivalent insight into the female psyche.
An entire chapter of ‘The Evolution of Human Sexuality’, namely Chapter Three (entitled, “The Female Orgasm: Adaptation or Artefact”), is devoted to rejecting the claim that the female orgasm represents a biological adaptation.
In contrast, Symons champions the thesis that the female capacity for orgasm is a simply non-adaptive by-product of the male capacity to orgasm, the latter of which is of course adaptive.
On this view, the female orgasm (and clitoris) is, in effect, the female equivalent of male nipples (only more fun).
Certainly, Symons convincingly critiques the romantic notion, popularized by Desmond Morris among others, that the female orgasm functions as a mechanism designed to enhance ‘pair-bonding’ between couples.
However, subsequent generations of evolutionary psychologists have developed less naïve models of the adaptive function of female orgasm.
For example, Geoffrey Miller argues that the female orgasm functions as an adaptation for mate choice (The Mating Mind: p239-241).
Of course, at first glance, experiencing orgasm during coitus may appear to be a bit late for mate choice, since, by the time coitus has occurred, the choice in question has already been made. However, given that, among humans, most sexual intercourse is non-reproductive (i.e. does not result in conception), the theory is not altogether implausible.
On this view, the very factors which Symons views as suggesting female orgasm is non-adaptive – such as the relative difficultly of stimulating female orgasm during ordinary vaginal sex – are positive evidence for its adaptive function in carefully discriminating between suitors/lovers to determine their desirability as father for a woman ’s offspring.
Much of Symons’ work is dedicated to challenging the naïve group-selectionism of Sixties ethologists, especially Desmond Morris. Although scientifically now largely obsolete, Morris’s work still retains a certain popular resonance and therefore this aspect of Symons’s work is not entirely devoid of contemporary relevance.
This leads to some decidedly cynical conclusions regarding the true nature of sexual and romantic relations among humans.
For example, Symons argues that it is adaptive for men to be less sexually attracted to their wives than they are to other women – because they are themselves liable to bear the cost of raising offspring born to their wives but not those born to other women with whom they mate (e.g. those mated to other males).
Another cynical conclusion is that the primary emotion underlying the institution of marriage, both cross-culturally and in our own society, is neither love nor even lust, but rather male sexual jealousy and proprietariness (p123).
Marriage, then, is an institution borne not of love, but of male sexual jealousy and the behaviour known to biologists as mate-guarding.
As well as its excessive focus on debunking sixties ethologists like Morris, ‘The Evolution of Human Sexuality’ is also out-of-date in a more serious respect Namely, it fails to incorporate the vast amount of empirical research on human sexuality from a sociobiological perspective which has been conducted since the first publication of his work.
For a book first published thirty years ago, this is inevitable – not least because much of this empirical research was inspired by Symons’ own ideas and specifically designed to test theories formulated in this very work.
In addition, potentially important new factors in human reproductive behaviour that even Symons did not foresee have been identified, for example role of levels of fluctuating asymmetry functioning as a criterion for, or at least correlate of, physical attractiveness.
In contrast, in support of his theories Symons relies largely on classical literary insight, anecdote and, most importantly, a review of the ethnographic record.
However, this latter focus ensures that, in some respects, the work remains of more than merely of historical interest.
After all, one of the more legitimate criticisms levelled against recent research in evolutionary psychology is that it is insufficiently cross-cultural and, with several notable exceptions (e.g. Buss 1989), relies excessively on research conducted among convenience samples of students at western universities.
Given costs and practicalities, this is inevitable. However, for a field that aspires to understand a human nature presumed to be universal, such a method of sampling is highly problematic.
‘The Evolution of Human Sexuality’ therefore retains its importance for two reasons.
First, is it the founding work of modern evolutionary psychological research into human sexual behaviour, and hence of importance as a landmark and classic text in the field, as well as in the history of science more generally.
Second, it also remains of value to this day for the cross-cultural and ethnographic evidence it marshals in support of its conclusions.
 Actually, the first person to discover this, albeit inadvertently, was the great Victorian polymath, pioneering statistician and infamous eugenicist Francis Galton, who, attempting to discover abnormal facial features possessed by the criminal class, succeeded in morphing the faces of multiple convicted criminals. The result was, presumably to his surprise, an extremely attractive facial composite, since all the various minor deformities of the many convicted criminals whose faces he morphed actually balanced one another out to produce a face with few if any abnormalities or disproportionate features.
 Another factor leading recent researchers to overestimate the importance of female choice in human evolution is their feminist orientation, since female choice gives women an important role in human evolution, even, paradoxically, in the evolution of male traits.
 Actually, in most cultures, only a girl’s first marriage is arranged on her behalf by her parents. Second- and third-marriages are usually negotiated by the woman herself. However, since female fertility peaks early, it is a girl’s first marriage that is usually of the most reproductive, and hence Darwinian, significance.
 Indeed, the human anatomical trait in humans that perhaps shows the most evidence of being a product of intersexual selection is a female one, namely the female breasts, since the latter are, unlike the mammary glands of most other mammals, permanently present from puberty on, not only during lactation, and composed primarily of fatty tissues, not milk (Møller 1995; Manning et al 1997; Havlíček et al 2016.
 Wilson terms his theory “the kin selection theory hypothesis of the origin of homosexuality” (p145). However, a better description might be the ‘helper at the nest theory of homosexuality’, the basic idea being that, like sterile castes in some insects, and like older siblings in some bird species where new nest sites are unavailable, homosexuals, rather than reproducing themselves, direct their energies towards assisting their collateral kin in successfully raising, and provisioning, their own offspring (p143-7). The main problem with this theory is that there is no evidence that homosexuals do indeed devote any greater energies towards assisting their kin in this respect. On the contrary, homosexuals instead seem to devote much of their time and resources towards their own sex life, much as do heterosexuals (Bobrow & Bailey 2001).
 As we will see, contrary to the stereotype of evolutionary psychologists as viewing all traits as necessarily adaptive, as they are accused of doing by the likes of Gould, Symons also argued that the female orgasm and menopause are non-adaptive, but rather by-products of other adaptations.
 This is not necessarily to say that rampant, indiscriminate promiscuity is a male utopia, or the ideal of any man, be he homosexual or heterosexual. On the contrary, the ideal mating system for any individual male is harem polygyny in which the chastity of his own partners is rigorously policed (see Despotism and Differential Reproduction: which I have reviewed here and here). However, given an equal sex ratio, this would condemn other males to celibacy. Similarly, Symons reports that “Homosexual men, like most people, usually want to have intimate relationships”. However, he observes:
“Such relationships are difficult to maintain, largely owing to the male desire for sexual variety; the unprecedented opportunity to satisfy this desire in a world of men, and the male tendency towards sexual jealousy” (p297).
It does indeed seem to be true that homosexual relationships, especially those of gay males, are, on average, of shorter duration than are heterosexual relationships. However, Symons’ claim regarding “the male tendency towards sexual jealousy” is questionable. Actually, subsequent research in evolutionary psychology has suggested that men are no more prone to jealousy than women, but rather that it is sorts of behaviours which most intensely provoke such jealousy that differentiate the sexes (Buss 1992). However, many gay men practice open relationships, which seems to suggest a lack of jealousy – or perhaps this simply reflects a recognition of the difficulty of maintaining relationships given, as Symons puts it, “the male desire for sexual variety [and] the unprecedented opportunity to satisfy this desire in a world of men”.
 Indeed, far from men being led to objectify women due to the portrayal of women in a sexualized manner in the media, Symons suggests:
“There may be no positive feedback at all; on the contrary, constant exposure to pictures of nude and nearly nude female bodies may to some extent habituate men to these stimuli” (p304).
 Admittedly, some aspects of body-type typically preferred by gay males (especially the twink) do reflect apparently female traits, especially a relative lack of body-hair. However, lack of body-hair is also obviously indicative of youth. Moreover, a relative lack of body-hair also seems to be a trait favoured in men by heterosexual women. For a discussion of the relative preference on the part of (heterosexual) females for masculine versus feminine traits in male sex partners, see the final section of this review.