Desmond Morris’s ‘The Naked Ape’: A Pre-Sociobiological Work of Human Ethology 

Desmond Morris, Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal (New York: Mcgraw-Hill Book Company, 1967)

First published in 1967, ‘The Naked Ape’, a popular science classic authored by the already famous British zoologist and TV presenter Desmond Morris, belongs to the pre-sociobiological tradition of human ethology

In the most general sense, the approach adopted by the human ethologists, who included, not only Morris, but also playwright Robert Ardrey, anthropologists Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox and the brilliant Nobel-prize winning ethologist, naturalist, zoologist, pioneering evolutionary epistemologist and part-time Nazi sympathizer Konrad Lorenz, was correct. 

They sought to study the human species from the perspective of zoology. In other words, they sought to adopt the disinterested perspective, and detachment, of, as Edward O Wilson was later to put it, “zoologists from another planet” (Sociobiology: The New Synthesis: p547). 

Thus, Morris proposed cultivating: 

An attitude of humility that is becoming to proper scientific investigation… by deliberately and rather coyly approaching the human being as if he were another species, a strange form of life on the dissecting table” (p14-5).  

In short, Morris proposed to study humans just as a zoologist would any other species of non-human animal. 

Such an approach was an obvious affront to anthropocentric notions of human exceptionalism – and also a direct challenge to the rather less scientific approach of most sociologists, psychologists, social and cultural anthropologists and other such ‘professional damned fools’, who, at that time, almost all studied human behavior in isolation from, and largely ignorance of, biology, zoology, and the scientific study of the behavior of all animals other than humans. 

As a result, such books inevitably attracted controversy and criticism. Such criticism, however, invariably missed the point. 

The real problem was not that the ethologists sought to study human behavior in just the same way a zoologist would study the behavior of any nonhuman animal, but rather that the study of the behavior of nonhuman animals itself remained, at this time, very much in its infancy. 

Thus, the field of animal behavior was to be revolutionized just a decade or so after the publication of ‘The Naked Ape’ by the approach that came to be known as, first, sociobiology, now more often as behavioral ecology, or, when applied to humans, evolutionary psychology

These approaches sought to understand behavior in terms of fitness maximization – in other words, on the basis of the recognition that organisms have evolved to engage in behaviors which tended to maximize their reproductive success in ancestral environments. 

Mathematical models, often drawn from economics and game theory, were increasingly employed. In short, behavioral biology was becoming a mature science. 

In contrast, the earlier ethological tradition was, even at its best, very much a soft science. 

Indeed, much such work, for example Jane Goodall’s rightly-celebrated studies of the chimpanzees of Gombe, was almost pre-scientific in its approach, involving observation, recording and description of behaviors, but rarely the actual testing or falsification of hypotheses. 

Such research was obviously important. Indeed, Goodall’s was positively groundbreaking. 

After all, the observation of the behavior or an organism is almost a prerequisite for the framing of hypotheses about the behavior of that organism, since hypotheses are, in practice, rarely generated in an informational vacuum from pure abstract theory. 

However, such research was hardly characteristic of a mature and rigorous science. 

When hypotheses regarding the evolutionary significance of behavior patterns were formulated by early ethologists, this was done on a rather casual ad hoc basis, involving a kind of ‘armchair adaptationism’, which could perhaps legitimately be dismissed as the spinning of, in Stephen Jay Gould’s famous phrase, just so stories

Thus, a crude group selectionism went largely unchallenged. Yet, as George C Williams was to show, and Richard Dawkins later to forcefully reiterate in The Selfish Gene (reviewed here), behaviors are unlikely to evolve that benefit the group or species if they involve a cost to the inclusive fitness of the individual engaging in the behavior. 

Robert Wright picks out a good example of this crude group selectionism from ‘The Naked Ape’ itself, quoting Morris’s claim that, over the course of human evolution: 

To begin with, the males had to be sure that their females were going to be faithful to them when they left them alone to go hunting. So the females had to develop a pairing tendency” (p64). 

To anyone schooled in the rudiments of Dawkinsian selfish gene theory, the fallacy should be obvious. But, just in case we didn’t spot it, Wright has picked it out for us: 

Stop right there. It was in the reproductive interests of the males for the females to develop a tendency toward fidelity? So natural selection obliged the males by making the necessary changes in the females? Morris never got around to explaining how, exactly, natural selection would perform this generous feat” (The Moral Animal: p56). 

In reality, couples have a conflict of interest here, and the onus is clearly on the male to evolve some mechanism of mate-guarding, though a female might conceivably evolve some way to advertise her fidelity if, by so doing, she secured increased male parental investment and provisioning, hence increasing her own reproductive success.[1]

In short, mating is Machiavellian. A more realistic view of human sexuality, rooted in selfish gene theory, is provided by Donald Symons in his seminal The Evolution of Human Sexuality (which I have reviewed here). 

Unsuccessful Societies? 

The problems with ‘The Naked Ape’ begin in the very first chapter, where Morris announces, rather oddly, that, in studying the human animal, he is largely uninterested in the behavior of contemporary foraging groups or other so-called ‘primitive’ peoples. Thus, he bemoans: 

The earlier anthropologists rushed off to all kinds of unlikely corners of the world… scattering to remote cultural backwaters so atypical and unsuccessful that they are nearly extinct. They then returned with startling facts about the bizarre mating customs, strange kinship systems, or weird ritual procedures of these tribes, and used this material as though it were of central importance to the behaviour of our species as a whole. The work done by these investigators… did not tell us was anything about the typical behaviour of typical naked apes. This can only be done by examining the common behaviour patterns that are shared by all the ordinary, successful members of the major cultures-the mainstream specimens who together represent the vast majority. Biologically, this is the only sound approach” (p10).[2]

Thus, today, political correctness has wholly banished the word ‘primitive’ from the anthropological lexicon. It is, modern anthropologists insist, demeaning and pejorative.  

Indeed, post-Boasian cultural anthropologists in America typically reject the very notion that some societies are more advanced than others, championing instead a radical cultural relativism and insisting we have much to learn from the lifestyle and traditions of hunter-gatherers, foragers, savage cannibals and other such ‘indigenous peoples’. 

Morris also rejects the term ‘primitive’ as a useful descriptor for hunter-gatherer and other technologically-backward peoples, but for diametrically opposite reasons. 

Thus, for Morris, to describe foraging groups as ‘primitive’ is to rather give them altogether too much credit: 

The simple tribal groups that are living today are not primitive, they are stultified. Truly primitive tribes have not existed for thousands of years. The naked ape is essentially an exploratory species and any society that has failed to advance has in some sense failed, ‘gone wrong’. Something has happened to it to hold it back, something that is working against the natural tendencies of the species to explore and investigate the world around it” (p10). 

Instead, Morris proposes to focus on contemporary western societies, declaring: 

North America… is biologically a very large and successful culture and can, without undue fear of distortion, be taken as representative of the modern naked ape” (p51) 

It is indeed true that, with the diffusion of American media and consumer goods, American culture is fast becoming ubiquitous. However, this is a very recent development in historical terms, let alone on the evolutionary timescale of most interest to biologists. 

Indeed, viewed historically and cross-culturally, it is we westerners who are the odd, aberrant ones. 

Thus, we even have been termed, in a memorable backcronym, WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic), and hence quite aberrant, not only in terms of our lifestyle and prosperity, but also in terms of our psychology and modes of thinking

Moreover, while foraging groups, and other pre-modern peoples, may now indeed now be tottering on the brink of extinction, this again is a very recent development. 

Indeed, far from being aberrant, this was the lifestyle adopted by all humans throughout most of the time we have existed as a species, including during the period when most of our unique physical and behavioural adaptations evolved

In short, although we may inhabit western cities today, this is not the environment where we evolved, nor that to which our brains and bodies are primarily adapted.[3]

Therefore, given that it represents the lifestyle of our ancestors during the period when most of our behavioral and bodily adaptations evolved, primitive peoples must necessarily have a special place in any evolutionary theory of human behaviour.[4]

Indeed, Morris himself admits as much himself just a few pages later, where he acknowledges that: 

The fundamental patterns of behavior laid down in our early days as hunting apes still shine through all our affairs, no matter how lofty they may be” (p40). 

Indeed, a major theme of ‘The Naked Ape’ is the extent to which the behaviour even of wealthy white westerners is nevertheless fundamentally shaped and dictated by the patterns of foraging set out in our ancient hunter-gatherer past. 

This, of course, anticipates the concept of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (or EEA) in modern evolutionary psychology

Thus, Morris suggests that the pattern of men going out to work to financially provision wives and mothers who stay home with dependent offspring reflects the ancient role of men as hunters provisioning their wives and children: 

“Behind the façade of modern city life there is the same old naked ape. Only the names have been changed: for ‘hunting’ read ‘working’, for ‘hunting grounds’ read ‘place of business’, for ‘home base’ read ‘house’, for ‘pair-bond’ read ‘marriage’, for ‘mate’ read ‘wife’, and so on” (p84).[5]

In short, while we must explain the behaviors of contemporary westerners, no less than those of primitive foragers, in the light of Darwinian evolution, nevertheless all such behaviors must be explained ultimately in terms of adaptations that evolved over previous generations under very different conditions. 

Indeed, in the sequel to ‘The Naked Ape’, Morris further focuses on this very point, arguing that modern cities, in particular, are unnatural environments for humans, rejecting the then-familiar description of cities as concrete jungles on the grounds that, whereas jungles are the “natural habitat” of animals, modern cities are very much an unnatural habitat for humans. 

Instead, he argues, the better analogy for modern cities is a Human Zoo

The comparison we must make is not between the city dweller and the wild animal but between the city dweller and the captive animal. The city dweller is no longer living in conditions natural for his species. Trapped, not by a zoo collector, but by his own brainy brilliance, he has set himself up in a huge restless menagerie where he is in constant danger of cracking under the strain” (The Human Zoo: pvii). 

Nakedness 

Morris adopts what he calls a zoological approach. Thus, unlike modern evolutionary psychologists, he focuses as much on explaining our physiology as our behavior and psychology. Indeed, it is in explaining the peculiarities of human anatomy that Morris’s book is at his best.[6]

This begins, appropriately enough, with the trait that gives him his preferred name for our species, and also furnishes his book with its title – namely our apparent nakedness or hairlessness. 

Having justified calling us ‘The Naked Ape’ on zoological grounds, namely on the ground that this is the first thing the naturalist would notice upon observing our species, Morris then comes close to contradicting himself, admitting that we actually have more hairs on our bodies than do chimpanzees.[7]

However, Morris summarily dispatches this objection: 

It is like saying that because a blind man has a pair of eyes, he is not blind. Functionally, we are stark naked and our skin is fully exposed” (p42). 

Why then are we so strangely hairless? Neoteny, Morris proposes, provides part of the answer. 

This refers to the tendency of humans to retain into maturity traits that are, in other primates, restricted to juveniles, nakedness among them. 

Neoteny is a major theme in Morris’s book – and indeed in human evolution

Besides our hairlessness, other human anatomical features that have been explained either partly or wholly in terms of neoteny, whether by Morris or by other evolutionists, include our brain size, growth patterns, 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 sexual maturity (see below). Indeed, many of these traits are explicitly discussed by Morris himself as resulting from neoteny

However, while neoteny may supply the means by which our relative hairlessness evolved, it is not a sufficient explanation for why this development occurred, because, as Morris points out: 

The process of neoteny is one of the differential retarding of developmental processes” (p43). 

In other words, humans are neotenous in respect of only some of our characters, not all of them. After all, an ape that remained infantile in all respects would never evolve, for the simple reason that it would never reach sexual maturity and hence remain unable to reproduce. 

Instead, only certain specific juvenile or infantile traits are retained into adulthood, and the question then becomes why these specific traits were the ones chosen by natural selection to be retained. 

Thus, Morris concludes: 

It is hardly likely… that an infantile trait as potentially dangerous as nakedness was going to be allowed to persist simply because other changes were slowing down unless it had some special value to the new species” (p43). 

As to what this “special value” (i.e. selective advantage) might have been, Morris considers, in turn, various candidates.  

One theory considered by Morris theory relates to our susceptibility to insect parasites.  

Because humans, unlike many other primates, return to a home base to sleep most nights, we are, Morris reports, afflicted with fleas as well as lice (p28-9). Yet fur, Morris observes, is a good breeding ground for such parasites (p38-9). 

Perhaps, then, Morris imagines, we might have evolved hairlessness in order to minimize the problems posed by such parasites. 

However, Morris rejects this as an adequate explanation, since, he observes: 

Few other den dwelling mammals… have taken this step” (p43). 

An alternative explanation implicates sexual selection in the evolution of human hairlessness.  

Substantial sex differences in hairiness, as well as the retention of pubic hairs around the genitalia, suggests that sexual selection may indeed have played a role in the evolution of our relative hairlessness as compared to other mammals. 

Morris, however, rejects this explanation on the grounds that: 

The loss of bodily insulation would be a high price to pay for a sexy appearance alone” (p46). 

But other species often often pay a high price for sexually selected bodily adornments. For example, the peacock sports a huge, brightly coloured and elaborate tail that is thought to have evolved through sexual selection or female choice, which is costly to grow and maintain, impedes his mobility and is conspicuous to predators. 

Indeed, according to Amotz Zahavi’s handicap principle, it is precisely the high cost of such sexually-selected adornments that made them reliable fitness indicators and hence attractive to potential mates, because only a highly ‘fit’ male can afford to grow such a costly, inconvenient and otherwise useless appendage. 

Morris also gives unusually respectful consideration to the highly-controversial aquatic ape theory as an explanation for human hairlessness. 

Thus, if humans did indeed pass through an aquatic, or at least amphibious, stage during our evolution, then, Morris agrees, this may indeed explain our hairlessness, since it is indeed true that other aquatic or semiaquatic mammals, such as whales, dolphins and seals, also seem to have jettisoned most of their fur over the course of their evolution. 

This is presumably because fur increases frictional drag while in the water and hence impedes swimming ability, and is among the reasons that elite swimmers also remove their body-hair before competition. 

Indeed, our loss of body hair is among the human anatomical peculiarities that are most often cited by champions of aquatic ape theory in favor of the theory that humans did indeed pass through an aquatic phase during our evolution. 

However, aquatic ape theory is highly controversial, and is rejected by almost all mainstream evolutionists and biological anthropologists.  

As I have said, Morris, for his part, gives respectful consideration to the theory, and, unlike many other anthropologists and evolutionists, does not dismiss it out of hand as entirely preposterous and unworthy even of further consideration.[8]

On the contrary, Morris credits the theory as “ingenious”, acknowledging that, if true, it might explain many otherwise odd features of human anatomy, including not just our relative hairlessness, but also the retention of hairs on our head, the direction of the hairs on our backs, our upright posture, ‘streamlined’ bodies, dexterity of our hands and the thick extra layer of sub-cutaneous fat beneath our skin that is lacking in other primates. 

However, while acknowledging that the theory explains many curious anomalies of human physiology, Morris ultimately rejects ‘aquatic ape theory’ as altogether too speculative given the complete lack of fossil evidence in support of the theory – the same reason that most other evolutionists also reject the theory. 

Thus, he concludes: 

It demands… the acceptance of a hypothetical major evolutionary phase for which there is no direct evidence” (p45-6). 

Morris also rejects the theory that was, according to Morris himself, the most widely accepted explanation for our hairlessness among other evolutionists at the time he was writing – namely the theory that our hairlessness evolved as a cooling mechanism when our ancestors left the shaded forests for the open African savannah

The problem with this theory, as Morris explains it, is that:  

Exposure of the naked skin to the air certainly increases the chances of heat loss, but it also increases heat gain at the same time and risks damage from the sun’s rays” (p47). 

Thus, it is not at all clear that moving into the open savannah would indeed select for hairlessness. Otherwise, as Morris points out, we might expect other carnivorous, predatory mammals such as lions and jackals, who also inhabit the savannah, to have similarly jettisoned most of their fur. 

Ultimately, however, Morris accepts instead a variant on this idea – namely that hairlessness evolved to prevent overheating while chasing prey when hunting. 

However, this fails to explain why it is men’s bodies that are generally much hairier than those of women, even though, cross-culturally, in most foraging societies, it is men who do most, if not all, of the hunting. 

It also raises the question as to why other mammalian carnivores, including some that also inhabit the African Savannah and other similar environments, such as lions and jackals, have not similarly shed their body hair, especially since the latter rely more on their speed to catch prey species, whereas humans, armed with arrows and javelins as well as hunting dogs, do not always have to catch a prey themselves in order to kill it. 

I would tentatively venture an alternative theory, one which evidently did not occur to Morris – namely, perhaps our hairlessness evolved in concert with our invention and use of clothing (e.g. animal hides) – i.e. a case of gene-culture coevolution

Clothing would provide an alternative means of protect from both sun and cold alike, but one that has the advantage that, unlike bodily fur, it can be discarded (and put back on) on demand. 

This explanation suggests that, paradoxically, we became naked apes at the same time, and indeed precisely because, we had also become clothed apes. 

The Sexiest Primate? 

One factor said to have contributed to the book’s commercial success was the extent to which its thesis chimed with the prevailing spirit of the age during which it was first published, namely the 1960s. 

Thus, as already alluded to, it presented, in many ways, an idealized and romantic version of human nature, with its crude group-selectionism and emphasis on cooperation within groups without a concomitant emphasis on conflict between groups, and its depiction of humans as a naturally monogamous pair-bonding species, without a concomitant emphasis on the prevalence of infidelity, desertion, polygamy, Machiavellian mating strategies and even rape.  

Another element that jibed with the zeitgeist of the sixties was Morris’s emphasis on human sexuality, with Morris famously declaring: 

The naked ape is the sexiest primate alive” (p64). 

Are humans indeed the ‘sexiest’ of primates? How can we assess this claim? It depends, of course, on precisely how we define ‘sexiness’. 

Obviously, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then sexiness is located in a rather different part of the male anatomy, but equally subjective in nature. 

Thus, humans like ourselves find other humans more sexy than other primates because we have evolved to do so. A male chimpanzee, however, would likely disagree and regard a female chimpanzee as sexier. 

However, Morris presumably has something else in mind when he describes humans as the “sexiest” of primates. 

What he seems to mean is that sexuality and sexual behavior permeates the life of humans to a greater degree than for other primates. Thus, for example, he cites as evidence the extended or continuous sexual receptivity of human females, writing: 

There is much more intense sexual activity in our own species than in any other primates” (p56) 

However, the claim that sexuality and sexual behavior permeates the life of humans to a greater degree than for other primates is difficult to maintain when you have studied the behavior of some of our primate cousins. Thus, for example, both chimpanzees and especially bonobos, our closest relatives among extant non-human primates, are far more promiscuous than all but the sluttiest of humans

Indeed, one might cynically suggest that what Morris had most in mind when he described humans as “the sexiest primate alive” was simply a catchy marketing soundbite that very much tapped into the zeitgeist of the era (i.e. the 1960s) and might help boost sales for his book. 

Penis Size

As further evidence for our species’ alleged “sexiness” Morris also supposedly unusually large size of the human penis, reporting: 

The [human] male has the largest penis of any primate. It is not only extremely long when fully erect, but also very thick when compared with the penises of other species” (p80). 

This claim, namely that the human male has an unusually large penis, may originate with Morris, and has certainly since enjoyed wide currency in subsequent decades. 

Thus, competing theories have been formulated to account for the (supposedly) unusual size of our penes, including the idea that penis size evolved through sexual selection (e.g. The Mating Mind: p234-6), or that our large penes are designed to remove sperm deposited by rival males in the female reproductive tract (Human Sperm Competition: p170-171; Gallup & Burch 2004; Gallup et al 2004; Goetz et al 2005; Goetz et al 2007

Yet, according to Alan F Dixson, the human penis is, in fact, not unusually long by primate standards, being roughly the same length as that of the chimpanzee (Sexual Selection and the Origins of Human Mating Systems: p64). 

Instead, Dixson reports: 

The erect human penis is comparable in length to those of other primates, in relation to body size. Only its circumference is unusual when compared to the penes of other hominids” (Sexual Selection and the Origins of Human Mating Systems: p65). 

The human penis is unusual, then, only in its width or girth. 

As to why our penes are so wide, the answer is quite straightforward, and has little to do with the alleged ‘sexiness’ of the human species, whatever that means. 

Instead, it is a simple, if indirect, reflection of our increased brain-size.

Increased brain-size first selected for changes in the size and shape of female reproductive anatomy. This, in turn, led to changes in male reporoductive anatomy. Thus, Bowman suggests: 

As the diameter of the bony pelvis increased over time to permit passage of an infant with a larger cranium, the size of the vaginal canal also became larger” (Bowman 2008). 

Similarly, Robin Baker and Mark Bellis write: 

The dimensions and elasticity of the vagina in mammals are dictated to a large extent by the dimensions of the baby at birth. The large head of the neonatal human baby (384g brain weight compared with only 227g for the gorilla…) has led to the human vagina when fully distended being large, both absolutely and relative to the female body… particularly once the vagina and vestibule have been stretched during the process of giving birth, the vagina never really returning to its nulliparous dimensions” (Human Sperm Competition: Copulation, Masturbation and Infidelity: p171). 

In turn, larger vaginas select for larger penises in order to fill this larger vagina (Bowman 2008).  

Interestingly, this theory directly contradicts the alleged claim of Philippe Rushton that there is an inverse correlation between brain-size and penis-size, which relationship supposedly explains race differences in brain and genital size. Thus, Rushton was infamously quoted as observing: 

It’s a trade off, more brains or more penis. You can’t have everything.[9]

On the contrary, this analysis suggests that, at least as between species (and presumably as between sub-species, i.e. races, as well), there is a positive correlation between brain-size and penis-size.[10]

According to Baker and Bellis, one reason male penis size tracks that of female vagina size (both being relatively large, and especially wide, in humans) is that the penis functions as, in Baker and Bellis’s words, a “suction piston”, functioning as a mechanism of sperm competition by removing any sperm previously deposited by rival males. 

Thus, they report: 

In order to distend the vagina sufficiently to act as a suction piston, the penis needs to be a suitable size [and] the relatively large size… and distendibility of the human vagina (especially after giving birth) thus imposes selection, via sperm competition, for a relatively large penis” (Human Sperm Competition: p171). 

Interestingly, this theory – namely that the human penis functions as a sperm displacement device – although seemingly fanciful, actually explains some otherwise puzzling aspect of human coitus, such as its relatively extended duration, the male refractory period and related Coolidge effect – i.e. why a male cannot immediately recommence intercourse immediately after orgasm, unless perhaps with a new female (though this exception has yet to be experimentally demonstrated in humans). 

It even has some empirical support (Gallup & Burch 2004; Goetz et al 2005; Goetz et al 2007), including some delightful experiments involving sex toys of various shapes (Gallup et al 2004). 

Morris writes: 

“[Man] is proud that he has the biggest brain of all the primates, but attempts to conceal the fact that he also has the biggest penis, preferring to accord this honor falsely to the mighty gorilla” (p9). 

Actually, the gorilla, mighty though he indeed may be, has relatively small genitalia. This is on account of his polygynous, but non-polyandrous, mating system, which involves minimal sperm competition.[11]

Moreover, the largeness of our brains, in which, according to Morris, we take such pride, may actually be the cause of the largeness of our penes, for which, according to Morris, we have such shame (here, he speaks for few men). 

Thus, large brains required larger heads which, in turn, required larger vaginas in order to successfully birth larger-headed babies. This in turn selected for larger penises to fill the larger vagina. 

In short, the large size, or rather large girth/width, of our penes has less to do with our being the “sexiest primate” and more to do with our being the brainiest

Female Breasts

In addition to his discussion of human penis size, Morris also argues that various other features of human anatomy that not usually associated with sex nevertheless evolved, in part, due to their role in sexual signaling. These include our earlobes (p66-7), everted lips (p68-70) and, tentatively and rather bizarrely, perhaps even our large fleshy noses (p67). 

He makes the most developed and persuasive case, however, in respect of another physiological peculiarity of the human species, and of human females in particular, namely the female breasts

Thus, Morris argues: 

For our species, breast design is primarily sexual rather than maternal in function” (p106). 

The evolution of protruding breasts of a characteristic shape appears to be yet another example of sexual signalling” (p70). 

As evidence, he cites the differences in shape between women’s breasts and both the breasts of other primates and the design of baby bottles (p93). In short, the shape of human breasts do not seem ideally conducive to nursing alone. 

The notion that breasts have a secondary function as sexual advertisements is indeed compelling. In most other mammals, large breasts develop only during pregnancy, but human breasts are permanent, developing at puberty, and, except during pregnancy and lactation, composed predominantly of fat not milk (see Møller et al 1995; Manning et al 1997; Havlíček et al 2016). 

On the other hand, it is difficult to envisage how breasts ever first became co-opted as a sexually-selected ornament. 

After all, the presence of developed breasts on a female would originally, as among other primates, have indicated that the female in question was pregnant, and hence infertile. There would therefore initially have been strong selection pressure among males against ever finding breasts sexually attractive, since it would lead to their pursuing infertile women whom they could not possibly impregnate. 

How then did breasts ever make the switch to a sexually attractive, sexually-selected ornament? This is what George Francis, at his blog, ‘Anglo Reaction’, terms the breast paradox.[12]

Morris does not address this not insignificant problem. However, he does suggest that two other human traits unique among primates may have facilitated the process. 

Our so-called ‘nakedness’ (i.e. relative hairlessness), the trait that furnished Morris’s book with its title, and Morris himself with his preferred name for our species, is the first of these traits. 

Swollen breast-patches in a shaggy-coated female would be far less conspicuous as signalling devices, but once the hair has vanished they would stand out clearly” (p70-1). 

Secondly, Morris argues that our bipedalism (i.e. the fact we walk on two legs) and resulting vertical posture, necessarily put the female reproductive organs out of sight underneath a woman when she adopts a standing position, and hence generally out of the sight of potential mates. There was therefore, Morris suggests, a need for some frontal sexual-signaling. 

This, he argues, was further necessitated by what he argues is our species’ natural preference for ventro-ventral (i.e. missionary position) intercourse. 

In particular, Morris argues that human female breasts evolved in order to mimic the appearance of the female buttocks, a form of what he terms ‘self-mimicry’. 

The protuberant, hemispherical breasts of the female must surely be copies of the fleshy buttocks” (p76). 

Everted Lips 

Interestingly, he makes a similar argument in respect of another trait of humans not shared by other extant primates – namely, our inverted lips.

The word ‘everted’ refers to the fact that our lips are turned outwards, as is easily perceived by comparing human lips with the much thinner lips of our closest non-human relatives

Again, this seems intuitively plausible, since, like female breasts, lips do indeed seem to be a much-sexualized part of the human anatomy, at least in western societies, and in at least some non-western cultures as well, if erotic art is to be taken as evidence.[13]

These everted lips, he argues, evolved to mimic the appearance of the female labia

As with Morris’s idea that female breasts evolved to mimic the appearance of female buttocks, the idea that our lips, and women’s use of lipstick, is designed to imitate the appearance of the female sexual organs has been much mocked.[14]

However, the similarity in appearance of the labia and human lips can hardly be doubted. After all, it is even attested to in the very etymology of the word

Of course, inverted lips reach their most extreme form among extant sub-species of hominid among black Africans. This Morris argues is because: 

If climatic conditions demand a darker skin, then this will work against the visual signalling capacity of the lips by reducing their colour contrast. If they really are important as visual signals, then some kind of compensating development might be expected, and this is precisely what seems to have occurred, the negroid lips maintaining their conspicuousness by becoming larger and more protuberant. What they have lost in colour contrast, they have made up for in size and shape” (p69-70).[15]

Thus, rejecting the politically-incorrect notion that black Africans are, as a race, somehow more ‘primitive than other humans, Morris instead emphasizes the fact that, in respect of this trait (i.e. everted lips), they are actually the most differentiated from non-human primates.  

Thus, all humans, compared to non-human primates, have everted lips, but black African lips are the most everted. Therefore, Morris concludes, using the word ‘primitive’ is in the special phylogenetic sense

Anatomically, these negroid characters do not appear to be primitive, but rather represent a positive advance in the specialization of the lip region” (p70).

In other words, whereas whites and Asians may be more advanced than blacks when it comes to intelligence, brain-size, science, technology and building civilizations, when it comes to everted lips, black Africans have us all beaten! 

Female Orgasm

Morris also discusses the function of the female orgasm, a topic which has subsequently been the subject of much speculation and no little controversy among evolutionists.  

Again, Morris suggests that humans’ unusual vertical posture, brought on by our bipedal means of locomotion, may have been central to the evolution of this trait. 

Thus, if a female were to walk off immediately after sexual intercourse had occurred, then: 

Under the simple influence of gravity the seminal fluid would flow back down the vaginal tract and much of it would be lost” (p79).  

This obviously makes successful impregnation less likely. As a result, Morris concludes: 

There is therefore a great advantage in any reaction that tends to keep the female horizontal when the male ejaculates and stops copulating” (p79). 

The chief adaptive function of the female orgasm therefore, according to Morris, is the tiredness, and perhaps post-coital tristesse, that immediately follows orgasm, and motivates the female experiencing these emotions to remain in a horizontal position even after intercourse has ended, and hence retain the male ejaculate within her reproductive tract. 

The violent response of female orgasm, leaving the female sexually satiated and exhausted has precisely this effect” (p79).[16]

However, the main problem with Morris’s theory is that it predicts that female orgasm should be confined to humans, since, at least among extant primates, we represent the only bipedal ape.  

Morris does indeed argue that the female organism is, like our nakedness, bipedal locomotion and large brains, an exclusively human trait, describing how, among most, if not all, non-human primates: 

At the end of a copulation, when the male ejaculates and dismounts, the female monkey shows little sign of emotional upheaval and usually wanders off as if nothing had happened” (p79). 

Unfortunately for Morris’s theory, however, evidence has subsequently accumulated that some non-human (and non-bipedal) female primates do indeed seem to sometimes experience responses seemingly akin to orgasm during copulation. 

Thus, Alan Dixson reports: 

Female orgasm is not confined to Homo sapiens. Putatively homologous responses [have] been reported in a number of non-human primates, including stump-tail and Japanese Macaques, rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees… Pre-human ancestors of Homo sapiens, such as the australopithecines, probably possessed a capacity to exhibit female orgasm, as do various extant ape and monkey species. The best documented example concerns the stump tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides), in which orgasmic uterine contractions have been recorded during female-female mounts… as well as during copulation… De Waal… estimates that female stump-tails show their distinctive ‘climax face’ (which correlates with the occurrence of uterine contractions) once in every six copulations. Vaginal spasms were noted in two female rhesus monkeys as a result of extended periods of stimulation (using an artificial penis) by an experimenter… Likewise, a female chimpanzee exhibited rhythmical vaginal contractions, clitoral erection, limb spasms, and body tension in response to manual stimulation of its genitalia… Masturbatory behaviour, accompanied by behavioural and physiological responses indicative of orgasm, has also been noted in Japanese macaques… and chimpanzees” (Sexual Selection and the Origins of Human Mating Systems: p77). 

Thus, in relation to Morris’s theory, Dixson concludes that the theory lacks “comparative depth” because: 

Monkey and apes exhibit female orgasm in association with dorso-ventral copulatory postures and an absence of post-mating rest periods” (Sexual Selection and the Origins of Human Mating Systems: p77). 

Certainly orgasm is not required for successful impregnation. 

Thus, American physician, Robert Dickson, in his book, Human Sex Anatomy (1933), reports that, in a study of a thousand women who attended his medical practice afflicted with so-called ‘frigitity’ (i.e incapable of orgasmic response during intercourse): 

The frigid were not notably infertile, having the expected quota of living children, and somewhat less than the average incidence of sterility” (Human Sex Anatomy: p92). 

Thus, as argued by Donald Symons in his groundbreaking The Evolution of Human Sexuality (which I have reviewed here), the most parsomonious theory of the evolution of female orgasm is that it represents simply a non-adaptive byproduct of male orgasm, which is, of course, itself adaptive (see Sherman 1989Case Of The Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution).

It thus represents, if you like, the female equivalent of male nipples – only more fun.

Hymen

Interestingly, Morris also hypothesizes regarding the evolutionary function of another peculiarity of human female reproductive anatomy which, in contrast to the controversy regarding the evolutionary function, if any, of the female orgasm and clitoris (and of the female breasts), has received surprisingly scant attention from evolutionists – namely, the hymen

In most mammals, Morris reports, “it occurs as an embryonic stage in the development of the urogenital system” (p82). However, only in humans, he reports, is it, when not ruptured, retained into adulthood. 

Regarding the means by which it evolved, the trait is then, Morris concludes, like our large brains, upright posture and hairlessness, “part of the naked ape’s neoteny” (p82). 

However, as with our hairlessness, neoteny only the means by which this trait was retained into adulthood among humans, not the evolutionary reason for its retention.  

In other words, he suggests, the hymen, like other traits retained into adulthood among humans, must serve some evolutionary function. 

What is this evolutionary function? 

Morris suggests that, by making first intercourse painful for females, it deters young women from engaging in intercourse too early, and hence risking pregnancy, without first entering a relationship (‘pair-bond’) of sufficient stability to ensure that male parental investment, and provisioning, will be forthcoming (p73). 

However, pain experienced during intercourse occurs rather too late to deter first intercourse, because, by the time this pain is experienced, intercourse has already occurred. 

Of course, given our species’ unique capacity for speech and communication, the pain experienced during first intercourse could be communicated to young virginal women through conversation with other non-virginal women who had already experienced first intercourse.  

However, this would be an unreliable method of inducing fear and avoidance regarding first intercourse, especially given the sort of taboos regarding discussion of sexual activities which are common in many cultures. 

At any rate, why would natural, or sexual, selection not instead simply directly select for fear and anxiety regarding first intercourse – i.e. a psychological rather than a physiological adaptation. After all, as evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists have convincingly demonstrated, our psychology is no less subject to natural selection than is our physiology. 

Although, as already noted, the evolutionary function, if any, of the female hymen has received surprisingly little attention from evolutionists, I can think of at least three rival hypotheses regarding the evolutionary significance of the hymen. 

First, it may have evolved among humans as a means of advertising to prospective suitors a prospective bride’s chastity, and hence reassuring the suitor of the paternity of offspring that subsequently result and encouraging paternal investment in offspring. 

This would, in turn, increase the perceived attractiveness of the female in question, and help secure her a better match with a higher-status male, and hence increase her own reproductive success

Thus, it is notable that, in many cultures, prospective brides are inspected for virginity, a so-called virginity test, sometimes by the prospective mother-in-law or another older woman, before being considered marriageable and accepted as brides. 

Alternatively, and more prosaically, the hymen may simply function to protect against infection, by preventing dirt and germs from entering a woman’s body by this route. 

This, of course, would raise the question as to why, at least according to Morris, the trait is retained into sexual maturity only among humans?  

Actually, however, as with his claim that the female orgasm is unique to humans, Morris’s claim that only humans retain the hymen into sexual maturity is disputed by other sources. Thus, for example, Catherine Blackledge reports: 

Hymens, or vaginal closure membranes or vaginal constrictions, as they are often referred to, are found in a number of mammals, including llamas, guinea-pigs, elephants, rats, toothed whales, seals, dugongs, and some primates, including some species of galagos, or bushbabys, and the ruffed lemur” (The story of V: p145). 

Finally, even more prosaically, the hymen may simply represent a nonadaptive vestige of the developmental process, or a nonadaptive by-product of our species’ neoteny

This would be consistent with the apparent variation with which the trait presents itself, suggesting that it has not been subject to strong selection pressure that has weeded out suboptimal variations. 

This then would appear to be the most parsimonious explanation. 

Zoological Nomenclature 

The works on human ethology of both Richard Ardrey and Konrad Lorenz attracted much attention and no little controversy in their day. Indeed, they perhaps attracted even more controversy than Morris’s own ‘The Naked Ape’, not least because they tended to place greater emphasis on humankind’s capacity, and alleged innate proclivity, towards violence. 

In contrast, Morris’s own work, placing less emphasis on violence, and more on sex, perhaps jibed better with the zeitgeist of the era, namely the 1960s, with its hippy exhortations to ‘make love not war’. 

Yet, although all these works were first published at around the same time, the mid- to late-sixties (though Adrey continued publishing books of this subject into the 1970s), Morris’s ‘The Naked Ape’ seems to be the only of these books that remains widely read, widely known and still in print, to this day. 

Partly, I suspect, this reflects its brilliant and provocative title, which works on several levels, scientific and literary.  

Morris, as we have seen, justifies referring to humans by this perhaps unflattering moniker on zoological grounds.  

Certainly, he acknowledges that humans possess many other exceptional traits that distinguish us from all other extant apes, and indeed all other extant mammals. 

Thus, we walk on two legs, use and make tools, have large brains and communicate via a spoken language. Thus, the zoologist could refer to us by any number of descriptors – “the vertical ape, the tool-making ape, the brainy ape” are a few of Morris’s own suggestions (p41).  

But, he continues, adopting the disinterested detachment of the proverbial alien zoologist: 

These were not the first things we noticed. Regarded simply as a zoological specimen in a museum, it is the nakedness that has the immediate impact” (p41) 

This name has, Morris observes, several advantages, including “bringing [humans] into line with other zoological studies”, emphasizing the zoological approach, and hence challenging human vanity. 

Thus, he cautions: 

The naked ape is in danger of being dazzled by [his own achievements] and forgetting that beneath the surface gloss he is still very much a primate. (‘An ape’s an ape, a varlet’s a valet, though they be clad in silk or scarlet’). Even a space ape must urinate” (p23). 

Thus, the title works also on another metaphoric level, which also contributed to the title’s power.  

The title ‘Naked Ape’ promises to reveal, if you like, the ‘naked’ truth about humanity—to strip humanity down in order to reveal the naked truth that lies beneath the façade and finery. 

Morris’s title reduces us to a zoological specimen in the laboratory, stripped naked on the laboratory table, for the purposes of zoological classification and dissection. 

Interestingly, humans have historically liked to regard ourselves as superior to other animals, in part, precisely because we are the only ones who did clothe ourselves. 

Thus, beside Adam and Eve, it was only primitive tropical savages who went around in nothing but a loincloth, and they were disparaged as uncivilized precisely on this account. 

Yet even tropical savages wore loincloths. Indeed, clothing, in some form, is sometimes claimed to be a human universal

Yet animals, on the other hand, go completely unclothed – or so we formerly believed. 

But Morris turns this reasoning on its head. In the zoological sense, it is humans who are the naked ones, being largely bereft of hairs sufficient to cover most of our bodies. 

Stripping humanity down in this way, Morris reveals the naked truth that beneath, the finery and façade of civilization, we are indeed an animal, an ape and a naked one at that. 

The power of Morris’s chosen title ensures that, even if, like all science, his book has quickly dated, his title alone has stood the test of time and will, I suspect, be remembered, and employed as a descriptor of the human species, long after Morris himself, and the books he authored, are forgotten and cease to be read. 

Endnotes

[1] In fact, as I discuss in a later section of this review, it is possible that the female hymen evolved through just such a process, namely as a means of advertising female virginity and premarital chastity (and perhaps implying post-marital fidelity), and hence as a paternity assurance mechanism, which benefited the female by helping secure male parental investment, provisioning and hypergamy.

[2] Morris is certainly right that anthropologists have overemphasized the exotic and unfamiliar (“bizarre mating customs, strange kinship systems, or weird ritual procedures”, as Morris puts it). Partly, this is simply because, when first encountering an alien culture, it is the unfamiliar differences that invariably stand out, whereas the similarities are often the very things which we tend to take for granted.
Thus, for example, on arriving in a foreign country, we are often struck by the fact that everyone speaks a foreign unintelligible language. However, we often take for granted the more remarkable fact that all cultures around the world do indeed have a spoken language, and also that all languages supposedly even share in common a universal grammar.
However, anthropologists have also emphasized the alien and bizarre for other reasons, not least to support theories of radical cultural malleability, sometimes almost to the verge of outright fabrication (e.g. Margaret Mead’s studies in Samoa).

[3] It is true that there has been some significant human evolution since the dawn of agriculture, notably the evolution of lactase persistence in populations with a history of dairy agriculture. Indeed, as Cochran and Harpending emphasize in their book The 10,000 Year Explosion, far from evolution having stopped at the dawn of agriculture or the rise of ‘civilization’, it has in fact sped up, as a natural reflection of the rapid change in environmental conditions that resulted. Thus, as Nicholas Wade concludes in A Troublesome Inheritance, much human evolution has been “recent, copious and regional”, leading to substantial differentiation between populations (i.e. race differences), including in psychological traits such as intelligence. Nevertheless, despite such tinkering, the core adaptations that identify us as a species were undoubtedly molded in ancient prehistory, and are universal across the human species.

[4] However, it is indeed important to recognize that the lifestyle of our own ancestors was not necessarily identical to that of those few extant hunter-gatherer groups that have survived into modern times, not least because the latter tend to be concentrated in marginal and arid environments (e.g. the San people of the Kalahari DesertEskimos of the Arctic region, Aboriginals of the Australian outback), with those formerly inhabiting more favorable environments having either themselves transitioned to agriculture or else been displaced or absorbed by more advanced invading agriculturalists with higher population densities and superior weapons and other technologies.

[5] This passage is, of course, sure to annoy feminists (always a good thing), and is likely to be disavowed even by many modern evolutionary psychologists since it relies on a rather crude analogy. However, Morris acknowledges that, since “’hunting’… has now been replaced by ‘working‘”: 

The males who set off on their daily working trips are liable to find themselves in heterosexual groups instead of the old all-male parties. All too often it [the pair bond] collapses under the strain” (p81). 

This factor, Morris suggests, explains the prevalence of marital infidelity. It may also explain the recent hysteria, and accompanying witch-hunts, regarding so-called ‘sexual harassment’ in the workplace.
Relatedly, and also likely to annoy feminists, Morris champions the then-popular man the hunter theory of hominid evolution, which posited that the key development in human evolution, and the development of human intelligence in particular, was the switch from a largely, if not wholly, herbivorous diet and lifestyle, to one based largely on hunting and the consumption of meat. On this view, it was the cognitive demands that hunting placed on humans that selected for increased intelligence among humans, and also the nutritional value of meat that made possible increases in  highly metabolically expensive brain tissue.
This theory has since fallen into disfavor. This seems to be primarily because it gives the starring role in human evolution to men, since men do most of the hunting, and relegates women to a mere supporting role. It hence runs counter to the prevailing feminist zietgeist.
The main substantive argument given against the ‘man the hunter theory’ is that other carnivorous mammals (e.g. lions, wolves) adapted to carnivory without any similar increase in brain-size or intelligence. Yet Morris actually has an answer to this objection.
Our ancestors, fresh from the forests, were relative latecomers to carnivory. Therefore, Morris contends, had we sought to compete with tigers and wolves by mimicking them (i.e. growing our fangs and claws instead of our brains) we would inevitably have been playing a losing game of evolutionary catch-up. 

Instead, an entirely new approach was made, using artificial weapons instead of natural ones, and it worked” (p22).

However, this theory fails to explain how female intelligence evolved. One possibility is that increases in female intelligence are an epiphenomenal byproduct of selection for male intelligence, rather like the female equivalent of male nipples.
On this view, men would be expected to have higher intelligence than women, just as male nipples are smaller than female nipples, and the male penis is bigger than the female clitoris. That adult men have greater intelligence than adult women is indeed the conclusion of a recent controversial theory, though the difference is very modest (Lynn 1999). There is also evidence this sexual division of labour between hunting and gathering led to sex dithfferences spatio-visual intelligence (Eals & Silverman 1994).

[6] Another difference from modern evolutionary psychologists derives from Morris’s ethological approach, which involves a focus on human-typical behaviour patterns. For example, he discusses the significance of body language and facial expressions, such as smiling, which is supposedly homologous with an appeasement gesture (baring clenched teeth, aka a ‘fear grin’) common to many primates, and staring, which represents a form of threat across many species.

[7] Interestingly, however, he acknowledges that this statement does not apply to all human races. Thus, he observes: 

Negroes have undergone a real as well as an apparent hair loss” (p42). 

Thus, it seems blacks, unlike Caucasians, have fewer hairs on their body than do chimpanzees. This fact is further evidence that, contrary to the politically correct orthodoxy, race differences are real and important, though this fact is, of course, played down by Morris and other popular science writers.

[8] Edward O Wilson, for example, in Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (which I have reviewed here) dismisses aquatic ape theory, as then championed by Elaine Morgan in The Descent of Woman, as feminist-inspired pop-science “contain[ing] numerous errors” and as being “far less critical in its handling of the evidence than the earlier popular books”, including that of Morris (who is mentioned by name in the same paragraph (Sociobiology: The New Synthesis: p29).

[9] Actually, I suspect this infamous quotation may be apocryphal, or at best a misconstrued joke. Certainly, while I think Rushton’s theory of race differences (which he calls ‘differential K theory’) is flawed, as I explain in my review of his work, there is nothing in it to suggest a direct trade-off between penis-size and brain-size. Indeed, one problem with Rushton’s theory, or at least his presentation of it, is that he never directly explains how traits such as penis-size actually relate to r/K selection in the first place.
The quotation is usually traced to a hit piece in Rolling Stone, a leftist hippie rag with a reputation for low editorial standards and fake news. However, Jon Entine, in his book on race differences in athletic ability, instead traces it to a supposed interview between Rushton and Geraldo Rivera broadcast on the Geraldo’ show in 1989 (Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports: p74).
Interestingly, one study has indeed reported that there is a “demonstrated negative evolutionary relationship”, not between brain-size and penis-size, but rather between brain-size and testicle size, if only on account of the fact that each contain “metabolically expensive tissues” (Pitnick et al 2006).

[10] Interestingly, Baker and Bellis attribute race differences in penis-size, not to race differences in brain-size, but rather to race differences in birth weight. Thus, they conclude:

Racial differences in size of penis (Mongoloid < Caucasoid < Negroid…) reflects racial differences in birth weight… and hence presumably, racial differences in size of vagina” (Human Sperm Competition: p171). 

[11] In other words, a male silverback gorilla may mate with the multiple females in his harem, but each of the females in his harem likely have sex with only one male, namely that silverback. This means that sperm from rival males are rarely simultaneously present in the same female’s oviduct, resulting in minimal levels of sperm competition, which is known to select from larger testicles in particular, and also often more elaborate penes as well.

[12] Alternative theories for the evolution of permanent fatty breasts in women is that they function analogously to camel humps, i.e. as a storehouse of nutrients to guard against and provide reserves in the event of future scarcity or famine. On this view, the sexually dimorphic presentation (i.e. the fact that fatty breasts are largely restricted to women) might reflect the caloric demands of pregnancy. Indeed, this might explain why women have higher levels of fat throughout their bodies. (For a recent review of rival theories for human breast evolution see Pawłowski & Żelaźniewicz 2021.)

[13] However, to be pedantic, this phraseology is perhaps problematic, since, to say that breasts and lips are ‘sexualized’ in western, and at least some non-western, cultures implicitly presupposes that they are not already inherently sexual parts of our anatomy by virtue of biology, which is, of course, the precisely what Morris is arguing. 

[14] For example, if I recall correctly, extremely annoying, left-wing 1980s-era British comedian Ben Elton once commented in a one of his stand-up routines that the male anthropologist (i.e. Morris, actually not an anthropologist, at least not by training) who came up with this idea (namely, that lips and lipstick mimiced the appearance of the labia) had obviously never seen a vagina in his life. He also, if I recall correctly, attributed this theory to the supposed male-dominated, androcentric nature of the field of anthropology – an odd notion given that Morris is not an anthropologist by training, and cultural anthropology is, in fact, one of the most leftist-dominated, feminist-infested, politically correct fields in the whole of academia, this side of ‘gender studies’, which, in the present, politically-correct world of academia, is saying a great deal.

[15] To test this theory, we might look at other relatively dark-skinned, but non-Negroid, populations. Here, the theory receives, at best, only partial support. Thus, Australian Aboriginals, another dark-skinned but unrelated group, do indeed tend to have quite large lips. However, these lips are not especially everted. 
On the other hand, the dark-skinned Dravidian populations of Southern India are not generally especially large-lipped, but are rather quite Caucasoid in facial morphology, and indeed, like the generally lighter-complexioned, Indo-European speaking, ‘Aryan’ populations of northern India, were generally classified as ‘Caucasoid by most early-twentieth century racial anthropologists.

[16] This theory is rather simpler, and has hence always struck me as more plausible, than the more elaborate, but also more widely championed so-called ‘upsuck hypothesis’, whereby female orgasm is envisaged as somehow functioning to suck semen deeper into the cervix. This idea is largely based on a single study involving two experiments on a single subject (Fox et al 1970). However, two other studies failed to produce any empirical support for the theory (Grafenberg 1950; Masters & Johnson 1966). Baker and Bellis’s methodologically problematic work on what they call ‘flowback’ provides, at best, ambivalent evidence (Baker & Bellis 1993). For detailed critique, see Dixson’s Sexual Selection and the Origins of Human Mating Systems: p74-6.

References 

Baker & Bellis (1993) Human sperm competition: ejaculate manipulation by females and a function for the female orgasm. Animal Behaviour 46:887–909. 
Bowman EA (2008) Why the human penis is larger than in the great apes. Archives of Sexual Behavior 37(3): 361. 
Eals & Silverman (1994) The Hunter-Gatherer theory of spatial sex differences: Proximate factors mediating the female advantage in recall of object arrays. Ethology and Sociobiology 15(2): 95-105.
Fox et al 1970. Measurement of intra-vaginaland intra-uterine pressures during human coitus by radio-telemetry. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility 22:243–251. 
Gallup et al (2004). The human penis as a semen displacement device. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 277–289 
Gallup & Burch (2004). Semen displacement as a sperm competition strategy in humans. Evolutionary Psychology 2:12-23. 
Goetz et al (2005) Mate retention, semen displacement, and human sperm competition: A preliminary investigation of tactics to prevent and correct female infidelity. Personality and Individual Differences 38:749-763 
Goetz et al (2007) Sperm Competition in Humans: Implications for Male Sexual Psychology, Physiology, Anatomy, and Behavior. Annual Review of Sex Research 18:1. 
Grafenberg (1950) The role of urethra in female orgasm. International Journal of Sexology 3:145–148. 
Havlíček et al (2016) Men’s preferences for women’s breast size and shape in four cultures, Evolution and Human Behavior 38(2): 217–226. 
Lynn (1999) Sex differences in intelligence and brain size: A developmental theory. Intelligence 27(1):1-12.
Manning et al (1997) Breast asymmetry and phenotypic quality in women, Ethology and Sociobiology 18(4): 223–236. 
Masters & Johnson (1966) Human Sexual Response (Boston: Little, Brown, 1966) 
Møller et al (1995) Breast asymmetry, sexual selection, and human reproductive success, Ethology and Sociobiology 16(3): 207-219. 
Pawłowski & Żelaźniewicz (2021) The evolution of perennially enlarged breasts in women: a critical review and a novel hypothesis. Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 96(6): 2794-2809. 
Pitnick et al (2006) Mating system and brain size in bats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 273(1587): 719-24. 

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John R Baker’s ‘Race’: “A Reminder of What Was Possible Before the Curtain Came Down”

‘Race’, by John R. Baker, Oxford University Press, 1974.

John Baker’s ‘Race’ represents a triumph of scholarship across a range of fields, including biology, ancient history, archaeology, history of science, psychometrics and anthropology.

First published by Oxford University Press in 1974, it also marks a watershed in Western thought – the last time a major and prestigious publisher put its name to an overtly racialist work.

As science writer Marek Kohn writes:

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

Yet in the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century, when the discipline of anthropology first emerged as a distinct science, the study of race differences in morphology was the central focus of the entire science of anthropology.

Thus, Baker’s ‘Race’ can be viewed as the final summation of the accumulated findings of the ‘old-stylephysical anthropology of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, published at the very moment this intellectual tradition was in its death throes.

Accessibility

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.[4]

Baker’s terminology is also confusing.[5] 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.[6]

At any rate, a similar criticism could surely be levelled at the term ‘Mongoloid’ (or, as Baker prefers, ‘Mongolid’), since Mongolian people are similarly quite atypical of other East Asian populations, and, despite the brief ascendancy of the Mongol Empire, and its genetic impact (as well as that previous waves of conquest by horse peoples of the Eurasian Steppe), were formerly a rather marginal people confined to the arid fringes of the indigenous home range of the so-called Mongoloid race, which had long been centred in China, the self-styled Middle Kingdom.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

Historical Focus

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).[10]

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 ofThe 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.[11]

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.[12]

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:

Only one of the authors, Lapouge, strongly condemns the Jews. Treitschke is moderately anti-Jewish; Chamberlain, Grant and Stoddard mildly so; Gobineau is equivocal” (p59).

The rest of the authors whom he discusses evince, according to Baker, “little or no interest in the Jewish problem”, 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).[13]

Thus, as a character from a Michel Houellebecq novel observes:

All anti-Semites agree that the Jews have a certain superiorityIf 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).

In retrospect, this seems anomalous, especially given that the so-called Nordic race, on whose behalf racial supremacy was most often claimed, actually came relatively late to civilization, which began in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, arriving in Europe only with the Mediterranean civilizations of Greece and Rome, and in Northern Europe later still.

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 supposedrightly or wronglyto 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.[14]

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.[15]

Yet the story of how the theory of racial equality was transformed from a maverick, minority opinion among scientists and laypeople alike into a sacrosanct contemporary dogma which a person, scientist or layperson, can question only at severe cost to their career, livelihood and reputation is surely one worth telling.

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).[16]

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).

On the contrary, the issue remains as incendiary as ever, with the bounds of acceptable opinion seemingly ever narrowing and each year a new face falling before the witch hunters of the  contemporary racial inquisition.

Biology

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 sociobiology and 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.[17]

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.

For one thing, over evolutionary time, one species transforms into another gradually with no abrupt dividing line where one species suddenly becomes another (p69-72). Hence the famous paradox, Which came first: the chicken or the egg?.

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.

This leads Baker to distinguish different species concepts. These include:

  • Species in the paleontological sense” (p72-3);
  • Species in the morphological sense” (p69-72); and
  • Species in the genetical sense”, i.e. as defined by the criterion of interfertility (p72-80).

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).

Thus, later on, Baker claims:

Even a trained anatomist would take some time to sort out correctly a mixed collection of the skulls of Asiatic jackals (Canis aureus) and European red foxes (vulpes vulpes), unless he had made a special study of the osteology of the Canidae; whereas even a little child, without any instruction whatever, could instantly separate the skulls of Eskimids from those of Lappids” (p427).

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.

For one thing, there are the phenomena of ring species, such as the herring gull and lesser black-backed gull.

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).[18]

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).[19]

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.

Possibly blood type incompatibility between mother and developing foetus might be more common in interracial unions due to racial variation in the prevalence of different blood groups.

Also, one study did find a greater prevalence of birth complications, more specifically caesarean deliveries, among Asian women birthing offspring fathered by white men (Nystrom et al 2008).

However, this is a simple reflection of the differences in average stature of between whites and Asians, with smaller-framed Asian women having difficulty 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).[20]

Also, one study from Iceland rather surprisingly found that the highest pregnancy rates were found among couples who were actually quite closely related to one another, namely equivalent to third- or fourth-cousins, with less closely related spouses enjoying reduced pregnancy rates (Helgason et al 2008; see also Labouriau & Amorim 2008).

On the other hand, however, David Reich, in Who We Are and How We Got Here reports that, whereas there was evidence of selection against Neanderthal genes in the human genome (that had resulted from ancient hybridization between anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals) owing to the deleterious effects of these genes, there was no evidence of selection against European genes (or African genes) among African-Americans, a racially-mixed population:

“In African Americans, in studies of about thirty thousand people, we have found no evidence for natural selection against African or European ancestry” (Who We Are and How We Got Here: p48; Bhatia et al 2014).

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.[21]

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.[22]

Only with the invention of technologies facilitating long-distance travel (e.g. ocean-going 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).

Defining Race

Ultimately then, the question of whether the human race is a single species is a purely semantic dispute. 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).

This, Baker argues, is because:

It is the fact that intermediaries do occur that defines the race” (p99).

Thus, in nonhuman species among whom subspecies are recognized, there usually exist similar hybrid or intermediary populations around the boundaries of each distinct subspecies. Indeed, this phenomenon is so recurrent that there is even a biological term for it namely intergradation.

Yet this does not cause biologists to conclude that the subspecies in question either do not exist or that their boundaries are somehow arbitrarily delineated and artificial, let alone that subspecies is a biologically meaningless term.

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.[23]

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.

Rather than alluding to colour terms or hermaphrodites, perhaps a better counterexample, if only because it is certain to provoke annoyance, cognitive dissonance and doublethink among leftist race-denying sociologists, is that of social class. Thus, as biosocial criminologist Anthony Walsh demands:

Is social class… a useless concept because of its cline-like tendency to merge smoothly from case to case across the distribution, or 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.[24]

However, just because the boundaries between racial groups are blurred, this does not mean that the differences between them, whether physiological or psychological, do not exist. To assume otherwise would represent a version of the continuum fallacy or sorties paradox, also sometimes called the fallacy of the heap or fallacy of the beard.

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 IQbrain-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.

In particular, Jared Diamond (1994), in an influential and much-cited paper, argues that racial categories are meaningless because, rather than being classified by skin colour, races could just as easily be grouped on the basis of traits such as the prevalence of genes for sickle-cell or lactose tolerance, which would lead us to adopting very different classifications.

Actually, Baker argues, the importance of colour for racial classification has been exaggerated.

In the classification of animals, zoologists lay little emphasis on differences of colour… They pay far more attention to differences in grosser structure” (p159).

Indeed, he quotes no lesser authority than Darwin himself as observing:

Colour is generally esteemed by the systematic naturalist as unimportant (p148).

African_albino
A Negro albino: Proof that race is more than ‘skin deep’

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).

Likewise, some populations from the Indian subcontinent are very dark in skin tone, yet they are, according to Baker, predominantly Caucasoid (p160), as, he claims, are the Aethiopid subrace of the Horn of Africa (p225).[25]

Thus, Baker laments how:

An Indian, who may show close resemblance to many Europeans in every structural feature of his body, and whose ancestors established a civilization long before the inhabitants of the British Isles did so, is grouped as ‘coloured’ with persons who are very different morphologically from any European or Indian, and whose ancestors never developed a civilization” (p160).

Yet, in contrast, of the San Bushmen of Southern Africa, he remarks:

The skin is only slightly darker than that of the Mediterranids of Southern Europe and paler than that of many Europids whose ancestral home is in Asia or Africa” (p307).

But no one would mistake them for Caucasoid.

What then of the traits, namely the prevalence of the sickle-cell gene or of lactose tolerance, that would, according to Diamond, produce very different taxonomies?

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).

Moreover, he observes, the sickle-cell gene is likely to have “arisen independently in more than one place” (p189). It is therefore evidence, not of common ancestry, but of convergent evolution, or what Baker refers to as “independent mutation” (p189).

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.

The same is true for lactose tolerance, which seems to have evolved independently in different populations in concert with the development of dairy farming, in a form of gene-culture co-evolution.

Indeed, lactose tolerance appears to have evolved through somewhat different genetic mechanisms (i.e. mutations in different genes) in different populations, seemingly a conclusive demonstration that it evolved independently in these different lineages (Tishkoff et al 2007).

As Baker warns:

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.

Thus, for example, authors Vincent Sarich and Frank Miele, in their book Race: The Reality of Human Differences (which I have reviewed here, here and here) observe:

There are two groups of people [i.e. races] with the conbination of dark skin and frizzy hair—sub-Saharan Africans and Melanesians. The latter have often been called Oceanic Negroes,’ implying a special relationship with Africans. The blood-group data, however, show that they are about as different from Africans as they could be” (Race: The Reality of Human Differences: p134).

But Diamond’s proposed classification is even more preposterous than these early pre-Darwinian non-cladistic taxonomic schemes, 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).[26]

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).

Yet, unlike traits resulting from a few alleles, polygenes are not amenable to simple Mendelian analysis.

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).

Finally, Baker even provides a reductio ad absurdum of Diamond’s approach, observing:

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!

Subraces

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.[27]

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.[28] 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.

The Jews

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.[29] 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 conversion), 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.

Thus, in polities beset by ethnic conflict, like Northern Ireland, Lebanon or the former Yugoslavia, religion often comes to represent a marker for ethnicity, and even ostensibly proselytizing religions like Sunni and Shia Islam and Catholicism can come to be like ethnicities, if not races – i.e. reproductively-isolated, endogamous breeding populations.

Having concluded, then, that there is a racial as well as a religious component to Jewish identity, Baker nevertheless stops short of declaring the Jews a race or even what he calls a subrace.

Dismissing the now discredited Khazar hypothesis in a sentence,[30] Baker instead classes the bulk of the world’s Jewish population (i.e. the Ashkenazim) as merely part of “Armenid subrace” of the Europid race” with some “Orientalid” (i.e. Arab) admixture (p242).[31]

Thus, Baker claims:

Persons of Ashkennazic stock can generally be recognised by certain physical characters that distinguish them from other Europeans” (p238).

Jewish_Nose
Baker’s delightfully offensive illustration of Jewish nose shape, taken from Jacobs (1886).

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).[32]

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%.[33]

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 Celts

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.

Regarding the racial characteristics of those inhabitants of pre-Roman Britain who are today called Celts, Baker classifies them as Nordic, writing:

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).[34]

Thus, dismissing the politically-correct notion that the English were, in the words of another author, “true multiracial society”, Baker claims:

“[The] Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Normans, Belgics and… Celts… were not only of one race (Europid) but of one subrace (Nordid).” (p267).

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.[35]

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.

Thus, whereas the Celtic fringe is usually associated with red, auburn or ginger hair, Baker instead emphasizes the greater prevalence of dark hair among the Irish and Welsh:

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).[36]

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.

On this basis, Baker therefore concludes that:

The modern population of Great Britain probably derives mainly from the [insular] ‘Celts’… and Belgae, though a more ancient [i.e. Mediterranean] stock has left its mark rather clearly in certain parts of the country, and the Anglo-Saxons and other northerners made an additional Nordid contribution later on” (p269).

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.[37]

This, of course, further falsifies the politically correct, but absurd notion that the British are a nation of immigrants – which phrase is, of course, itself a recent immigrant from America, in respect of whose population the claim surely has more plausibility.

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.[38]

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!

Australian Aboriginals – a “Primitive” Race?

The next chapter is concerned with Australian Aboriginals, or, as Baker classes them, “Australids”.

In this chapter Baker is primarily concerned with arguing that Aboriginals are morphologically primitive.

Of course, the indigenous inhabitants of what is now Australia were, when Europeans first made contact with them, notoriously backward in terms of their technology and material culture.

For example, Australian Aboriginals are said the only indigenous people yet to have developed the simple bow or bow and arrow; while the neighbouring, and related, indigenous people of Tasmania, isolated from the Australian mainland by rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age but usually classed as of the same race, are said to have lacked even, arguably, the ability to make fire.

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).

Relatedly, Nicholas Wade observes that, whereas there is a general trend towards lighter and less robust bones and skulls over the course of human evolution, something referred to as gracialization, two populations at “the extremities of the human diaspora” seem to have been exempt, or isolated, from this process, namely Aboriginals and the “Fuegians at the tip of the South America” (A Troublesome Inheritance: p167-8).[39]

Of course, to be morphologically ‘primitive’ in this specialist phylogenetic sense entails no necessary pejorative imputations as are often associated with the word ‘primitive’.

However, some phylogentically primitive traits may indeed be indicative of primitive’ technology of indigenous Aboriginals at the time of first contact with Europeans.

For example, tooth size decreased over the course of human evolution as human invented technologies (e.g. cooking, tools for cutting) that made large teeth unnecessary. On this view, the relatively large size of Aboriginal teeth could be associated with the primitive state of their technology.[40]

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.

Thus, Aboriginals have, on average, Baker reports, smaller brains than those of Caucasians, weighing only about 85% as much (p292). The smaller average brain-size of Aboriginals is confirmed by more recent data (Beals et al 1984).

Baker also reviews some suggestive evidence regarding the internal structure of Aboriginal brains, as compared to that of Europeans, notably in the relative positioning of the lunate sulcus, again suggesting similarities with the brains of non-human primates.

In this sense, then, Australian Aboriginals ‘primitivebrains 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.

Bushman_penes
Bushmen’s paedomorphic penes

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.[41]

One example of this supposed paedomorphy is provided by the genitalia of the Sanid males:

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).[42]

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.[43] 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).

Yet this is a curious suggestion since neoteny is usually associated with increased brain growth in humans.

Moreover, other authorities class East Asians as a paedomorphic race, yet they have undoubtedly founded great civilizations and have brains as large as, or, after controlling for body-size, even larger than those of Europeans, and are generally reported to have somewhat higher IQs (see Lynn’s Race Differences in Intelligence: which I have reviewed here).

The Big Butts of Bushmen – or just of Bushwomen?

Bushman_buttocks
Bushwomen’s buttocks (or ‘steatopygia’)

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:

The Hottentots, Korana, and Bushmen are not to be regarded as people adapted by natural selection to desert life” (p318).

However, today, San Bushmen are indeed largely restricted to a desert environment, namely the Kalahari desert.

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.

This seems plausible, given the sexual appeal of ‘big butts even among western populations. However, recent research suggest that it is actually lumbar curvature, or lordosis, an ancient mammalian mating signal, rather than fat deposits in the buttocks as such, that is primarily responsible for the perceived attractiveness of so-called ‘big butts’ (Lewis et al 2015).

This sexual selection hypothesis is, of course, also consistent with the fact that large buttocks among the San seem to be largely, if not entirely, restricted to women.

However, Carleton Coon, in Racial Adaptations: A Study of the Origins, Nature, and Significance of Racial Variations in Humans, suggests alternatively that this sexual dimorphism could instead reflect the caloric requirements of pregnancy and lactation.[44]

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.[45]

Elusive Elongated Labia?

Hottentot apron
The only photographic evidence of the ‘Hottentot apron’?

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.

His evidence, however, is less than compelling, the illustrations included in the text being limited to a full-body photograph in which the characteristic is barely visible (p311) and what seems to be a surely rather fanciful sketch (p315).

Likewise, although a Google image search produces abundant photographic evidence of Khoisan buttocks, their elongated labia prove altogether more elusive.

Perhaps the modesty of Khoisan women, or the prudery and puritanism of Victorian anthropologists and explorers, prevented the latter from recording photographic evidence for this characteristic.

However, it is perhaps telling that, even in this age of Rule 34 of the Internet (If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions), I have been unable to find photographic evidence for this trait.

Racial Superiority

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:

Anyone who accepts it as a self-evident truth, in accordance with the American Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal may properly be asked whether the meaning of the word ‘equal’ is self-evident” (p421).

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.[46]

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, making music, 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).

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.

Thus, sociobiologist Robert Trivers quotes his mentor Bill Druryf as observing during a discussion between the two regarding a possible biological basis for race prejudice:

Bob, once you’ve learnt to think of a herring gull as equal, the rest is easy” (Natural Selection and Social Theory: p57).

However, taken to its logical conclusion, or reductio ad absurdum, this suggests a dung beetle is equal to Beethoven!

From Physiology to Psychology

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.

Measuring Superiority?

In discussing the question of the intellectual and moral superiority of different racial groups, Baker focusses on two lines of evidence in particular:

  1. Different races’ performance in ability and attainment tests;
  2. Different races’ historical track record in founding civilizations.

Baker’s discussion of the former topic is now rather dated.

Recent findings unavailable to Baker include the discovery that East Asians score somewhat higher on IQ tests than do white Europeans (see Race Differences in Intelligence: reviewed here), and also that Ashkenazi Jews score higher still (see The Chosen People: review forthcoming).[47]

Evidence has also accumulated regarding the question of the relative contributions of heredity to racial differences in IQ, including the Minnesota transracial study (Scarr & Weinberg 1976; Weinberg et al 1992) and studies of the effects of racial admixture on IQ using blood-group data (Loehlin et al 1973; Scarr et al 1977), and, most recently, genome analysis (Lasker et al 2019). See also my review of Richard Lynns Race Difference in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Perspective’, posted here.

Readers interested in more recent research on this issue should consult Jensen and Rushton (2005) and Nisbett (2005); or Nicholas Mackintosh’s summary in Chapter Thirteen of his textbook, IQ and Human Intelligence (2nd Ed) (pp324-359); or indeed my own recent review of Richard Lynns Race Difference in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Perspective’, posted here.[48]

Criteria for Civilization and Moral Relativism

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.[49]

The first question, of course, is precisely how one is to define ‘civilizations’ in the first place, itself a highly contentious issue.[50]

Thus, Baker identifies twenty-one criteria for recognising civilizations (p507-8).[51]

In general, these can be divided into two types:

  1. Scientific/technological criteria;
  2. Moral criteria.[52]

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.

However, they would view our social, moral and political values as decadent and we would have no way of proving them wrong.

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.

Meanwhile, the requirement that the people in question “do not practice severe mutilation or deformation of the body”, another moral criterion, could arguably exclude contemporary westerners from the ranks of the ranks of the civilized’, given the increasing prevalence of tattooing, flesh tunnel ear plugs and other forms of extreme bodily modification (not to mention gender reassignment surgery and other non-consensual forms of  genital mutilation) – or perhaps it is merely those among us who succumb to such fads who are not truly civilized.

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.

At any rate, Christian beliefs  regarding miracles, resurrection, the afterlife, the Holy Spirit and so on surely rival those of any other religion when it comes to “gross superstition”.

As for his complaint that the religion of the Mayansdid 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.[53]

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.

Thus, Baker himself views Western civilization as superior to such pre-Columbian mesoamerican civilizations as the Aztecs due to the latter’s practice of mass ritual human sacrifice and cannibalism (p524-5).

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.

Sub-Saharan African Cultures

Baker’s discussion of different groups’ capacity for civilization actually begins before his final section on “Criteria for Superiority and Inferiority” in his four chapters on the race whom Baker terms Negrids – namely, black Africans from south of the Sahara, excluding Khoisan and Pygmies (p325-417).

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,[54] 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).[55]

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).[56]

Also largely absent throughout ‘the secluded area’, according to Baker, were:

In respect of these last two indices of civilization, however, Baker admits a couple of partial, arguable exceptions, which he discusses in the next chapter (Chapter 21). These include the ruins of Great Zimbabwe (p401-9) and a script invented in the nineteenth century (p409-11).[57]

Domesticated Plants and Animals in Africa

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.[58]

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.

As explained by Jared Diamond, annual plants are ideal for human consumption, and for domestication, because:

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).

Yet sub-Saharan Africa, being located closer to the equator, experiences less seasonal variation in climate. As a result, relatively fewer plants are annuals.

However, it is far less easy to explain why sub-Saharan Africans failed to domesticate any wild species of animal, with the possible exception of guineafowl.[59]

After all, Africa is popular as a tourist destination today in part precisely because it has a relative abundance of large wild mammals of the sort seemingly well suited for domestication.[60]

Jared Diamond argues that the African zebra, a close relative of other wild equids that were domesticated, was undomesticable because of its aggression and what Diamond terms its nasty disposition” (Guns, Germs and Steel: p171-2).[61]

However, this is unconvincing when one considers that Eurasians succeeded in domesticating such formidably powerful and aggressive wild species as wolves and aurochs.[62]

Thus, even domesticated bulls remain a physically-formidable and aggressive animal. Indeed, they were favoured adversaries in blood sports such as bullfighting and bull-baiting for precisely this reason.

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.[63]

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.

This then explains why the wheel has actually been independently invented, at most, only a few times in history.

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.

Moreover, even in the absence of a suitable draft animal, wheels remain very useful for transportation purposes e.g. wheelbarrows, pulled rickshaws

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.[64]

Thus, the Sahara Desert, as a relatively impassable obstacle to human movement throughout most of human history and prehistory (a geographic filter”, according to Sarich and Miele) that hence impeded gene flow, has long represented, and to some extent still represents, the boundary between the Caucasoid and Negroid races (Race: The Reality of Human Differences: p210).

What then of writing systems indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa? The wikipedia entry on writing systems of Africa lists several indigenous African writing systems of sub-Saharan Africa.

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).

Thus, excluding the writing systems of North Africa (i.e. Meroitic, Tifinagh and  ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs), Geze seems to have been restricted to the area around the Horn of Africa; Nsibidi to the area around the Gulf of Guinea in modern Nigeria; Adrinka to the coast of West Africa, while the other scripts mentioned in the entry are, like the Vai syllabary, of recent origin.

The only ancient writing system mentioned on this wikipedia page that was found in what Baker calls ‘the secluded area’ of Africa is Lusona. 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.

However, Lusona is described by its wikipedia article as only an ideographic tradition, that function[s] as mnemonic devices to help remember proverbs, fables, games, riddles and animals, and to transmit knowledge”.

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 Geze 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, Geze 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.

Thus, as with the wheel, Europeans themselves probably never independently invented a writing system, the Latin alphabet being derived from Greek script, which was itself developed from the Phoenician alphabet, which, like the wheel, first originated in the Middle East.[65]

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.[66]

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 and 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?

Perhaps one factor impeding the movement of technologies such as the wheel and writing across sub-Saharan Africa in pre-modern times is the relative lack of navigable waterways (e.g. rivers) in the region.

As emphasized by Tim Marshall in his book Prisoners of Geography, rivers in sub-Saharan African tended to be non-navigable, mainly because of the prevalence of large waterfalls that made transport by river a dangerous venture.

Since, in ancient and premodern times, transport by river was, at least in Eurasia, generally easier, safer and quicker than by land, Africas generally non-navigable river system may have ironically impeded the spread throughout Africa even of technologies that were themselves of use primarily for transportation, such as the wheel.

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.

Yet, as we have seen, this is to judge the Mayans by distinctly western moral standards

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.

On the one hand, their achievements in mathematics and astronomy seem impressive.

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).[67]

Thus, Baker concludes:

The mathematics, astronomy, and calendar of the Middle Americans suggest unqualified acceptance into the ranks of the civilized” (p525).

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.

As in respect of sub-Saharan Africa, another factor sometimes cited is the absence of a suitable draft animal.

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 races track record in domesticating non-human animals, including for use as draft animals, is itself indicative of that races 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.[68]

Thus, Jared Diamond in Guns Germs and Steel observes:

Ancient Native Mexicans invented wheeled vehicles with axles for use as toys, but not for transport. This seems incredible to us until we reflect that ancient Mexicans lacked domestic animals to hitch to their wheeled vehicles, which therefore offered no advantage over human porters” (Guns Germs and Steel: p248).

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.

Artistic Achievement

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.

Thus, Baker disparages black African art as non-naturalistic (p381) yet also extols the decorative art of the Celtics, which is mostly non-figurative and abstract (p261-2).

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).[69]

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 worthy successor to Baker’s ‘Race’, incorporating the latest genetic data, has, to my knowledge, yet to be published.

At the conclusion of the first section of his book, dealing with what Baker calls “The Historical Background”, Baker, bemoaning the impact of censorship and what would today be called political correctness and cancel culture on both science and the publishing industry, recommends the chapter on race from a textbook published in 1928 (namely, Contemporary Sociological Theories by Pitirim Sorokin) as “well worth reading”, even then, over forty years later, if only “as a reminder of what was still possible before the curtain went down” (p61).

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”.

__________________________

Endnotes

[1] 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. 

[2] 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).

[3] 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.

[4] 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).

[5] 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 Bakers 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.

[6] 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.

[7] 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.

[8] 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.

[9] 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.

[10] For example, in Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance, this history of the misuse of the race concept comes in Chapter Two, titled ‘Perversions of Science’; in Philippe Rushton’s Race, Evolution and Behavior: A Life History Perspective (which I have reviewed here), this historical account is postponed until Chapter Five, titled ‘Race and Racism in History’; in Jon Entine’s Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About it, it is delayed until Chapter Nine, titled ‘The Origins of Race Science’; whereas, in Sarich and Miele’s Race: The Reality of Human Differences (which I have reviewed here, here and here), these opening chapters discussing the history of racial science expand to fill almost half the entire book.

[11] 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.

[12] Thus, at the time Stoddard authored The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy in 1920, with a large proportion of the world under the control of European colonial empires, a contemporary observer might be forgiven for assuming that what Stoddard called White World-Supremacy, was a stable, long-term, if not permanent arrangement. However, Stoddard accurately predicted the demographic transformation of the West, what some have termed The Great Replacement or A Third Demographic Transition, almost a century before this began to become a reality.

[13] The exact connotations of this passage may depend on the translation. Thus, other translators translate the passage that Manheim translates as The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew instead as The Jew offers the most striking contrast to the Aryan”, which alternative translation has rather different, and less flattering, connotations, given that Hitler famously extols the Aryan as the master race. The rest of the passage quoted remains, when taken in isolation, broadly flattering, however.

[14] To clarify, both Boas and Montagu are briefly mentioned in later chapters. For example, Boass now 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).

[15] 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’s In 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).

[16] 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.

[17] Baker suggests that, at the time he wrote, behavioural differences between pygmy chimpanzees and other chimpanzees had yet to be demonstrated (p113-4). Today, however, pygmy chimpanzees are known to differ behaviourally from other chimps, being, among other differences, less prone to intra-specific aggression and more highly sexed. However, they are now usually referred to as bonobos rather than pygmy chimpanzees, and are recognized as a separate species from other chimpanzees, rather than a mere subspecies.

[18] 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).

[19] 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.

[20] I have found no evidence to support the assertion in some of the older nineteenth-century literature that women of lower races have difficulty birthing offspring fathered by European men, owing to the greater brain- and head-size of European infants. Summarizing this view, contemporary Russian racialist Vladimir Avdeyev in his impressively encyclopaedic Raciology: The Science of the Hereditary Traits of Peoples, claims:

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).

Thus, Avdeyev claims, owing to race differences in brain size:

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).

Thus, Rushton explains elsewhere:

Increasing brain size [over the course of hominid evolution] was associated with a broadening of the pelvis. The broader pelvis provides a wider birth canal, which in turn allows for delivery of larger-brained offspring” (Odyssey: My Life as a Controversial Evolutionary Psychologist: p284-5).

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.

[21] 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).

[22] While they did not directly interbreed with one another, both Northern Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans may, however, each have interbred, to some extent, with their immediate neighbours, who, in turn, interbred with their intermediate neighbours who may, in turn, have interbred indirectly with the other group. There may therefore have been some indirect gene flow even between distantly related populations as Northern Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans, even if no Nordic European ever encountered, let alone mated with, a black African. This creates a situation somewhat analogous to the ring species discussed above. Thus, there was probably some geneflow even across some of the geographic barriers that circumscribe and delineate the ancient boundaries of the great continental macro-races (e.g. the Sahara and the Himalayas). Indeed, there may even have been gene flow between Eurasia and the Americas at the Bering Strait. Only perhaps Australian Aboriginals may to have been completely reproductively isolated for millennia.

[23] 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). 

[24] 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.

[25] 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, summarizing the findings of one study from the late-1990s, Jon Entine reports:

Ethiopians [represent] a genetic mixture of about 60 percent African and 40 percent Caucasian” (Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports And Why We’re Afraid To Talk About It: p115)

The study upon which Entine based this conclusion looked only at mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome data. More recent studies have incorporated autosomal DNA as well. However, while eschewing terms such as Caucasian’, such studies broadly confirm that there exist substantial genetic affinities between populations from the Horn of Africa and the Middle East (e.g. Ali et al 2020Khan 2011aKhan 2011bHodgson 2014).

[26] 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.

[27] 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.

[28] 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).

[29] Baker does, however, acknowledge that:

Some Jewish communities scattered over the world are Jews simply in the sense that they adhere to a particular religion (in various forms); they are not definable on an ethnic basis” (p246).

Here, Baker has in mind various communities that are not either Ashkenazi or Sephardic (or Mizrahi), such as the Beta Israel of Ethiopia, the Lemba of Southern Africa and the Kaifeng Jews resident in China. Although Baker speaks of communities”, the same is obviously true of recent converts to Judaism

[30] 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).

[31] 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).

[32] In Baker’s defence, the illustration in question is actually taken from the work of a Jewish anthropologist, Joseph Jacobs (Jacobs 1886). Jacobs findings this topic are summarized in this entry in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, entitled Nose, authored by Jacobs and Maurice Fishberg, another Jewish anthropologist, which reports that the ‘hook nose’ stereotypically associated with Jewish people is actually found in only a minority of European Jews (Jacobs & Fishberg 1906).
However, such noses do seem to be more common among Jews than among at least some of the host populations among whom they reside. The
wikipedia article on Jewish noses cites this same entry from the Jewish Encyclopaedia as suggesting that the prevalence of this shape of nose is actually no greater among Jews than among populations from the Mediterranean region (hence the supposed similar shape of so-called Roman noses). However, the Jewish Encyclopaedia entry itself does not actually seem to say any such thing. Instead, it reports:

“[As compared with] non-Jews in Russia and Galiciaaquiline and hook-noses are somewhat more frequently met with among the Jews” (Jacobs & Fishberg 1906). 

The entry also reports that, measured in terms of their nasal index, “Jewish noses… are mostly leptorhine, or narrow-nosed” (Jacobs & Fishberg 1906). Similarly, Joseph Jacobs reports in On the Racial Characteristics of Modern Jews’:

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 nearby deserts, or in the Judean mountains, where the earliest distinctively Jewish settlements are thought to have developed. Thus, anthropologist Stephen Molnar writes:

Among desert and mountain peoples the narrow nose is the predominant form” (Human Variation: Races, Types and Ethnic Groups: p196).

As Baker himself observes, the nose width characteristic of a population correlates with both the temperature and humidity of the environment in which they evolved (p310-311). However, he reports, the correlations are much weaker among the indigenous populations of the American continent, presumably because humans only relatively recently populated that continent, and therefore have yet to become wholly adapted to the different environments in which they find themselves (p311).
A further factor affecting nose width is jaw size. This might explain why Australian Aboriginals have extremely wide noses despite much of the Australian landmass being dry and arid, since Aboriginals also have very large jaws (Human Variation: Races, Types and Ethnic Groups: p196).

[33] 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 closeted half-Jewish ancestry, practising what antiSemite Kevin Macdonald 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).

[34] 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.

[35] 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.

[36] Actually, the position with regard to hair and eye colour is rather more complicated. On the one hand, hair colour does appear to be darkest in the ostensibly Celtic’ regions of the British Isles. Thus, Carleton Coon in his 1939 book, The Races of Europe, reports that, with regard to hair colour:

England emerges as the lightest haired of the four major divisions of the British Isles, and Wales as the darkest” (The Races of Europe: p385).

Likewise, Coon reports, that in Scotland:

“Jet black hair is commoner in the western highlands than elsewhere, and is statistically correlated with the greatest survival of Gaelic speech” (The Races of Europe: p387).

However, patterns of eye colour diverge from and complicate this picture. Thus, Coon reports:

“Whereas the British are on the whole lighter-haired than the Irish, they are at the same time darker-eyed” (The Races of Europe: p388).

Indeed, contrary to the notion of the Irish as a people with substantial Mediterranean racial affinities, Coon claims:

There is probably no population of equal size in the world which is lighter eyed, and bluer eyed, than the Irish” (The Races of Europe: p381).

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). 

[37] The genetic continuity of the British people is, for example, a major theme of Stephen Oppenheimer’s The Origins of the British (see also Oppenheimer 2006). It is also a major conclusion of Bryan Sykes’s Blood of the Isles, which concludes:

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).

[38] 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.

[39] Interestingly, in addition to gracialization having occurred least, if at all, in Fuegians and Aboriginals, Wade also reports that:

Gracialization of the skull is most pronounced in sub-Saharan Africans and East Asians, with Europeans retaining considerable robustness (A Troublesome Inheritance: p167).

This is an exception to what Steve Sailer calls ‘Rushton’s Rule of Three (see here) and, given that Wade associates gracialization with domestication and pacification (as well as neoteny), suggests that, at least by this criteria, Europeans evince less evidence of pacification and domestication than do black Africans.

[40] In addition to the fact that larger jaws and teeth for biting and chewing became increasingly unnecessary when our ancestors invented fire for cooking and tools for cutting meat, smaller teeth and jaws may also be associated with increased intelligence and brain-size in another way. Thus, Philippe Rushton argues in Race, Evolution and Behavior (which I have reviewed here) that the size the jaw and teeth is directly related to brain-size. This, he argues, is because: 

As brain tissue expanded it did so at the expense of the temporalis muscles, whichclose 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).

Similarly, leading mid-twentieth century American physical anthropologist Carleton Coon reports that:

The critical differences between [“the ancestors of our living races”] and us lie mostly in brain size versus jaw size – the balance between thinking thoughts and eating foods of various degrees of fineness” (Racial Adaptations: p113).

[41] 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.

[42] 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).

[43] 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.

[44] Thus, anthropologist Carleton Coon, in Racial Adaptations: A Study of the Origins, Nature, and Significance of Racial Variations in Humans, does not even consider sexual selection as an explanation for the evolution of Khoisan steatopygia, despite their obviously dimorphic presentation. Instead, he proposes:

“[Bushman’s] famous steatopygia (fat deposits that contain mostly fibrous tissue) may be a hedge against scarce nutrients and draught during pregnancy and lactation” (Racial Adaptations: p105). 

[45] Others, however, notably Desmond Morris in The Naked Ape (which I have reviewed here and here), have implicated sexual selection in the evolution of the human female’s permanent breasts. The two hypotheses are not, however, mutually exclusive. Indeed, they may be complementary. Thus, Nancy Etcoff in Survival of the Prettiest (which I have reviewed here and here) proposes that breasts may be perceived as attractive by men precisely because they honestly advertise the presence of the fat reserves needed to sustain a pregnancy” (Survival of the Prettiest: p187). By analogy, the same could, of course, also be true of fatty buttocks.

[46] Thus, Baker demands rhetorically:

Who could conceivably fail to distinguish between a Sanid and a Europid, or between an Eskimid [Eskimo] and a Negritid [Negrito], or between a Bambutid (African Pygmy) or an Australid [Australian Aboriginal]?

[47] 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 of spatio-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).

[48] Rushton and Jensen (2005) favour the hereditarian hypothesis vis a vis race differences in intelligence, and their presentation of the evidence is biased somewhat in this direction. Nisbett’s rejoinder therefore provides a good balance, being very much biased in the opposite direction. Macintosh’s chapter is perhaps more balanced, but he still clearly favours an environmental explanation with regard to population differences in intelligence, if not with regard to individual differences. My own post on the topic is, of course, naturally enough, the most thorough and balanced treatment of this topic, at least in my opinion.

[49] 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.

[50] 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?

[51] The full list of criteria for civilization provided by Baker is as follows:

  1. In the ordinary circumstances of life in public places they cover the external genitalia and greater part of the trunk with clothes” (p507);
  2. They keep the body clean and take care to dispose of its waste elements” (p507);
  3. They do not practice severe mutilation or deformation of the body” (p507);
  4. They have knowledge of building in brick or stone, if the necessary materials are available in their territory” (p507);
  5. Many of them live in towns or cities, which are linked by roads” (p507);
  6. “They cultivate food plants” (p507);
  7. They domesticate animals and use some of the larger ones for transportif suitable species are available (p507);
  8. They have knowledge of the use of metals, if these are available” (p507);
  9. They use wheels” (p507);
  10. They exchange property by the use of money” (p507);
  11. 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);
  12. They permit accused people to defend themselves and call witnesses” (p507);
  13. They do not use torture to extract information or punishment” (p507);
  14. They do practice cannibalism” (p507);
  15. The religious systems include ethical elements and are not purely or grossly superstitious” (p507);
  16. They use a script… to communicate ideas” (p507);
  17. There is some facility in the abstract use of numbers, without consideration of actual objects” (p507);
  18. A calendar is in use” (p508);
  19. “[There are] arrangements for the instruction of the young in intellectual matters” (p508);
  20. There is some appreciation of the fine arts” (p508);
  21. Knowledge and understanding are valued as ends in themselves” (p508).

[52] 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 in towns 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 of roads 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.

[53] Indeed, even the former Bishop of Edinburgh apparently agrees (see his book, Godless Morality: Keeping Religion out of Ethics). The classic thought-experiment used by moral philosophers to demonstrate that morality does not derive from God’s commandments is to ask devout believers whether, if, instead of commanding Thou shalt not kill, God had instead commanded Thou shalt kill, would they then consider killing a moral obligation? Most people, including devout believers, apparently concede otherwise. In fact, however, the hypothetical thought-experiment is not as hypothetical as many moral philosophers, and many Christians, seem to believe, as various passages in the Bible do indeed command mass killing and genocide (e.g. Deuteronomy 20: 16-17; Samuel 15:3; Deuteronomy 20: 13-14), and indeed rape too (Numbers 31:18).

[54] For example, in IQ and Racial Differences (1973), former president of the American Psychological Association and confirmed racialist Henry E Garrett claims:

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).

[55] These explorers included David Livingston, the famous missionary, and Francis Galton, the infamous eugenicist, celebrated statistician and all-round Victorian polymath, in addition to Henry Francis FlynnPaul Du ChailluJohn Hanning Speke, Samuel Baker (the author John R Baker’s own grand-uncle) and George August Schweinfurth (p343).

[56] 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.

[57] 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 possibly part-Jewish Lemba 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).

[58] 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).

[59] 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). 

[60] The relative absense of large wild mammals outside of sub-Saharan Afirca may partly be because such mammals have been driven to extinction or had their numbers depleted 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.

[61] Of course, rather conveniently for Diamonds 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.

[62] 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.

[63] 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 Diamonds 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.

[64] With regard to the racial affinities of the ancient Egyptians, a source of some controversy in recent years, Baker concludes that, contrary to the since-popularized Afrocentrist Black Athena hypothesis, the ancient Egyptians were predominantly, but not wholly, Caucasoid, and that “the Negrid contribution to Egyptian stock was a small one” (p518). Indeed, there is presumably little doubt on this question, since, according to Baker, there is an abundance of well-preserved skulls from Egypt, not least due to the practice of mummifying corpses and thus:

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).

Similarly, in Race: the Reality of Human Differences (reviewed here, here and here), Sarich and Miele, claiming that Egyptian monuments are not mere ‘portraits but an attempt at classification’”, report that the Egyptians painted themselves as red, Asiatics or Semites as yellow, Southerns or Negroes” as black, and “Libyans, Westerners or Northerners” as “white, with blue eyes and fair beards” (Race: the Reality of Human Differences: p33).
Thus, if not actually black, neither were the ancient Egyptians exactly white either, as implausibly claimed by contemporary Nordicist Arthur Kemp, in his books, Children of Ra: Artistic, Historical, and Genetic Evidence for Ancient White Egypt and March of the Titans: The Complete History of the White Race.
In the latter work, Kemp contends that the ancient Egyptians were originally white, being part-Mediterranean (the Mediterranean race itself being now largely extinct, according to Kemp), but governed by a Nordic elite. Over time, however, he contends that they interbred with imported black African slaves and Semitic populations from the Middle East and hence the population was gradually transformed and hence Egyptian civilization degenerated.
This is, of course, a version of de Gobineau’s infamous theory that great empires inevitably decline because, through their imperial conquests, they subjugate, and hence ultimately interbreed with, the inferior peoples whom they have conquered (as well as with inward migrants attracted by higher living standards), which interbreeding supposedly dilutes the very racial qualities that permitted their original imperial glories.
Interestingly, consistent with Kemp’s theory, there is indeed some evidence that of an increase in the proportion of sub-Saharan African ancestry in Egypt since ancient times (Schuenemann et al 2017).
However, this same study demonstrating an increase in the proportion of sub-Saharan African ancestry in Egypt also showed that, contrary to Kemp’s theory, Egyptian populations always had close affinities to Middle Eastern populations (including Semites), and, in fact, owing to the increase in sub-Saharan African ancestry, and despite the Muslim conquest, actually had closer affinities to Near Eastern populations in ancient times than they do today (Schuenemann et al 2017).
Importantly, this study was based on DNA extracted from mummies, and, since mummification was a costly procedure that was almost always restricted to the wealthy, it therefore indicates that even the Egyptian elite were far from Nordic even in ancient times, as implausibly claimed by Kemp.
To his credit, Kempt does indeed amass some remarkable photographic evidence of Egyptian tomb paintings and monuments depicting figures, according to Kemp intended to represent Egyptians themselves, with blue eyes and light hair and complexions.
Admitting that Egyptian men were often depicted with reddish skin, he dismisses this as an artistic convention:

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:

Microscopic inspection of the roots of the hair revealed that Ramses was originally a redhead” (The Encyclopedia of Mummies: p153).

Brier also confirms, again as claimed by Kemp, that one especially ancient predynastic mummy, displayed in the British Museum, was indeed nicknamed Ginger on account of its hair colour (The Encyclopedia of Mummies: p64). However, whether this was the natural hair colour of the person when alive is not clear.
At any rate, even if both Ginger and Ramses the Great were indeed natural redheads, in this respect they appear to have been very much the exception rather than the rule. Thus, Baker himself reports 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).

In short, ancient Egyptians, including Pharaohs and other elites, though certainly not black, were not really exactly white either, and certainly far from Nordic. Despite the increase in sub-Saharan African ancestry and the probable further influx of Middle Eastern DNA owing the Muslim conquest, they probably resembled modern Egyptians, especially the indigenous, Christian Copts.

[65] The same is true of the earlier runic alphabets of the Germanic peoples, the Paleohispanic scripts of the Iberian peninsula, and presumably also of the undeciphered Linear A alphabet that was in use at the outer edge of the European continent during the Bronze Age.

[66] 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.

[67] 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.

[68] 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.

[69] 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 onetwo’ 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.

________________________

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