Book Review: Sex at Dusk

I just finished reading Sex at Dusk, independent scholar Lynn Saxon's reply to Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha's book Sex at Dawn, which I reviewed last month. This book fills in the biggest gap in my original review, so I wanted to say some more about it.When I originally read Dawn, I thought that Ryan and Jetha's strongest argument was the existence of the South American tribal societies that believe in partible paternity, the idea that a child can have more than one biological father. … [Read more...]

Book Review: Sex at Dawn, Part II

(See part 1 here.)Primitive WarfareAs part of the sex-as-social-glue hypothesis, SaD asserts that pre-state societies were universally peaceful. The book argues that in a hunter-gatherer society with no possessions and no fixed resource base, rival groups would have nothing to fight about [p.183].But this claim flies in the face of the evidence. As I wrote about in my review of The Better Angels of Our Nature, it's inevitable that evolution would produce creatures with the capacity … [Read more...]

Book Review: Sex at Dawn

ForbiddenFruit

Summary: An interesting but sloppy argument that would have been much improved by more careful use of evolutionary reasoning.Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, is a bestselling science book that sets out to present a radically new model of human prehistory. The authors' thesis is that, prior to the invention of agriculture, the human species lived in small, roaming hunter-gatherer bands that had no notion of personal property or privacy. In these tribal societies, they say, … [Read more...]

Forward Thinking: Teenagers and Sex

ForbiddenFruit

Two of my new colleagues at Patheos, Libby Anne and Dan Fincke, have recently launched Forward Thinking: A Values Development Project, a collaborative discussion in the spirit of the old blog carnivals. This week's conversational prompt is, "What would you tell teenagers about sex?"Now, I'm not encouraging teenagers to have sex, because (1) no one should be pushed to have sex before they, themselves, have decided that they're physically and emotionally ready; and (2) it doesn't really matter … [Read more...]

Video: My Dating and Relationships Panel at Skepticon V

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     As I mentioned earlier, I took part in a discussion panel at Skepticon V last month, How Should Rationalists Approach Relationships and Marriage?The video of that panel is now available online, so if you'd like to see it, enjoy:Thanks to Jesse Galef for inviting me to participate, and thanks as well to my fellow panelists Chana Messinger, Matt Dillahunty, and Julia Galef. We'll have to do this again sometime... like maybe next year! … [Read more...]

In Defense of Sex

The birth-control battle that's dominated headlines for the past few weeks seems to be winding down, as religious conservatives belatedly realize it's not a winning issue for them. But given how the American religious right continues to contract into a hard, embittered core, I doubt it's the last time this will come up. I had some thoughts on how this battle played out in the media, and how we should prepare for the next one. In the thick of the fight, many people pointed out, rightly, that … [Read more...]

Perfecting Man’s Moral Shortcomings

In the Book of Exodus, there's a bizarrely out-of-place story that I've always found hilarious. This is immediately after God has told Moses that he's going to be God's messenger to Pharaoh, listing all the signs and wonders Moses will be able to do to convince the Egyptians of his authority, and sent him on his way:"At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah [Moses' wife] took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: December 18

In top news this week, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And in other news: • A paper in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that the HPV vaccine doesn't change girls' later sexual behavior. • A new survey by the Pew Center finds that the percentage of Americans who consider religion "very important", though still far greater than in Europe, has declined by 9% in the last 9 years. • And on a related note, the Institute for the Study of Secularism in … [Read more...]

Sex and Taboos in Orthodox Judaism

In the past, I've poked fun at the Catholic church for the logical contortions it goes through to get around the problems it creates for itself with its nonsensical decrees about sex. But the Catholics are far from the only sect that has laughably ridiculous rules about sex, nor are they the only sect that goes to absurd ends to get around the problems those rules create. So, today I'm going to write about a particularly hilarious example which, like the last one, I first heard about from my … [Read more...]

Sex and Sensibilities

By Richard Hollis (aka Ritchie)Being a documentary fanboy, I've lately stumbled across a couple of interesting histories on the topic of sex, which have set me thinking about what shape our attitudes to it, so forgive me coming over all Carrie Bradshaw.Many early European cultures had a decidedly celebratory attitude to sex. Ancient Egyptians practised public fertility rituals which included open masturbation. The homes of ancient Romans were liberally adorned with explicit images of sexual … [Read more...]


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