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The Descent of Woman

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  359 ratings  ·  50 reviews
This pioneering work, first published in 1972 and revised in 1985, was the first to argue, intelligently and irrefutably, the equal role of women in human evolution. The book's influence has been profound and lasting - on the terminology used by students of prehistoric anthropology, on the theory of evolution and, above all, on the biblically fostered attitudes towards wom ...more
Paperback, 0 pages
Published January 1st 1972 by Madison Books
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Sariah
Morgan's theory on how human's evolved and how bipedalism developed are contraversal but her writing style is great. Even if you don't agree with her, or accept any of her arguments, the book is still informative and enjoyable to read.
Nicole
While written primarily as an amusing rebuttal to the poor reasoning of the book, The Naked Ape, it also turns to review an older hypothesis concerning the evolutionary pressures that shaped the hominins.
Morgan has some points she makes well but she is not trying to pretend she is a physical anthropologist. Her arguments are flawed but the basic concept is sound and has acquired a great deal of supporting evidence for hominins having spent a great deal of time in and around the shore for huntin
...more
Corry Hinckley
This completely changed the way I interpret information from most fields of science. This book somehow made it okay for me to assume that there are probably many many ways to investigate scientific mysteries (especially of the prehistoric variety)and absolutely no way to know what happened. It didn't make me more or less cynical, but it offered me the space to assume that the blanks filled in by scientists are more like an artist's representation based on personal experiences and biases. This bo ...more
Jessica
Awesome. Sparked to read it by its mention in A Bone from a Dry Sea and my sudden need to be a feminist anthropologist. My very mediocre bio teacher was offended that I included theories from this book in a project on evolutionary stages, and wrote a nasty comment on my poster about only including 'accepted theories' in the future. Accepted by whom, punk? A theory's a theory, no matter how small.
Alice
I chose this from my brother's bookshelf when he was in high school. I was looking for a trashy novel. It was an incredibly provocative anthropology book!
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Pj
At the beginning of the real Women's Lib movement, elaine Morgan took a serious risk and wrote this science book. In a part of the world then dominated almost solely by males, it took a lot of guts to write this piece, much of which is only now, some 40 years later, being vindicated and verified as having value. Her vision that the human species did not evolve because of testosterone but more probably because of estrogen was revolutionary in its day. A Good book for those who want to explore all ...more
Diane
This is the book that I have had to replace most often after loaning it out... and having it not return. It was a wonderful antidote to the prevailing views of "The Naked Ape" and continues to provide me with some wonderful ideas, though I read it many years ago.
Cat
This book was a ground breaker when it was first published. It remains one to this day.
Carol
Very entertaining read. She's so outraged at the sexism in anthropology, both popular and academic, that she made me angry too. I loved how she analyzed the evidence and came up with very different conclusions than those of the anthropological mainstream. In her view, women, sex, pregnancy and child rearing were much more important than we had been told. Which makes sense to me, child rearing especially. Because animals who can't raise their children to childbearing age don't pass on their genes ...more
Judith Johnson
I wrote Elaine Morgan a fan letter after reading this book, and I still treasure her handwritten reply. Wonderful Welshwoman, talented and humble, who lived in the valleys all her life.
Emily Spence Place
I read this book several years ago and while I don't believe all of Morgan's assertions, I found it refreshing to read an alternate view of our evolution. She recently gave a TED talk which can be viewed here.
Glynda-lee Hoffmann
One of the funniest, educational books still in print. Elaine Morgan turned the scientific world on its head by telling the story of evolution from the woman's point of view. Thirty years later not one scientist has bothered to respond to her thesis, though she is finally getting recognition elsewhere.
Rhonda
You want to know why women have breasts? Always thought it was to make us sexier to our men? Think again. The aquatic theory of evolution, which absolutely holds water, told from a feminist perspective. Taught me everything I every wanted to know about why humans are the way we are.
Phatchick
Elaine Morgan has an interesting argument for an alternative theory of human evolution.
Chrisl
Imagine you are a member of mankind's first tribe to explore the east coast of southeast asia, frequently feasting on young sea cows.

Morgan's orientation starts with the aquatic theory of human evolution developed by Professor Sir Alister Hardy. During humankind’s evolution, the species was strongly influenced by living along coastlines.

quotes

“There were thousands of seabirds nesting on the cliffs, and as she had a firm handgrip and a good head for heights she filled another empty ecological ni
...more
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Tom Schulte
Basically, her proposition is that hominid evolutionary thought is all male-centered and thus ignores obvious physiological and behavioral evidence that suggests a semi-aquatic hominid period during the millions of years of Pliocene drought. I don’t know enough evolutionary biology to pick a side, but I love reading her sassy and well-considered retorts to conventional evolutionary models.

I can't say I am convinced Morgan's innovations on basic evolutionary theory are completely convincing, but
...more
Kaethe
A really thought-provoking and interesting idea that turns out to be wrong. But, hey, that's how science works. People come up with crazy or rational reasons for why something might be, and people come up with ways to test the ideas, and people critique those tests, and people do new tests, and eventually the answer becomes clear.

So, read, consider, and also check out http://www.aquaticape.org/.
thegift
i have not thought much about physical anthropology since an undergrad course at u- many many years ago. i have no idea where the conversation is now re. evolution of hominids, but this does suggest some avenues of study, whether they were followed i do not know...

easy to read, a bit of a historical document as far as gender goes, but it is not like by now we men are so much more enlightened... working from limited physical sources, as anyone in this field does, seems like her arguments and exte
...more
Ongakuize
Elaine Morgan had me literally laughing out loud at some of the shit male evolutionists have said. This book wildly exceeded my expectations; being fun to read, informative about evolution and feminism both, and also making me rethink some of my own ideas about feminism (which I am, admittedly, only just figuring out for myself). I'm not sure how relevant these ideas are today, but even if they've been disproved the book is great in that it showcases the downfalls of androcentric thinking and wi ...more
Ellie
It's not often I read a book and think 'everyone should read this' but this is one of them. A fascinating and compelling theory, well and wittily written and with a light touch over some heavy ground that made it a joy to devour. I regret that I only learned of this book and its author from her recent obituary. I should dearly have loved to have written and thanked her for this wonderfully enlightening and entertaining read.
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Welsh feminist and proponent of the aquatic ape evolution theory, which claims that mankind evolved from sea-based apes.

Morgan was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours for services to literature and to education.
More about Elaine Morgan...
The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (Condor Independent Voices) The Scars of Evolution/What Our Bodies Tell Us about Human Origins The Descent of the Child: Human Evolution from a New Perspective The Naked Darwinist: Questions About Human Evolution Aquatic Ape

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“subordination and explain her inferiority; for even as a copy she was not a very good copy. There were differences. She was not one of His best efforts. There is a line in an old folk song that runs: ’I called my donkey a horse gone wonky.’ Throughout most of the” 0 likes
“holy scripture was believed to justify her subordination and explain her inferiority; for even as a copy she was not a very good copy. There were differences. She was not one of His best efforts. There is a line in an old folk song that runs: ’I called my donkey a” 0 likes
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