The Human Imperative
by Alexander Alland, Jr.

An attack on the theory of innate human aggression espoused by Konrad Lorenz, Robert Ardrey, and Desmond Morris. (Of these three, Morris knows the most about evolutionary theory and primates.) The author also defends anthropology against Morris's criticism of anthropologists who concentrate on studying backward, dead-end, and irrelevant tribes.
"The argument that evolution is a directed process, guided by some greater wisdom, is contradicted by the existence of so many "mistakes" in the history of plant and animal development." (15)

"... it is only among humans that an individual will sacrifice himself for a nonrelative." (58)

"The capacity for empathy and morality exists in man as a byproduct of both his genetic structure and his social existence. Any particular expression of morality will be defined by culture." (58) Or by individual thought.

"The "sexiness" of man is subservient not to reproduction alone (for old primate patterns would suffice for this) but to the process of maintaining bonds between males and females which in turn, if they are stable, can help maintain group unity and reduce jealousy." (83)

"... humans may fight defensively or may be led to believe that they are doing so. Animals cannot be fooled because they have no culture." (131)

"Genes are responsible for man's capacity to acquire culture. ... while genes may provide different probabilities for behavior they do not produce the actual behavior itself." (151)

"Human infants cannot survive alone for very long without nurturance. The nurturance period is also the time at which the central nervous system matures. Lasting patterns of social behavior are developed during this stage." (162)

"The romantic fallacy is wrong, but no more wrong than the concept of original sin. The evidence tells us that man is not driven by instincts but rather that he is born with a set of capacities, potentials which are developed or thwarted and given direction by early learning and the cultural process." (165)

Year Read: 1997

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