Taboo and Genetics

Taboo and Genetics
Catalog # SKU1334
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Phyllis Blanchard & M. M. Knight & Iva Peters


Taboo and Genetics A Study Of The Biological
Sociological And Psychological
Foundation Of The Family

M. M. Knight, Ph.D.
Iva Lowther Peters, Ph.D.
Phyllis Blanchard, Ph.D.

In order to have a thoroughly comprehensive survey of the institutions connected with sexual relationships and the family and their entire significance for human life, it is also necessary to approach them from the ethnological and psychological points of view. The influence of the primitive sex taboos on the evolution of the social mores and family life has received too little attention in the whole literature of sexual ethics and the sociology of sex.


That these old customs have had an inestimable influence upon the members of the group, modern psychology has recently come to recognize. It therefore seems advantageous to include these psychological findings in the same book with the discussion of the sex taboos and other material with which it must so largely deal.

These fields-biology, ethnology, and psychology-are so complicated and so far apart technically, although their social implications are so closely interwoven, that it has seemed best to divide the treatment between three different writers, each of whom has devoted much study to his special phase of the subject. This leads to a very simple arrangement of the material. The first part deals with the physical or biological basis of the sex problem, which all societies from the most primitive to the most advanced have had and still have to build upon. The second part deals with the various ideas man has developed in his quest for a satisfactory adaptation of this physical basis to his own requirements. Part three attempts to analyze the effect of this long history of social experimentation upon the human psyche in its modern social milieu.

In the social evolution of the human mind, the deepest desires of the individual have been often necessarily sacrificed to the needs of the group. Sometimes they have been unnecessarily sacrificed, since human intelligence is, unfortunately, not omniscient. Nevertheless, the sum total of human knowledge has now become great enough so that it is at least well to pause and take account of its bearing on the age-old problem of family life, in order that our evolution henceforth may be guarded by rational control rather than trial and error in so far as is possible.

Such a summarization of our actual knowledge of the biology, sociology and psychology of the foundations of the family institution this book aims to present, and if it can at the same time suggest a starting point for a more rationalized system of social control in this field, its purpose will have been accomplished.

When we think of a man or woman, we think of an individual only one of whose innumerable activities-reproduction-is carried on by germ-cells, and this one only at the very beginning of the life of a new individual. Human societies, needless to remark, are not organized by germplasms, but by brains and hands-composed of body cells. If these brains and hands-if human bodies-did not wear out or become destroyed, we should not need to trouble ourselves so much about the germplasm, whose sole function in human society is to replace them.

Since the individual human bodies and minds which seek after the things to which we mortals attach value-moral worth, esthetic and other pleasure, achievement and the like-do have to be replaced every few years, the germplasms from which new individuals must come have always been and always will be of fundamental importance. It is always the product of the germplasm which concerns us, and we are interested in the germ-cells themselves only in relation to their capacity to produce individuals of value to society.

So let us not go erring about in the philosophical ether, imagining that because the amoeba may not be specialized for anything over and above nutrition and reproduction that these are necessarily the "main business" or "chief ends" of human societies.

Better say that although we have become developed and specialized for a million other activities we are still bound by those fundamental necessities. As to "Nature's purposes" about which the older sex literature has had so much to say, the idea is essentially religious rather than scientific. If such "purposes" indeed exist in the universe, man evidently does not feel particularly bound by them. We do not hesitate to put a cornfield where "Nature" had a forest, or to replace a barren hillside by the sea with a city.

Necessities and possibilities, not "purposes" in nature, claim our attention-reproduction being one of those embarrassing necessities, viewed through the eyes of man, the one evaluating animal in the world. Thus in reasoning from biology to social problems, it is fundamental to remember that man as an animal is tremendously differentiated in functions, and that most of the activities we look upon as distinctively human depend upon the body rather than the germ-cells.

It follows that biology is the foundation rather than the house, if we may use so crude a figure. The solidity of the foundation is very important, but it does not dictate the details as to how the superstructure shall be arranged.

Civilization would not be civilization if we had to spend most of our time thinking about the biological basis. If we wish to think of "Nature's" proscriptions or plans as controlling animal life, the anthropomorphism is substantially harmless. But man keeps out of the way of most of such proscriptions, has plans of his own, and has acquired considerable skill in varying his projects without running foul of such biological prohibitions.

190+ pages - 8 x 5 inches SoftCover


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