2 of 4: EcoSex @ U Conn – Ryan and Jetha’s Sex at Dawn – Student Responses: Michael’s Take
The EcoSex course at U Conn is complete. It was a great experience. We spent time reading amazing books. And here we resume posts to be shared with you. Thinking out of the box and across disciplines. Students had been sending their responses in, with discussion questions. In class, we did connected the dots: a holograph of what we’ve read together, the “required readings.” Multiple perspectives and good synergy. Here, we offer a glimpse. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha’s Sex at Dawn was one of two cultural-theory theory books. We got five responses: from Adam, Michael, Alissa, John, and Rhiann.
I enjoyed Sex at Dawn as it provides an interesting bridge point between a lot of the ideas discussed by authors like Margulis in terms of evolutionary history and the history of
cooperation and those of authors like Diamond and the broader readings about eco-sexuality, polyamory, and sexual fluidity.
One aspect that permeates the book though that I don’t necessarily agree with is their arguments about selfishness and cooperation and their criticism of Richard Dawkins’s seminal work The Selfish Gene. While Dawkins certainly does extrapolate his arguments about genetic evolution to explain selfishness in individuals, I think they misrepresent his article. The fundamental selfish actor in Dawkins hypothesis is DNA. He sees the ever-increasing complexity and superfluousness of genetic sequences in organisms as being the selfishness of DNA. He isn’t saying that humans possess a gene that encodes selfishness, but rather that life is the consequence of nucleic acid bases wanting to propagate themselves selfishly and that any selfishness we exhibit is a consequence of that.
I further disagree with their notion that selfishness and cooperation aren’t both engrained into us on an evolutionary basis. Early humans had to cooperate within their clans but ultimately treated competing clans in a manner we’d deem selfish. I think ultimately it would be most beneficial if we treated everybody as a clan member and cooperated, but a selfish desire to propagate our clans DNA over that of another clan is something I think that has been a part of our nature for a long time and that we cannot escape.
Do you agree with their interpretation of jealousy in popular music?
Let “nature” be your teacher in the arts of love. Education is the heart of democracy, education to love. Come back for more wonders: Students Responses have resumed, to appear now every Tuesday. More Book Reports to be scheduled soon, every other Thursday.
Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD
Gilf Gaia Extraordinaire
Author of Gaia,Eros, and many other books about loveProfessor of Humanities