by Dan Savage
on Thu, Jul 8, 2010 at 9:48 AM
Sloggers are jumping all over Sex At Dawn—most without bothering to read it—and last last night one of the book's authors has jumped into this comments thread to respond to some of the critics:
Hi. Chris Ryan, co-author of Sex at Dawn here. Thought I'd join the party, if that's ok. I can clarify a few points that have been raised, starting with the most important: Dan is not getting a cut! No way, no how. Now, with that out of the way...
— Our approach takes what we consider to be the strongest aspects of Evolutionary Psychology (some of the methodology) to dispute what the weakest (the fairy-tale telling). Hard core followers of EP will hate the book because we question their central narrative: men have always traded meat and protection for female sexual access and fidelity, and this is the origin of the nuclear family. So our book certainly can't be considered a standard EP text.
— Those who've questioned whether we "prove" anything, are right. At most, we hope we make a compelling case, but it's true that in these sorts of matters, scientists never consider anything "proven."
— We are definitely not the first to argue that humans didn't evolve in a monogamous social context, but most of those who have made similar points before argued that our ancestors were polygynous (one alpha male with several females—like gorillas). Very few have argued that our ancestors probably followed a multi-male/multi-female mating system. (But certainly others have, whom we cite in our book.)
— The Moral Animal is a great book, very informative and beautifully written. In fact, it's the book that first got me interested in this material back when it first came out. We dispute some of what Wright presents there, but we highly recommend his book.
— Finally, as Dan points out here, we're not recommending any particular response to the information we present in our book, other than a deepened sense of self-knowledge, more sincere conversations with potential mates, and (perhaps) better-informed decisions about the best path forward. I seriously doubt many people marry intending to cheat on their husband/wife or that many men decided to become priests already planning to abuse kids. But when we put ourselves in situations that deny and distort these essential aspects of our being, we get into trouble pretty quickly. Our ambition for Sex at Dawn is to help at least some people avoid all this unnecessary suffering.
Thanks for your interest, and thanks to Dan for plugging our book (for free!).