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The Descent of Woman: The Classic Study of Evolution [Paperback]

Elaine Morgan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2001
This pioneering work, originally published in 1972, was the first to argue irrefutably the equal role of women in human evolution.

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About the Author

Elaine Morgan is the author of The Aquatic Ape.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Text offers little if any scientific merit... July 15 2002
The book was an interesting enough read to keep in my library, but I would not consider it a legitimate argument for the Aquatic Ape Theory - nor, specifically, for the aquatically influenced evolution of the human female and the proceeding ramifications. It approaches the issue in a simplistic, unscientific manner that is not at all convincing. Keeping in mind that this book is dated (having been first published in 1972) could not save it's argument either. The Descent of Woman left just me as I was before and I'll be looking further still for writings on the subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The only reason I give it four stars is because of its schizophrenic attempt to be both an anthropological study of evolution and a socio-political feminist tract. When I first heard the Aquatic Ape theory, it felt so truthful and explained so much, by Occam's Razor it immediately became my belief. But it was so disappointing to see the theory mangled into weak support for the cheesy, dated "descent of women" hypothesis of the prehistoric origins of female disenfranchisement. On the other hand, the discussion of current events in culture and feminism stands out as a balanced, mature and eerily prescient analysis, in stark contrast to the more lunatic ravings of that era. It is also remarkable as another chapter in the long history of cross-disciplinary assaults on acadame. This book is a fine example of another outsider who shifted the paradigm right out from under the curmudgeonly feet of an arrogant and insular discipline. Furthermore, Morgan's open and accessible style is a solid blow against a body of literature whose stilted prose obfuscates some of the poorest reasoning in modern science. This literary classic of amateur science should be required reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
In 1980 I bought this book thinking it was a feminist tract but once I began to read I was entranced and thoroughly enjoyed her writing. Her "new" theory of evolution began with her reading of Morris' book and his mention of Sir Alister Hardy's idea that somewhere along the line our ancestors spent a great deal of time in an aquatic environment. I had read that information in Desmond's book but unlike Ms. Morgan, I didn't put much weight on it until I read her book. She covers every facet of evolution that no one can explain by "Man the Great Hunter" theory. Her explaination of everything from our nose (so different than the other "great apes") to our power of speech (do hunters really yell while they are stalking prey?) are covered in this book. I highly recommend this book (The Descent of Woman) even if you aren't into anthropology because Elaine Morgan is a witty and thorough writer. Her next book, "The Aquatic Ape", covers the response to "The Descent of Woman" but it's out of print.I wish they would re-issue the second book (The Aquatic Ape) because in it professionals in various disciplines (geology, biology, anthropology, etc.) found places that could have been the origination of our very aquatic species.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I encountered this book as a male undergraduate at Harvard University in the early 1980's majoring in Biological Anthropology. What a revelation to find an alternative hypothesis to the one's we had been studying -- an altogether different explanation for the traits that make us uniquely human. Elaine Morgan's popularization of the idea that Homo sapiens passed through a long aquatic phase and that the activities of women had a more influential role in our phylogeny than the old "man the mighty hunter of the savannah" model may have caused the single greatest epiphany in my undergraduate career. The repercussions are still echoing in my work today (an educational docu-drama we are producing with inner city students in Los Angeles called "mammals of the ocean" contains a music video inspired by this book -- explaining each human trait by comparing us with marine mammals and explaining how selection pressures operating on child bearers really affect evolution.) The book also transformed me into a "feminist" (though persistently macho) male. Read it guys..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evolution with logic! June 13 2000
This book left me feeling cheated, deeply and utterly cheated - that my Anthropology major had never mentioned, never once even alluded to the Aquatic Ape theory or to Elaine Morgan. This is the most sensible, logical explanation of how the human has evolved. As a feminist Anthropologist, I can honestly say that the androcentric attitudes toward the emergence of homonid from anthropoid are true. The "tarzanist" view of evolution is still ingrained in the minds of the general public, and as a great perpetuating machine it is taught in colleges and universities as the be-all, end-all theory of existence.
Not only do her words and theories make sense, Morgan feels no great compelling need to convolute her writing by trying to go above the heads of the general reader. Her style is ironic, satirical, and deeply humorous. Never have I enjoyed laughing at the stupidities of misogynistic academia more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential to my view of life March 14 1999
By A Customer
Dear Elaine Morgan; I read her book when it came out. I had studied anthropology, sociology, psychology, and was pretty overwhelmed with not only the extremely negative view of women, but with the fact that it did not overlap with, nor allow for my experience of my life as a girl and young woman. Although the hypotheses in this book may or may not have validity, they offer a counterpoint to a supposedly scientific and objective view that in fact is full of bias. Current sociobiology and evolutionary psychology feel so similar to the old anthropologists. I returned to reread this book when I read an excerpt from Natalie Angier's new book WOMAN, AN INTIMATE GEOGRAPHY. I still love it. Bless you, Elaine Morgan.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of ideas / Easy style
Although even an inexpert reader such as myself can easily find holes in her arguments Morgan presents enough substance to make this a very worthwhile read, even all these years... Read more
Published 13 months ago by william d bell
4.0 out of 5 stars And Now for Something Completely Different....
I found Elaine Morgan's "The Descent of Woman" to provide some highly interesting concepts to think about, and I have no doubt that her outsider "alternative"... Read more
Published on Oct. 4 2002 by Peter Messerschmidt
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changing book for women
I've spent my life working as a librarian and this is one of few books which I can say changed my life and ideas about humanity. Read more
Published on March 18 2002 by Lynn Ondercin
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changing book for women
I've spent my life working as a librarian and this is one of few books which I can say changed my life and ideas about humanity. Read more
Published on March 18 2002 by Lynn Ondercin
4.0 out of 5 stars Descent of Woman
an interesting book. She addresses some of the problems that evolutionists blow off - such as why do women have breasts, and comes up with a logical answer that has nothing to do... Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars You've got to be kidding!
The nine reviews I read here about this book are almost as far beyond belief as the book itself. Some reviewers even claim to be anthropology students! Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2002 by Gordon Cathey
5.0 out of 5 stars Awestruck!
This was just a random book that I picked up at the book shop and seriously- it blows your mind. Evolution was never something I paid that much attention to. Read more
Published on April 27 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars has some problems
I really haven't paid any attention to evolutionary debates and whether the Aquatic Ape Theory is accepted or debunked or whether something else has risen to takes its place. Read more
Published on Nov. 14 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars the classic work on Human Evolution
A quarter century ago, Elaine Morgan kept alive a theory of human origins which at the time was ignored by many. In hindsight, her bestseller appears prophetic. Read more
Published on Aug. 24 1999 by
5.0 out of 5 stars The wonders of a well thought out book about our evolution.
A good friend of mine recomended "The Decent of Woman". Having read more than my share of Feminist books, I was expecting nothing more from this. Read more
Published on April 1 1999 by
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