Origins of religion and the human revolution - pt2

Jack Conrad gives his assessment of some of the main theories and asks what apes can teach us

<< Part 1

Needless to say, there is slow, cumulative, evolutionary change. And that can include gradual increases in levels of cooperation and improved tool-making techniques. But, following in the footsteps of Hegel, orthodox Marxism has always emphasised that things develop through the struggle of opposites and mounting internal contradictions. Contradictions which at a certain stage reach the tipping point where an explosion, break or leap of some kind happens and qualitative change is suddenly released. Contradictions are resolved.

That is no longer a matter of philosophical argument, but hard, empirical science, which is backed up by rigorous mathematics. Hence phase transition, punctuated equilibrium, critical point, discontinuity, catastrophe theory, bifurcation theory and the like. All widely known about, not least through countless popular science books. Harman’s attitude towards the human revolution therefore constitutes what lawyers call a significant silence.

The anthropologist and political activist, Chris Knight, has written a book called Blood relations: menstruation and the origins of culture (1991). In this or that respect it is outdated, faulty and incomplete - eg subsequent to publication there have been further archaeological discoveries which push Knight’s dating of the human revolution considerably back and away from Europe to southern Africa. Nevertheless, Blood relations is a bold, panoramic and, in my opinion, easily the most persuasive account of the human revolution. A second, revised, edition is more than overdue. That or a re-issue with an extensive preface. Like any great work there are gaps and unfinished lines of thought - doubtless they will stimulate scholars in the years to come. However, Knight has made the decisive breakthrough which anyone who wants to be taken seriously must develop ... or decisively disprove.

Building on the twin pillars of Lewis Henry Morgan and Frederick Engels, and owing an acknowledged debt to Robert Briffault (1876-1948), Blood relations synthesises many diverse ideas: Marxism, Darwinism, the encyclopaedic structuralism of Claude Lévi-Strauss, classic colonial anthropology, especially research into African and Australian social fossils, human origins studies and the insights of evolutionary biologists and evolutionary psychologists, including some of those mentioned above.

I do not buy into the sociobiology that Knight celebrates as the acme of scientific achievement.[32] Specifically the proposition that animals are ‘gene machines’, mere carriers or servants of their genes (a proposition popularised, of course, by Richard Dawkins with his 1976 book The selfish gene). Only a fool would deny the crucial, foundational, role of genes when it comes to evolution. That goes without saying. But there is “hierarchical selection” at the level of organism, deme, species and clade too;[33] and other determining factors, such as random genetic drift, environment, structural constraints, contingency and interaction.[34] However, that quibble does not detract from my admiration of Knight’s book.

A short aside. Furiously rejecting Knight’s innovative application of Marxist theory, and definitely behaving as if some holy creed had been scandalously violated - and not just because of Knight’s praise for sociobiology - Harman decided that before the “rise of agriculture 10,000 to 5,000 years ago”, change was essentially “cumulative” and reliant on new tools.[35] Social labour is equated with tool-making by Harman. A technological, not a social determinism. His own staging of history was enshrined as mandatory doctrine - for any of the SWP’s ‘red professors’ to openly disagree in the 1990s was to risk or actually incur expulsion. A Lysenko-type moment.

Having silenced, driven away or purged its feminists, who were organised around the journal Women’s Voice a decade before, the SWP’s leadership did not take kindly to Knight’s Blood relations. Determined to draw an uncrossable political line against their feminist opponents, Chris Harman, Tony Cliff and Lindsey German stubbornly maintained that there was in effect nothing specific about women’s oppression. There was only class. In her article, ‘Theories of patriarchy’, German insisted that men do not “benefit from women’s work in the family (rather the capitalist system as a whole benefits)” and it is not true to claim that “men and capital are conspiring to stop women having access to economic production.”[36] Doubtless such desperate constructions explain why Harman felt he had to flippantly write off “absurdities” like “class conflict ... between the genders”.[37]

In his Origin Engels does, of course, compare the situation of women within the Victorian family to that of the proletariat and men to the bourgeoisie. He also stresses the importance of the biological production and reproduction of the species and the necessity of our ancestors overcoming male jealousy. Not that anyone should treat either Marx or Engels as biblical authorities.

Nonetheless, for the narrowest factional reasons the SWP machine was determined to bury the authentic Marxist tradition. The decision to close Women’s Voice in 1981 had been bitterly disputed and internal debate spilled over into the public realm. Something confessional sects instinctively loathe and seek to avoid under normal circumstances. So when in 1991 the SWP’s headquarters heard news that Knight’s book was being warmly received in core branches, greeted as an exciting vindication of Engels and his Origin, alarm bells rang. Harman rushed to the library and quickly returned a self-esteeming ‘expert’ in anthropology.

As noted above, what he filled his head with was the standard evolutionary and technological prejudices of academia and wider bourgeois society. Though pitifully ill-equipped intellectually, politically he considered himself duty-bound to emulate Joseph Stalin and act as judge and jury over what is a scientific question.[38] With a chilling arrogance Knight’s book was dismissed as “menstrual moonshine”.[39] It also has to be said that Harman cynically played on the unease and embarrassment caused on the economistic left by any frank, open, scientific discussion of menstruation, conflictive sexual relations and the formative vanguard role of females. However, he successfully achieved his objective. Discussion of Knight’s book came to a shuddering halt inside the SWP. All that remained was blustering, sneering, babbling, sniggering, doctrinaire irrationality and in the end a complete inability to say anything at all about the human revolution.

As would be expected, since 1991 Knight’s ideas have expanded somewhat because of criticism, further study and collaboration with others. Nonetheless, his basic thesis remains. The human revolution was a communist, counter-dominance revolution, and, he maintains, was led by females. For the productive sex the key Darwinian question was how to obtain the extra energy inputs they urgently needed by getting males to engage in labour and supplying them and their offspring. Concretely getting the physically fit, active, adult males, as a collective, to engage in long-range hunting and then handing over the kill to them. At an elemental level that involved sex for meat. An exchange which nowadays might conjure up tawdry images of prostitution. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Females had to seize control of sexual access and then redistribute and manage it through a system of group marriage. And to achieve that outcome the alpha male system had to be overthrown.

Incidentally, group marriage involves males in one clan regarding the females in another clan as potential sexual partners. Not orgiastic gang bangs. Groups are married, with individual entry into the system coming through initiation. Hence the males of one clan call the females of another clan wives. Females too have many husbands. But who you actually have sex with is decided by mutual attraction, courtship and negotiation with parents.

Via group marriage the majority of males previously occupying lower positions in the hierarchy got regular sexual partners for the first time and the group got regular supplies of meat. A massive protein boost for the group and therefore a win-win situation. Groping towards that end, females, “allied to their male kin,” had to go beyond Darwinism and invent culture.[40] Sexual pleasure, given or promised, thereby played a revolutionary role in transforming males from the leisured sex into the second productive sex.

Inspired by the great political and industrial struggles of the late 1960s and early 70s, drawing on world myths and the ritual practices of Africa’s living fossils, constructing a convincing account of crisis-riven pre-human hominids, Knight introduces a trade union analogy. The picket line. Forming a protective, bodily fence around, or alongside, the fertile, menstruating, young female in the camp - the target of monopolising alpha male lust - other females put on a half-threatening, half-playful display.[41] Here, with the dancing, assertive, charging, laughing, confident picket line, was the event - the reality-transforming moment, the revolution - that overthrew the crisis-wracked, old system.

Females in the group symbolically synchronised their fertility and simultaneously exhibited themselves as something else. Wrong sex, wrong species, wrong time. They pretended to be male. They pretended to be another species. They pretended to be menstruating ... but forcibly insisted that they were unavailable and that their collective sex strike had to be respected by all. Displaying artificial penises, raising arms as horns and painting themselves with red, blood-like ochre. Menstrual blood, even in substitute form, was powerful, magical and sacred. The source of life.[42]

The picket line ritual was repeated, imposed, every month and integrated with the moon and its phases. There being, of course, an unmistakable relationship, a correlation, between the female monthly cycle and that of the moon. Indeed the whole revolutionary order adopted a two-weekly lunar rhythm. With the full moon men were temporarily separated off from their wives and sent hunting for big-game animals. What Knight calls blood relations. The productive phase. A bright moon provides the best hunting conditions for humans. Partying, cooking, the coming together of the sexes, are linked to the dark moon. The phase of sex and consumption.

In effect this was the beginning of religion, or a human cosmology, which can still be found in the stories, practices, taboos, dances ... and cosmetics of social fossils in modern times. Camilla Power, a colleague and co-thinker of Knight, brilliantly draws a line of continuity between red ochre - what she calls the first cosmetics - and today’s beauty - ie, sex - industry.[44] That aside, she predicts that, where archaeologists uncover mined red ochre, this announces the existence of the monthly counter-dominance cycle. The earliest such red ochre is now dated at around 300,000 years ago. In other words we are talking about pre-modern Homo sapiens. Hence one can safely say that with modern Homo sapiens counter-dominance is an integral part of what Marx called our “species-being”. Humans are a revolutionary species.

Certainly the idea that the first appearance of “religious ideologies” happened between 60,000 and 30,000 years ago no longer appears credible. Such claims linked religion to widely recognised religious objects.[43] Religion, however, does not necessarily rely on altars, statues, carvings and relics to be religion. The painted, dancing human body is both a religious subject and object.

As already mentioned, the background to Knight’s account of the human revolution lies in the increasingly fraught situation faced by the immediate ancestors of our species. We are probably talking about Homo heidelbergensis. In Knight’s model the contradiction between exploitative males and productive females sees a growing disparity between potentiality and actuality. There was the long established making of stone hand axes, scrapers and the like. But male rivalry, selfish individualism and outbursts of terrifying competitive violence makes extended cooperation impossible. Hence no language, no egalitarianism, no religion, because all such phenomena flow from, and rely upon, a definite level of social solidarity and trust.

Take language: to work as a means of communication - for that is surely what it is - the collective must be prepared to go along with what is symbolic, tokenistic or purely fictional. Unlike the limited, but honest body language and sound signalling of other great apes, including, one presumes, Homo heidelbergensis, the unlimited universe of words have in and of themselves no essentially honest meaning.

Words are arbitrary. Made from syllables effortlessly spun together in the head and let out through vocal cords as modulated air. As they tumble out, words have to be interpreted, weighed and judged: reliable or suspicious, biased or generous, muddled or clear, tedious or inspiring. But, strung together, words communicate in astonishing abundance.

Before the human revolution chronic internal conflict and individual mistrust prevented such embryonic abilities reaching critical take-off point. There are instances of symbolic or counter-reality signalling. Eg, the young engage in play. Mock fights between immature chimps normally result in not the slightest nick. There is an unwritten agreement on both sides not to hurt. A co-conspiracy. Each side hold back. They pretend. But, come adulthood, and with it sexual rivalry, play between adult males ceases. Turns into its opposite. Becomes ferociously real. Competition therefore stands in “antagonistic” contradiction to cooperation. A profound observation made by Engels.[45]

Hominids began as a barely detectable evolutionary twig which diverged from what was itself a minor branch of evolution: the first, incredibly rare and fragmentary hominid fossils date from six-seven million years ago. The entire clade occupied a marginal, often very fraught, ecological niche. Searching out fruits, grains, roots, eggs, nuts and insects; catching the occasional lizard, fish, small mammal and bird; scavenging from the kills of those higher up the food chain ... and yet also being a source of prey. Part of the “right dribble” towards complexity - the mass of life being banked up on the left wall of minimal complexity, which is dominated by microbes[46] - in terms of biomass hominids were pretty unsuccessful. Numbers are estimated to have swung between 100,000 and 10,000 - depending on fickle conditions. Low points clearly indicated that they constituted what nowadays would be designated an endangered species.

Apart from the earliest examples, hominids walked upright. Not on all fours. Thereby they fortuitously freed hands for other uses. Stone tools begin to appear in the archaeological record some 2.5 million years ago and even the crudest flint axe puts the best efforts of chimps to shame. There must also have been other tools, such as digging sticks, carrying slings, cups and baskets of one kind or another, which do not survive in the record.

About 1.8 million years ago various hominids managed to find their way out of Africa and into Eurasia. They rapidly spread along coastal and river routes. By around 750,000 years ago there is clear evidence of the use of fire. That meant cooked meat, light, warmth and safety ... and the deliberate burning of bush and forest cover. Yet, despite such unprecedented achievements, hominid species went extinct one after the other. Technical prowess should not be equated with biological success. Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo neanderthalis, etc, etc all winked out of existence. Homo sapiens are the sole survivors of the hominid family. And it has to be said that there is no reason to suppose that we would not have gone the same way too. If, that is, it had not been for the human revolution, which put our ancestors on the road to where we now dominate the planet and carry our unprecedented responsibilities for its future.

Knight well-foundedly reasons that bigger brains and extended childhood must have put a huge additional burden on females (even with the help of their sisters and mothers).[47] Homo heidelbergensis brain size ranged from 1,000 to 1,400cc. Then there were the physical strains associated with the long months of pregnancy and the need to secure increased nutrition, especially when breast-feeding. Modern females require about 300 extra calories each day during the final six months of pregnancy. This raises the total to about 1,900-2,500 calories daily. Projected back, that roughly amounts to a calorific input amounting to an additional 15% - a statistic which in pre-historic times could well separate life from death.

The agony, trauma and dangers of delivering babies with enlarged skulls through upended birth canals is well known. Death of child and/or mother was a sadly frequent event until modern times. And even after the trials of pregnancy and giving birth, the infant must be breast-fed and carried on hip or back up to the time when they have properly learnt to walk. Not that juveniles are fully independent. They have to be cared and provided for till they are aged perhaps 13 or 14. And there is every chance of another pregnancy and having to simultaneously cope with two or three children with various degrees of dependence. Meanwhile there are the disruptive, exhausting and highly risky, seasonal group treks to the next encampment. There must have been a particular death toll among young children and nursing mothers.

And remember, in Knight’s model all of this was without any substantial input from males. The philanderer supplies sperm. Little more. Indeed rivalry meant males hobbled their own potentiality. A dominant male would be more than reluctant to leave a fertile female in order to embark on a long-distance hunt with other males.

Unlike with chimps, bonobos and gorillas, his only clue that a female is soon to be fertile is that she menstruates. No outward swelling or coloration telling him the right time to mate. Hominid females concealed their fertility and that probably gained them extra male attention and, albeit temporarily, extra supplies. The result, however, was that the dominant male was in all likelihood less mobile than he might otherwise be. He could not possibly trust those males who remained in the camp: juveniles, the temporarily or permanently injured and elders. Instead he would seek an extended sexual monopoly. Alpha males therefore aggressively compete, fend off rivals and stand guard over fertile females for some considerable time. Cooperation - including over the supply of food through collective effort, crucially meat - was correspondingly impoverished.

Bigger brains and an extended childhood are massively costly in energy terms, but doubtless conferred certain evolutionary advantages. Almost certainly enhancing female cooperation. But male jealously, aggression and selfishness constantly cut short, prevented or sabotaged cultural developments, such as language. More than that, male competition, and gross over-exploitation of females, pointed to species extinction.

Picket line

Of course, the ‘wrong sex, wrong species, wrong time’ ritual was transparently false at one level. But the ritual invited, demanded, that the whole group go along with the deception. Males were meant to play along with the scrambled signals, the lie, and feign confusion. Eg, females are male, are animals and all of them are fertile. And instead of courting, targeting, singling out the genuinely fertile female in the camp, males had to respect their picket line.

Those tempted not to go along with the rules of the game faced not only a united picket line of females. They faced the majority of males too. The other males had a real interest in supporting the picket line, not least because of the system of group marriage associated with the revolutionary order. Alpha males therefore faced impossible odds and would have agreed in the end to respect the picket line. The leap into symbolic culture thereby created anti-hierarchy by subordinating and integrating the alpha male into the collective. New patterns of the family, new ways of thinking, new forms of communication and a new mode of production followed. Indeed, I think we can say that the human revolution must have been associated with speciesisation.

Male jealously met a stronger force in collective interest. Now males had to deliver meat if they were to gain access to females. They were expected to show their worth as husbands by success in hunting. Hence alpha males no longer stayed put in the camp in order to monopolise fertile females. Males could at last fully cooperate with each other in this, fundamentally because of the socially constructed level of trust released through the monthly female picket line and sex strike.

Husbands were obliged by custom to bring the raw meat to their wives and through them it was distributed to children, parents and other relatives. Women did the cooking. There was, it should be pointed out, a taboo against males consuming their own kills.

Always contested, doubtless sometimes losing momentum, occasionally thrown back, but out of necessity always driven on and on, the results of the human revolution were spectacular for the species. Inputs of protein shot up. Population numbers soared. Life expectancy increased. So did areas of habitation. Maybe 80,000 years ago there was the second ‘out of Africa’ movement into Asia, from which all modern non-Africans are descended. Above all, however, through the revolutionary order established by females there was the beginning of language. Knowledge thereby passes down from generation to generation and steadily accumulates. Inevitably, not least to make it memorable, this is given the form of religious rituals and stories. Religion is thus both an unwritten rule book governing social relations and an invaluable ally in productive activity.

Amongst primitive communist peoples, religion is a magico-symbolic system for the relevant, but unavoidably distorted, understanding of, and interaction with, nature. Religion is therefore a thoroughly practical matter. It must have seemed possible to control, or influence, real things through ritual and the recurring pattern of collective religious activity. The fantastic stories - told and retold - and the constantly recurring warp and weave of ceremony find their validation in the real world. Humanity attempts to find itself by projecting itself onto outer-reality: anthropomorphism.

Religion was also the handmaiden of science. Nature is usefully imagined as full of spirits and open to human persuasion. Rain, the seasons, the return of migrating herds of wild animals, female fertility are assured by performing certain fixed rituals. By slotting these rituals into the dimly observed pattern of nature, the wish duly becomes part of a chain which leads to fulfilment. Eg, do your rain dance just prior to the rainy season, pray before daybreak for the sun to rise. Projecting itself as the cause, humanity feels its way into nature and comes to know its own immediate environment. Religion and religious practices thereby draw ever closer together with nature. This eventually gives rise to calendars, astronomy and mathematical calculation - Alexander Marshack finds evidence of lunar observations in rock paintings and engravings on mammoth ivory from between 30,000 and 35,000 years ago.[48]

The great mother and other lesser ancestors are said to remain alive in the nether world and can choose to intervene in this one - therefore they have to be kept happy and can be appealed to for help and advice. The immortality of the dead is once again fantastic reality. The living owe what they have in terms of productive activity and knowledge of themselves and the outside world to the “transmitted culture” from past generations.[49] This reality of culture and its importance is clothed in stories, dreams and ceremonies, and explained as the work of constantly recalled ghosts. These ghosts combine various aspects of nature with human characteristics.[50] The ancestor ghosts behave benevolently or malevolently, not just because hope and fear are closely related cognitively in the human brain, but because life itself is full of unpredictability. Welcome moments of good luck happen. So does shit.

Under primitive communism religion embodies the unity and authority of the collective. The individual personality, in terms of potential, is still cribbed, cramped and crouched. What matters is the cohesion of the group, the clan or the tribe, not the fullest development of each individual. Nevertheless, as emphasised by Scott Atran, there is a reciprocal relationship between the collective and the vital physiological and psychological needs of the individual.[51]

Things changed with the decomposition of primitive communism, the defeat of the female sex and the separation of mental from manual labour. Religion becomes the consciousness of a humanity that has lost itself. The emergence of the class societies - eg, the temple city, the warrior kingdom which raids neighbours and enslaves war captives, the tributary state - went hand in hand with internal oppression and an exploitative system of religion. Religion is no longer indistinguishable from the collective: there arises a professional caste of priests whose prime function is to sanctify (or mystify) and thereby help to sustain and reproduce social stratification and social privilege.

In so-called Asiatic social formations the king or emperor is deemed responsible for continued prosperity and the functioning of society. At first perhaps these people played a useful role in coordinating production and ensuring the repair of irrigation systems. However, that function progressively passes to bureaucrats. As it does, religion becomes ever more elaborate, so that it can act as a counterbalance against the masses, who are expected to survive on the barest minimum of subsistence levels. Because of his unique relationship to the gods, the monarch is supposed to guarantee the daily return of the life-giving sun and the seasonal rains or river floodwaters.

Religion demands that the people worship their parasitic rulers as if they were the producers of social wealth - everything is said to belong to them, because everything comes from them. Religion thereby becomes the inverted consciousness of this world, because human society itself has been inverted.

The priests of the ancient world were responsible for the growth of some real knowledge. For example, by the 7th century BC, Babylonian priests could trace the course of the sun through 12 constellations of the zodiac and distinguish five planets from the fixed stars.[52] They were also able to predict solar and lunar eclipses. Yet, this ran alongside the elaboration of entirely illusory ideas. Eg, the search for mystical inner knowledge and the tendency to spiral off into extreme subjectivity, which, when pursued to its logical conclusion, arrives at solipsism. Objective reality is dissolved (if only in the mind) by the pure, white light of blinding self-obsession.

As ‘instinctive dualists’, human beings are prone to performing such flattering tricks on themselves - but especially those classes which have lost their functions, desperate religious sects and defeated political parties. Nonetheless, as Engels emphatically states in his Ludwig Feuerbach, “our consciousness and thinking, however supersensuous they may seem, are the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain”.[53]

Needless to say, most modern neurological scientists agree. Though involving constant interaction with objective reality, including, of course, other human beings, consciousness relies on the sense organs of discrete individuals. Their culturally shaped, informed and filtered picture of the outside world - no matter how far society advances technologically - can nonetheless be warped or even completely turned inside out.

Matter exists as a unity. However, there is no automatic correspondence between consciousness, a property of matter, and the objective world of matter. People can convince themselves - through arrogance, ignorance or even in an attempt to escape intolerable conditions - that they, and crucially what they think, are the centre of the universe. Even the only thing in the universe - a revolt against an intolerable status quo. “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven,” writes John Milton in ‘Paradise lost’.[54] Of course, through trial and error people can also learn to think appropriately and therefore accurately, so as to distinguish reality from illusion ... and being fundamentally interested in and bound up with practice, that is what the vast majority try to achieve.

It may confound some would-be Marxists - those who take their cue from bourgeois anthropology rather than Marx’s method - but the crystallisation of class relations did not witness a rapid acceleration in the growth of the productive forces. On the contrary, as argued by archaeologist Gordon V Childe back in the 1930s, the appearance of a ruling class saw a marked “slowdown in the rates of technological progress”.[55] Primitive communism was a truly creative epoch for humanity - brewing, music, dance, mythic story-telling, boats, complex hunting tools and strategies, domestication of dogs for hunting, transport, etc. Crucially human solidarity.

With the Neolithic counterrevolutionary revolution, the moon religion and its leisurely monthly rhythm is replaced by the demanding, 24-hour religion of the sun (Stonehenge, circa 2,800 BC, being a counterrevolutionary cosmological instrument, functioning as it does to demonstrate to onlookers the subordination of the moon to the sun). Whereas primitive communism hunts and gathers for a couple of weeks and then dances and feasts, Neolithic society labours from dawn to dusk.

This produces a surplus product that allows for the emergence of the first civilisations, but these societies were riven by crippling internal contradictions and that meant extreme fragility. There is human sacrifice, including the sacrifice of children. A sure sign of social stress. Dramatic territorial expansion by this or that dynastic state formation was just as often followed by an equally rapid collapse. The mass of the population is meanwhile reduced to endless toil and a condition of serfdom or slavery. Society no longer protects against exploiters, external and internal. Under conditions of underdeveloped productive forces it should be emphasised that the existence of the state remains an absolute necessity. Armed bodies of men were needed for internal cohesion and protection from outsiders - invaders thought it their right to loot and rape, sometimes they would even massacre everyone in sight.

But the state can become opposed to society, become parasitic, become a blood-sucking monster in its own right. Hence, drained, confused, pulverised, the common people look for solutions in an alternative power, which, in proportion to their weakness in this world, tends to the superhuman and otherworldly. Ordinary human action does not seem enough to rescue them. Altered gods arise, flourish and grow in terms of popular expectations.

Clearly the gods never made humanity. Rather humanity made the gods ... and made them in their own image. And as society comes to be cleaved into classes - oppressed and oppressor, slave and master, serf and lord - these antagonisms in all their complexity find their constantly evolving expression in the heavens (albeit a necessarily lagging and therefore a conservative one). The struggle of one religion against another is therefore also the struggle of one class against another. Besides being an ideology of social control made from above, religion serves as an ideology of comfort, consolation, resistance and even revolution made from below. In the highly contested collective imagination - or imaginations - the uncontrollable forces of society itself are projected into the skies by those who suffer and strive in this world. Everything from social decay, the unequal relationship between men and women, the structure of the state and the despair of the masses find their fantastic reflection.

Respond to this article

  1. MD Hauser The evolution of communication Massachusetts 2000, p604.
  2. carlzimmer.com/articles/2004.php?subaction=showfull&id=1177190905&archive=&start_from=&ucat=7&
  3. S Rose, RC Lewontin and LJ Kamin Not in our genes London 1984, p95.
  4. Time October 25 2004.
  5. Personally I have more than a deal of sympathy for the idea that our pre-human ancestors lived in trees as well as on the ground and may well have spent some considerable evolutionary time occupying a semi-aquatic niche. The latter possibility is argued, of course, by Elaine Morgan in The descent of woman and other thought provoking books.
  6. See V Reynolds and R Tanner The biology of religion London 1983.
  7. T Hobbes Leviathan  Oxford 1998, p84.
  8. See his Reflections on the revolution in France: www.constitution.org/eb/rev_fran.htm
  9. R Klein and Blake Edgar The dawn of human culture New York 2002, p270.
  10. KC Diller and RL Cann, ‘Evidence against a genetic-based revolution 50,000 years ago’, in R Botha and C Knight (eds) The cradle of language Oxford 2009, p138.
  11. J McClenon Shamanic healing, human evolution and the origins of religion Philadelphia 1994, pp345-354.
  12. S Atran In gods we trust Oxford 2004, p267.
  13. “Religion is a virus more destructive than smallpox, but more difficult to eradicate” (R Dawkins, ‘Is science a religion?’ The Humanist January-February 1997).
  14. R Dawkins The selfish gene Oxford 1999, p189.
  15. D Dennett Breaking the spell London 2007, p174.
  16. P Boyer Religion explained New York 2001, p50.
  17. See D Sloan-Wilson Darwin’s cathedral: evolution, religion and the nature of society Chicago 2003.
  18. R Sosis and C Alcrota Evolutionary anthropology Vol 12, 2003, pp264-74.
  19. MA Nowak, NL Komarova and P Niyogi Science January 2001.
  20. J Goodall The chimpanzees of Gombe Harvard 1986.
  21. C Knight, ‘Sex and the human revolution’ Weekly Worker September 24 2009.
  22. J Goodall Through a window  New York 1990, p23.
  23. In his Origin of the family, private property and the state (1884), Fredrick Engels noted that the production and reproduction of “immediate life” had a twofold characteristic. On the one hand, the production of the means of subsistence, of food, clothing and shelter. On the other hand, the production of the species itself (K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 26, London 1990, pp131-32).
  24. C Boehm Hierarchy in the forest Harvard 2001, p3.
  25. Possibly Nakalipithecus.
  26. C Boehm Hierarchy in the forest Harvard 2001, p10.
  27. Ibid p3.
  28. C Harman A people’s history of the world London 2008, p10.
  29. See R Ardrey African genesis London 1969.
  30. www.eco-action.org/dt/affluent.html
  31. C Harman A people’s history of the world London 2008, p4.
  32. “Central to Blood relations is the firm belief that sociobiology’s achievements are to modern Marxist analysis of sociality what the constructs of classical pre-Marxist political economy were to Marx himself” (C Knight Blood relations London 1991, p7).
  33. SJ Gould The structure of evolutionary theory London 2002, chapter 8.
  34. S Jones Lifelines Harmondsworth 1997, pp302-9.
  35. International Socialism No65 1994, p98.
  36. International Socialism No2, 1981, p41.
  37. C Harman, ‘Blood simple’ International Socialism No54, p170.
  38. In the Soviet Union Stalin decided on matters as diverse as literature, film, biology, linguistics, history and economics.
  39. C Harman ‘Blood simple’ International Socialism No54, p174.
  40. C Knight Blood relations London 1995, pvii.
  41. Menstruation is the only visible sign of fertility in Homo sapiens females. Other female great apes overtly display their fertility and this is directly linked to sex.
  42. See C Knight, C Power and I Watts ‘The human symbolic revolution’ Cambridge Archaeological Journal Vol 5, April 1995.
  43. See C Power ‘Earthly core of misty creations’ Weekly Worker October 22 2009.
  44. S Mithen The prehistory of the mind: a search for the origins of art, religion and science London 2005, p198.
  45. K Marx and F Engels CW  Vol 26, London 1996, p144.
  46. See SJ Gould Full house New York 1996.
  47. It should be noted that amongst apes mothers tightly hold onto their babies and will not allow other females to nurse, hold or even touch them. A crucial difference between apes and humans.
  48. See C Knight Blood relations London 1995, p359.
  49. C Cauldwell Further studies in a dying culture London 1949, p32.
  50. See P Boyer The naturalness of religious ideas Berkeley CA, 1994.
  51. See S Atran In gods we trust: the evolutionary landscape of religion New York 2002.
  52. See www.sacred-texts.com/ane/rbaa.html
  53. K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 26, London 1990, p369.
  54. J Milton The works of John Milton Ware 1994, p120.
  55. Cited by RC Patterson Marx’s ghost - conversations with archaeologists  Oxford 2003, p49.