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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 5693 times)
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« Reply #195 on: February 10, 2009, 01:29:18 pm »

When a foreign breed of our domestic animals is introduced into a
new country, or when a native breed is long and carefully attended to,
either for use or ornament, it is found after several generations to
have undergone a greater or less amount of change whenever the means
of comparison exist. This follows from unconscious selection during
a long series of generations- that is, the preservation of the most
approved individuals- without any wish or expectation of such a result
on the part of the breeder. So again, if during many years two careful
breeders rear animals of the same family, and do not compare them
together or with a common standard, the animals are found to have
become, to the surprise of their owners, slightly different.* Each
breeder has impressed, as von Nathusius well expresses it, the
character of his own mind- his own taste and judgment- on his animals.
What reason, then, can be assigned why similar results should not
follow from the long-continued selection of the most admired women
by those men of each tribe who were able to rear the greatest number
of children? This would be unconscious selection, for an effect
would be produced, independently of any wish or expectation on the
part of the men who preferred certain women to others.

  * The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol. ii.,
pp. 210-217.

  Let us suppose the members of a tribe, practising some form of
marriage, to spread over an unoccupied continent, they would soon
split up into distinct hordes, separated from each other by various
barriers, and still more effectually by the incessant wars between all
barbarous nations. The hordes would thus be exposed to slightly
different conditions and habits of life, and would sooner or later
come to differ in some small degree. As soon as this occurred, each
isolated tribe would form for itself a slightly different standard
of beauty;* and then unconscious selection would come into action
through the more powerful and leading men preferring certain women
to others. Thus the differences between the tribes, at first very
slight, would gradually and inevitably be more or less increased.

  * An ingenious writer argues, from a comparison of the pictures of
Raphael, Rubens, and modern French artists, that the idea of beauty is
not absolutely the same even throughout Europe: see the Lives of Haydn
and Mozart, by Bombet (otherwise M. Beyle), English translation, p.

  With animals in a state of nature, many characters proper to the
males, such as size, strength, special weapons, courage and pugnacity,
have been acquired through the law of battle. The semi-human
progenitors of man, like their allies the Quadrumana, will almost
certainly have been thus modified; and, as savages still fight for the
possession of their women, a similar process of selection has probably
gone on in a greater or less degree to the present day. Other
characters proper to the males of the lower animals, such as bright
colours and various ornaments, have been acquired by the more
attractive males having been preferred by the females. There are,
however, exceptional cases in which the males are the selectors,
instead of having been the selected. We recognise such cases by the
females being more highly ornamented than the males,- their ornamental
characters having been transmitted exclusively or chiefly to their
female offspring. One such case has been described in the order to
which man belongs, that of the Rhesus monkey.
  Man is more powerful in body and mind than woman, and in the
savage state he keeps her in a far more abject state of bondage than
does the male of any other animal; therefore it is not surprising that
he should have gained the power of selection. Women are everywhere
conscious of the value of their own beauty; and when they have the
means, they take more delight in decorating themselves with all
sorts of ornaments than do men. They borrow the plumes of male
birds, with which nature has decked this sex, in order to charm the
females. As women have long been selected for beauty, it is not
surprising that some of their successive variations should have been
transmitted exclusively to the same sex; consequently that they should
have transmitted beauty in a somewhat higher degree to their female
than to their male offspring, and thus have become more beautiful,
according to general opinion, than men. Women, however, certainly
transmit most of their characters, including some beauty, to their
offspring of both sexes; so that the continued preference by the men
of each race for the more attractive women, according to their
standard of taste, will have tended to modify in the same manner all
the individuals of both sexes belonging to the race.
  With respect to the other form of sexual selection (which with the
lower animals is much the more common), namely, when the females are
the selectors, and accept only those males which excite or charm
them most, we have reason to believe that it formerly acted on our
progenitors. Man in all probability owes his beard, and perhaps some
other characters, to inheritance from an ancient progenitor who thus
gained his ornaments. But this form of selection may have occasionally
acted during later times; for in utterly barbarous tribes the women
have more power in choosing, rejecting, and tempting their lovers,
or of afterwards changing their husbands, than might have been
expected. As this is a point of some importance, I will give in detail
such evidence as I have been able to collect.
  Hearne describes how a woman in one of the tribes of Arctic
America repeatedly ran away from her husband and joined her lover; and
with the Charruas of S. America, according to Azara, divorce is
quite optional. Amongst the Abipones, a man on choosing a wife
bargains with the parents about the price. But "it frequently
happens that the girl rescinds what has been agreed upon between the
parents and the bridegroom, obstinately rejecting the very mention
of marriage." She often runs away, hides herself, and thus eludes
the bridegroom. Captain Musters who lived with the Patagonians, says
that their marriages are always settled by inclination; "if the
parents make a match contrary to the daughter's will, she refuses
and is never compelled to comply." In Tierra del Fuego a young man
first obtains the consent of the parents by doing them some service,
and then he attempts to carry off the girl; "but if she is
unwilling, she hides herself in the woods until her admirer is
heartily tired of looking for her, and gives up the pursuit; but
this seldom happens." In the Fiji Islands the man seizes on the
woman whom he wishes for his wife by actual or pretended force; but
"on reaching the home of her abductor, should she not approve of the
match, she runs to some one who can protect her; if, however, she is
satisfied, the matter is settled forthwith." With the Kalmucks there
is a regular race between the bride and bridegroom, the former
having a fair start; and Clarke "was assured that no instance occurs
of a girl being caught, unless she has a partiality to the pursuer."
Amongst the wild tribes of the Malay Archipelago there is also a
racing match; and it appears from M. Bourien's account, as Sir J.
Lubbock remarks, that "the race, 'is not to the swift, nor the
battle to the strong,' but to the young man who has the good fortune
to please his intended bride." A similar custom, with the same result,
prevails with the Koraks of north-eastern Asia.
  Turning to Africa: the Kaffirs buy their wives, and girls are
severely beaten by their fathers if they will not accept a chosen
husband; but it is manifest from many facts given by the Rev. Mr.
Shooter, that they have considerable power of choice. Thus very
ugly, though rich men, have been known to fail in getting wives. The
girls, before consenting to be betrothed, compel the men to shew
themselves off first in front and then behind, and exhibit their
paces." They have been known to propose to a man, and they not
rarely run away with a favoured lover. So again, Mr. Leslie, who was
intimately acquainted with the Kaffirs, says, "it is a mistake to
imagine that a girl is sold by her father in the same manner, and with
the same authority, with which he would dispose of a cow." Amongst the
degraded bushmen of S. Africa, "when a girl has grown up to
womanhood without having been betrothed, which, however, does not
often happen, her lover must gain her approbation, as well as that
of the parents."* Mr. Winwood Reade made inquiries for me with respect
to the negroes of western Africa, and he informs me that "the women,
at least among the more intelligent pagan tribes, have no difficulty
in getting the husbands whom they may desire, although it is
considered unwomanly to ask a man to marry them. They are quite
capable of falling in love, and of forming tender, passionate, and
faithful attachments." Additional cases could be given.

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