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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 2925 times)
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« Reply #195 on: February 10, 2009, 01:29:28 pm »

 * Azara, Voyages, &c., tom. ii., p. 23. Dobrizhoffer, An Account
of the Abipones, vol. ii., 1822, p. 207. Capt. Musters, in Proc. R.
Geograph. Soc., vol. xv., p. 47. Williams on the Fiji Islanders, as
quoted by Lubbock, Origin of Civilisation, 1870, p. 79. On the
Fuegians, King and Fitzroy, Voyages of the "Adventure" and "Beagle,"
vol. ii., 1839, p. 182. On the Kalmucks, quoted by M'Lennan, Primitive
Marriage, 1865, p. 32 On the Malays, Lubbock, ibid., p. 76. The Rev.
J. Shooter, On the Kafirs of Natal, 1857, pp. 52-60. Mr. D. Leslie,
Kafir Character and Customs, 1871, p. 4. On the bushmen, Burchell,
Travels in S. Africa, ii., 1824, p. 59. On the Koraks by McKennan,
as quoted by Mr. Wake, in Anthropologia, Oct., 1873, p. 75.

  We thus see that with savages the women are not in quite so abject a
state in relation to marriage as has often been supposed. They can
tempt the men whom they prefer, and can sometimes reject those whom
they dislike, either before or after marriage. Preference on the
part of the women, steadily acting in any one direction, would
ultimately affect the character of the tribe; for the women would
generally choose not merely the handsomest men, according to their
standard of taste, but those who were at the same time best able to
defend and support them. Such well-endowed pairs would commonly rear a
larger number of offspring than the less favoured. The same result
would obviously follow in a still more marked manner if there was
selection on both sides; that is, if the more attractive, and at the
same time more powerful men were to prefer, and were preferred by, the
more attractive women. And this double form of selection seems
actually to have occurred, especially during the earlier periods of
our long history.
  We will now examine a little more closely some of the characters
which distinguished the several races of man from one another and from
the lower animals, namely, the greater or less deficiency of hair on
the body, and the colour of the skin. We need say nothing about the
great diversity in the shape of the features and of the skull
between the different races, as we have seen in the last chapter how
different is the standard of beauty in these respects. These
characters will therefore probably have been acted on through sexual
selection; but we have no means of judging whether they have been
acted on chiefly from the male or female side. The musical faculties
of man have likewise been already discussed.

  Absence of Hair on the Body, and its Development on the Face and
Head.- From the presence of the woolly hair or lanugo on the human
foetus, and of rudimentary hairs scattered over the body during
maturity, we may infer that man is descended from some animal which
was born hairy and remained so during life. The loss of hair is an
inconvenience and probably an injury to man, even in a hot climate,
for he is thus exposed to the scorching of the sun, and to sudden
chills, especially during wet weather. As Mr. Wallace remarks, the
natives in all countries are glad to protect their naked backs and
shoulders with some slight covering. No one supposes that the
nakedness of the skin is any direct advantage to man; his body
therefore cannot have been divested of hair through natural
selection.* Nor, as shewn in a former chapter, have we any evidence
that this can be due to the direct action of climate, or that it is
the result of correlated development.

  * Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, 1870, p. 346.
Mr. Wallace believes (p. 350) "that some intelligent power has
guided or determined the development of man"; and he considers the
hairless condition of the skin as coming under this head. The Rev.
T. R. Stebbing, in commenting on this view (Transactions of Devonshire
Association for Science, 1870) remarks, that had Mr. Wallace "employed
his usual ingenuity on the question of man's hairless skin, he might
have seen the possibility of its selection through its superior beauty
or the health attaching to superior cleanliness."

  The absence of hair on the body is to a certain extent a secondary
sexual character; for in all parts of the world women are less hairy
than men. Therefore we may reasonably suspect that this character
has been gained through sexual selection. We know that the faces of
several species of monkeys, and large surfaces at the posterior end of
the body of other species, have been denuded of hair; and this we
may safely attribute to sexual selection, for these surfaces are not
only vividly coloured, but sometimes, as with the male mandrill and
female rhesus, much more vividly in the one sex than in the other,
especially during the breeding-season. I am informed by Mr. Bartlett
that, as these animals gradually reach maturity, the naked surfaces
grow larger compared with the size of their bodies. The hair, however,
appears to have been removed, not for the sake of nudity, but that the
colour of the skin may be more fully displayed. So again with many
birds, it appears as if the head and neck had been divested of
feathers through sexual selection, to exhibit the brightly-coloured
  As the body in woman is less hairy than in man, and as this
character is common to all races, we may conclude that it was our
female semi-human ancestors who were first divested of hair, and
that this occurred at an extremely remote period before the several
races had diverged from a common stock. Whilst our female ancestors
were gradually acquiring this new character of nudity, they must
have transmitted it almost equally to their offspring of both sexes
whilst young; so that its transmission, as with the ornaments of
many mammals and birds, has not been limited either by sex or age.
There is nothing surprising in a partial loss of hair having been
esteemed as an ornament by our ape-like progenitors, for we have
seen that innumerable strange characters have been thus esteemed by
animals of all kinds, and have consequently been gained through sexual
selection. Nor is it surprising that a slightly injurious character
should have been thus acquired; for we know that this is the case with
the plumes of certain birds, and with the horns of certain stags.
  The females of some of the anthropoid apes, as stated in a former
chapter, are somewhat less hairy on the under surface than the
males; and here we have what might have afforded a commencement for
the process of denudation. With respect to the completion of the

process through sexual selection, it is well to bear in mind the New
Zealand proverb, "There is no woman for a hairy man." All who have
seen photographs of the Siamese hairy family will admit how
ludicrously hideous is the opposite extreme of excessive hairiness.
And the king of Siam had to bribe a man to marry the first hairy woman
in the family; and she transmitted this character to her young
offspring of both sexes.*

  * The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol. ii.,
1868, p. 237.

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