The inescapable conclusion is that the history of humanity is the history of man, not of woman.... the fascinating development of human society: buildings and roads, technology and art, music and literature, the whole of science and industry. These are all, Morris argues, great fruits of the human male brain. He says: "The human male has had the most impact on the planet than any other life form. Women are responsible and men are more playful and it is this playfulness that is our species' greatest achievement."*
Yes, all of these things, all literature, all science, since the dawn of time, all are due to the male brain, apparently.
The argument made by the book has been well summarised by Echidne, and the comments to that post are of very high quality.
You know, I think it is quite possible that hormones have an effect on the emotions and even mental faculties of human beings. Where a trait is a drain on survival chances (like a peacock's tail) it is quite possible for it to evolve to be gender-specific. I could be persuaded that enjoyment of violence and risk are gender-linked traits (though women obviously don't completely lack those).
But Morris's argument that intelligence itself is tightly gender-linked due to evolutionary mechanisms doesn't make any sense at all.
Just a few of his assumptions:
- that pre-agricultural populations were based around male-only hunting
- that women were not involved in food gathering
- that gathering does not require developed cognitive skills
- that other non-food-related activities were not important to survival
- that these other activities did not require cognitive skills
- that social bonding and language use are predominantly male activities
- that there is a hormonal mechanism that suppresses (or enhances) intelligence
- that this operates in favour of the male brain
- that the children of less intelligent women would be more likely to survive to reproduce
- that men are more playful than women
- that the development of early agriculture, textiles and arts were male activities
I could go on. Unless most of these assumptions are true the argument falls over - one or two of them might even be true (I don't think so but I could be wrong) - but stating them starkly like this shows how weak his overall argument is.
Here's the ironic thing. It isn't intelligent. It isn't playful. It isn't culture, or science. It isn't much of an achievement of any kind. And - most ironic of all - I would say it is probably the result of failing hormonal levels in a weak old man.
*I've edited this together from a positive review of the book, by someone recommending it