Inbreeding, Incest, and the Incest Taboo: The State of Knowledge at the Turn of the Century

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Overview


Is inbreeding harmful? Are human beings and other primates naturally inclined to mate with their closest relatives? Why is incest widely prohibited? Why does the scope of the prohibition vary from society to society? Why does incest occur despite the prohibition? What are the consequences? After one hundred years of intense argument, a broad consensus has emerged on the first two questions, but the debate over the others continues.

That there is a biological basis for the avoidance of inbreeding seems incontrovertible, but just how injurious inbreeding really is for successive generations remains an open question. Nor has there been any conclusion to the debate over Freud’s view that the incest taboo is necessary because humans are sexually attracted to their closest relatives—a claim countered by Westermarck's argument for the sexually inhibiting effects of early childhood association.

This book brings together contributions from the fields of genetics, behavioral biology, primatology, biological and social anthropology, philosophy, and psychiatry which reexamine these questions.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804751414
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Arthur P. Wolf is David and Lucile Packard Foundation Professor of Human Biology at Stanford University. William H. Durham is Bing Professor of Human Biology at Stanford University.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Inbreeding avoidance and incest taboos 24
2 Genetic aspects of inbreeding and incest 38
3 Inbreeding avoidance in primates 61
4 Explaining the Westermarck effect, or, what did natural selection select for? 76
5 Ancient Egyptian sibling marriage and the Westermarck effect 93
6 From genes to incest taboos : the crucial step 109
7 Assessing the gaps in Westermarck's theory 121
8 Refining the incest taboo : with considerable help from Bronislaw Malinowski 139
9 Evolutionary thought and the current clinical understanding of incest 161
10 The incest taboo as Darwinian natural right 190
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