January 10, 2006

Was Margaret Mead's debunker a little too tightly wound?

Derek Freeman's 1983 takedown of Margaret Mead's 1928 bestseller on the malleability of human nature, Coming of Age in Samoa, was a gratifying puncture in the hot air balloon of the dominant Boasian school of anthropology.

But I've long been uneasy about Freeman's contention that, contra Mead, the Samoans were actually paragons of premarital sexual restraint. I don't know anything in particular about Samoans (and, judging by the size of the typical Samoan lad, it's probably not a good idea to risk giving him the impression you are interested in learning whether his sister puts out), but judging by other Pacific Islanders, that seems not wholly plausible.

Now Australian scholar Hiram Caton, no Boasian himself, says his old colleague Freeman wasn't always the most stable of individuals. Unfortunately, he doesn't shed much new light on the Samoan controversy, other than that if you get into a debate over it, you shouldn't completely tie yourself to Freeman's credibility.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

No comments: