Friday, April 29, 2011

Skepticism versus Faith

[From Joel] We had an excellent presentation at our philosophy club (The Villages, FL) this afternoon. However, the account of history from the time of the ancient Minoans to modern times sounded a little too much like feminist propaganda to me. I was suspicious. I questioned whether there was sufficient evidence for the belief in a garden-of-Eden-like world presided over by female goddesses and a female dominated society, but the speaker was unequivocal in his belief that the archeological evidence supported such a conclusion.

My search of the internet revealed that some skepticism would be appropriate. There is much disagreement over the meaning of the ancient remains found in Crete. As just one example, here's a review of a book which disputes the feminist theory of gender dominated history.

From Library Journal

According to the myth of matriarchal prehistory, there was a time in social development before written records when women were the central controlling forces in community life. Goddesses were the primary objects of worship, and peace reigned between the sexes. In a systematic analysis of the underpinnings of this popular theory, independent scholar Eller (Living in the Lap of the Goddess), who is affiliated with Princeton University, applies both logic and common sense to what has become a highly emotional argument for some feminists and New Age partisans. Pointing out that much of the physical evidence upon which the hypothesis rests is open to various interpretations, she warns that adherents of the myth may be seeing what they want to see: that by relying on biological distinctions they are creating stereotypes as insidious as the patriarchal ones they abhor. While immersion in this myth may raise gender self-esteem, only hard work will change the reality-based biases of modern life. This well-structured, lucid argument is recommended for academic libraries and public libraries where interest in the subject is high.



Ira Glickstein said...

Joel, I too enjoyed the outstanding presentation by L. Challis Jensen and the additional comments and opinions expressed very well by his wife and co-author Dr. Teresa Knight.

But, like you, I am definitely not buying their message that there was a time on Earth, some ten-thousand years ago, when worship of female goddesses presided over an idyllic and peaceful time of matriarchal human civilization that lacked nothing but aggressiveness and weapons of war. In other words, it was all good. Then came an upsurge of patriarchy, epitomized by early Judaism that led to the rise of Christianity and then Islam and a more or less permanent state of war and destruction of the environment and everything that is bad.

Reminds me of the lyric:

What are little boys made of? What are little boys made of? Nails and snails And puppy-dogs' tails, That's what little boys are made of.

What are little girls made of? What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice And everything nice, That's what little girls are made of.

On the other hand, as I remarked to a presenter (Mike Enright) at our Philosophy Club a month or so ago, who wanted to eliminate any kind of "indoctrination" in our school system and teach only pure "reason", there is no successful (i.e., long-lasting) human civilization that is not founded on one or more myths that cannot stand close examination.

Thus, what you and I agree is a myth of matriarchal pre-history, may turn out to be the foundation of a newly minted human civilization that, indeed, is a matriarchy! With modern labor-saving devices and equal educational and occupational opportunities for women, there is really no need for men anymore, except as a source of sperm. And, a relatively few handsome, viral males with strong backs and weak minds could be pressed into service by the matriarchal society for that purpose. (If I was younger, I would volunteer :^)

Ira Glickstein

PS: I asked Challis if there was any evidence from the gender roles of animals in the wild, particularly our Great Ape ancestors, such as the Chimps, to support the idea of a female-dominated past. As far as I am aware, particularly among "higher" animals, male-domination is the rule. Challis had no answer.

Challis said...

L Challis said
Ira, your question posed in your closing P.S. which you also asked during a break at the presentation caught me a little off guard. My mind is good but not the most nimble. It took awhile for thoughts on that question to percolate to the surface.

It is true that in most primate and other mammal species, male domination is the norm. It seems to be the result of the effect of testosterone in males which makes them larger, stronger and more aggressive. An exception is the hyena
But, are you suggesting that we should observe animal behavior as a guideline of justification for human behavior?
I think one of the differences between humans and animals is that humans are able to override through conscious choice their instinctual behavior. Animas simply respond to their instincts. It is the alpha males instincts, testosterone and DNA that make him dominate his troop. It is not his ability to lead, his vision to make sure they are all provided for nor his compassion for their quality of life that gives him the right to dominant. It is his size and strength and willingness to use it.
It has taken this planet 4 billion years to produce one species who is able to reflect upon and override his built in instincts; surly this creature should have a higher vision for himself than to look to more lowly evolved species for his guidance.

joel said...

Thanks again for the thought provoking presentation, Challis.
I've reread Ira's post script several times and can't imagine where you got the notion that he thinks we should adopt a certain behavior because lower species do so. He certainly doesn't say any such thing. I believe his intent is to point out that the feminist version of ancient history is probably mythical, since primates are wired to be patriarchal. He also points out that we, who can control our societal organization intellectually, might be well off to adopt that matriarchal myth. Personally, I don't agree unless one can get all societies worldwide to do so. In a competitive world, I think that the masculine society will ultimately dominate and perhaps destroy the feminized society.

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Challis and Joel for your comments.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. I have not researched this issue anywhere near as deeply as you Challis (and Teresa of course) but I do know something about both genetic and memetic evolution through my PhD studies. The whole idea of even one female dominated society in the pre-historical period does not ring true (much less worldwide as I thought I heard you claim).

Yes, of all the species, humans are the most able to override our instinctual behaviors through conscious thought. However, even with that, we are still subject to most of the same evolutionary pressures that shape the behaviors of the "lower" animals.

In future times (see my free online novel 2052 - The Hawking Plan where an aggressive woman runs the project that is the subject of the novel) we may evolve into a matriarchal form. As further technological advances help to equalize the competitive advantage of physical size and testoserone-driven aggressiveness, and mental ability and cleverness come to the forefront, gender relationships will certainly change. However, your claimed matriarchal society takes place in pre-historical times, when size and strength mattered.

Here are some points I would like you to address if you have the time and inclination:

1) Did Minoan society eat animals? If so, they must have had weapons to kill them. And, even if they were vegetarians, societies on other islands were not, and they would have had weapons and conquered the Minoans. How long did the idyllic martiarchal Minoan society last, according to your sources?

2) We observe animal behavior, particularly that of the Great Apes, not so much to guide or even justify human behaviors, but to get an idea of where our instinctual behaviors came from. What evidence is there from any animal other than the female hyena (who, according to your link are larger and have more testosterone than their males) that species where males are larger and have more testosterone have ever been dominated by females?

3) You implied that the matriarchal model applied worldwide until about 1700 BC with the rise of Judaism. Does that mean that the Egyptian and Chinese and Greek societies were matriarchal? Any evidence of that?

4) According to your accounting, once patriarchal societies came into being (around 1700 BC), they defeated the matriarchal societies to the point of extinction. Given that the Great Apes are patriarchal, meaning that early hominids were as well, how and when did the matriarchal model arise and gain dominance?

Please take these questions in the spirit they are asked. I admit it is possible that male-dominated anthropologists and historians and biologists and zoologists have distorted or misinterpreted the evidence. But, now that these fields have at least equal representation of female scholars, I would expect that you could point me to more evidence to answer my questions.

Until then, I will regard your account as a myth that does not stand close examination, but, like all great myths, may come to be the centerpiece of some future successful society.


Ira Glickstein

Challis said...

Ira, I am not an anthropologist however I have read many books about this time in pre-recorded history. Some of my favorite are: The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future by Riane Eisler; Once and Future Goddess by Elinor Gadon; In Search of the Lost Feminine: Decoding the Myths That Radically Reshaped Civilization by Craig S Barnes; Jesus and the Lost Goddess by Timothy Freke and doing simple Google searches using phrases containing "Goddess".
I began my presentation stating that my goal was to stimulate thought about how the changes in traditional feminine gender roles are affecting our culture, families and relationships with our spouses. So I am a little disappointed that I missed the mark as it appears that the stimulated thought is focused on whether or not Goddess cultures existed.
I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability and recollection as I am on the road and do not have my resources with me.

Question 1: Whether the Minoans on the island of Crete hunted animals was never addressed. I do believe they raised animals for food and fished the Mediterranean Sea. They existed from approx. the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC.

(2) I never claimed that females dominated males in Goddess Cultures. What I claimed was that in these cultures the Great Earth Mother was the Supreme Deity from which all life flowed and returned. Humans in these times understood that their very lives depended upon the creative power of nature to provide what they needed for their existence. Women also exhibited a similar creative power through creating new life in their wombs. This was viewed to be magical and was honored and venerated by all members of society. Women did not rule through domination. They were awarded a higher level of prestige due to their likeness with the Great Earth Mother. Because of their similarity to the Great Earth Mother they were viewed as being closer to the DIvine and were thus allowed to rule and to receive Divine Guidance to direct their communities. I was also careful to state that they never dominated, subjugated or enslaved men unlike man later did to her. The nature of the feminine is to nurture and to do all that is possible to liberate the fullest potential from each individual which precludes domination.

(3) That is not what I said. I said that the Goddess cultures existed from about 40,000 BC until around 1500 BC and starting about 10,000 years ago, male dominated cultures began to wage war against them for their spoils, to gain land, livestock, slaves and to extend the power of their Gods. The conversion from a world dominated by Goddess cultures to one dominated by God cultures was drawn out over a very long period of time; probably close to 8,000 years. This period of conversion to male gods ended about 1500 BC with the collapse of the last Goddess culture (the Minoans) on the Isle of Crete.

(4) Because many anthropologist suggest that Goddess cultures began 40,000 years ago, way before recorded history, their beginning is a source for speculation.

In response to Joel's last comment: I agree that patriarchy will conquer matriarchy in our current or in a future world as it did in history. Might wins even if it is not right. But hopefully the message I delivered at the end was not lost: our fullest human potential will be found when men and women learn how to come together blending their feminine and masculine powers in peace, harmony and respect. Without this hope, we are left in a world created by the patriarchy of endless wars, endless suffering, endless loss and misery into the unforeseeable future.

Thanks....L Challis

joel said...

Forgive me if I'm still skeptical of a theoretical matriarchy. Squaws tortured captives and female Russian troops were feared during WW2. If something excites the "mother grizzly" in a woman, you'd better watch out.

Challis said...

It is difficult for most males to accept domination by females because domination requires force. With men being bigger and could that happen? I too, don't think domination by females through force could happen. However, I do think that men, especially in more primitive cultures, could give women the power to rule their communities out of reverence and awe for their life creating abilities. I do think this happened. Women did not rule through domination but through consensus.

Your examples of how ferocious women can be does not reflect the feminine's greatest strength which is to nurture and to protect life even at the cost of her own. Challis

joel said...

Challis said: But hopefully the message I delivered at the end was not lost: our fullest human potential will be found when men and women learn how to come together blending their feminine and masculine powers in peace, harmony and respect.

Joel responds: I agree, but in the real world it will take our patriarchal efforts to bring women in Islamist countries to the point where this "blending" is possible. Before 9/11 a feminist friend of mine sent me a petition sponsored by an international group of scientists to the Taliban government of Afghanistan asking that women be allowed to dispense with their burkas. I signed a petition just to make her happy. Now some of the bravest liberated women in Afghanistan are being taught to run schools and hospitals, and fire weapons for self defense with the help of U.S. troops. Ironically, these women are the ones still wearing burkas in order to protect their identities from the Taliban.

Challis said...

Great comment Joel,

Another way to view the petition prepared by a group of scientists to advance the rights of Islamic women is that in doing so this group accessed their inner sense of doing what is in the highest good for all which is a typical feminine quality. Could it be this international group of scientists were primarily female? The masculine value would be to do that which advances one's self and protects one's power. In this case, I see an integration and assertion of feminine values within these scientists which has the potential to create a bridge to a better world. After all, women should be allowed to run schools and hospitals, and fight for their freedom and dignity. It helps create a better world and unleashes more of the feminine influence and power that men have been suppressing for thousands of years.
That you signed the petition to "please her" instead of doing it because it seemed like the right thing to do is perplexing, but I am happy you signed it....I would have. Challis

A Manifesto for Conscious Men said...

Joel and Ira.

Thought you might be interested in viewing a video prepared by Gay Hicks and Arjuna Ardagh. This is an apology from men for the way we have treated women during the patriarchy: It can be found on You Tube under the title of "Dear Woman". You may also want to have your wives listen to it and note their reaction....challis

joel said...

My wife and I watched the video. She was disgusted and infuriated. "Who do these men think they are to apologize for things they didn't do?" I agree with her. They should be on the battlefield fighting those who continue to persecute women. Here's an example of what real men and women do for women. No phoney apologies please.

Carmen Tamras, a female linguist with the Parwan PRT, said that when they go to the villages to talk to the people, many men will not allow her to talk to the women. “The men think that since we are westerners that we're going to try to teach their wife inappropriate things, so they don’t want them anywhere near us,” she explained. “But, when we talk to them and say I am a mother, I'm a daughter, or a sister, or a wife, or whatever, show them some pictures of our family, show them that I work really hard, and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t need to be, so they can look at us like a human being just like them ... then they can let us in.”

Since talking to the women of the villages can be difficult, the Kentucky ADT III takes a different approach. “We make sure we tie ourselves to the female leadership,” said Capt. Carla Getchell, the Kentucky ADT III women’s empowerment coordinator.

At the operational level the Kentucky ADT ties female leadership such as the dir. of women’s affairs (DoWA), in with important meetings. They also teach the same kinds of things their male counterparts are teaching, to ensure men and women are educated equally on finding resources for their projects.

Like the previous counterparts, Getchell and her team plan to be involved in projects to help Afghan women earn an income through agriculture. Past projects taught widowed and low-income Afghan women how to raise poultry and bee-keeping. “The goal, when setting up the poultry or bee keeping projects, is that CF don’t do the training. What we do is assist the local leadership, the female leadership, in resourcing the training,” explained Getchell. “They provide the location, and we help them find resources for the training. We're the facilitators in connecting the Afghan women with resources available throughout the country.”

Ira Glickstein said...

I also watched the video with amazjement that these men thought they had the ability to apologize for what our dead ancestors did to women in different times.

What are they doing about women in present times who are under male domination?

They mostly opposed President Bush when he used military force to displace the Taliban in Afghanistan and
Saddam in Iraq, freeing tens of millions of women (and men) to listen to music and western news sources and girls to go to school. All this set the stage for the current "Arab spring", a non-theological, western reform that, we hope, will bring something like democracy and free markets to hundreds of millions who are still living in the middle ages.

Of course Bush took us to war to protect our access to reasonable cost oil and to secure our access to nuclear Pakistan to help stabilize that area and reduce Chinese influence. He had not overt intention to free women or plant democracy --- but, he did.

The other side has wonderful intentions

Challis said...


Many of the men in the video have served in the armed forces for the USA. However,fighting wars to promote feminine values is kind of an oxymoron as the feminine wants to protect life and provide non violent solutions to problems. By contrast, the patriarchy wants to fight wars and bring others under their submission and then force their values upon them. It is a blending of these two different approaches that humanity is ready for and what the men in the video are promoting. It is their opinion that one step that needs to be taken before we can press forward to form a balance in sharing power with women is a formal apology to all women from all men for the injustices we have perpetuated upon them. Each man is a part of the larger group of men and does have a voice in that group. If enough men step up and apologize, then there will be a consensus. Because the men on the planet are the living representatives of mankind, we have the right to speak for all men. Whether these men in the video will sway the rest of men to join in an apology is yet to be seen. Possibly the apology will fail to reach a consensus in our lifetime. However, it is my opinion, that because an apology is deserved, at some point living men as a group will acknowledge the necessity of this and it will be offered.

This method has historical precedence as current nations apology to former cultures for what their forefathers have done similar to how our government has apologized to the Native American for what was done to them several hundred years ago. China is demanding an apology from Japan for what was done to them by former generations.

Again, my motivation in making my presentation was to help expand our consciousness about the changing gender roles and values and how that plays out in our lives. It was never intended to foster contention or to erect fences making two sides to my presentation. I think I have stated my case clearly and I refuse to engage in a contentious debate that could go on indefinitely. With that being said, I will let this be my last entry to Joel. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of The Virtual Philosophy Club. I will return to Florida next Spring and hopefully I will see all of you again. Challis

Challis said...


Your comments are always thought provoking.

To answer your first question about what these men are doing about women who are under male domination is that they have created this video and the words accompanying it. The internet is a powerful tool. Look what it is doing in the Mid-East with Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, etc. This video has had over 400,000 clicks. If it raises the awareness of those who have seen it of the injustices done by men to women, then that is significant.

How do you know these men mostly opposed Bush and our efforts against the Taliban? These men served in the military when they were called to do so as all US citizens are required to do. Many in the video are too old for current military induction but served in previous enrollments. To state that they all opposed Bush in an unfounded assumption.

I do not believe it was Bush's stated policy to bring the war to protect our access to reasonably cost oil and to secure our access to nuclear armed Pakistan. If that was the American goal, it has certainly failed.
Gas prices are close to $4.00 per gallon and going up and the American raiding of Pakistan to capture Osama has torpedoed our diplomatic efforts there.

As I mentioned to Joel, my intention was to offer ideas that would help us think in broader terms about the changing gender roles and how that is effecting our lives. It was never meant to create contention or to draw sides. I wanted to plant seeds which would help create a better world where women could play a more equal role with men to balance out the aggressiveness of the masculine with the nurturing qualities of the feminine. With that being said, this will be my last entry until I return to the Villages next Spring. I am honored to have been invited to be a part of the Virtual Philosophy Club..Challis