Saturday, November 07, 2009
[the first edition]
Margaret Mead was perhaps one of the most famous anthropologists in history. She is primarily well known for her book Coming of Age in Samoa. The book was published in 1928, at a time when Americans were still very traditional for the most part. The percentage of children born to single women in 1940 was around 4%; in 1928 it was probably even lower. In the United States, single women in 1928 very seldom had sex. Premarital sex carried a huge social stigma.
Before writing Coming of Age, Mead spent six months in Samoa. She described the sex lives of young women in a small village on the island of Ta‘ū. Her conclusion was that these women were sexually promiscuous yet far happier than American young women.
Mead became a celebrity and her book became a staple in university courses. Ultimately, Coming of Age provided a scientific basis for the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
The only problem with all this is that Mead apparently just made the whole thing up.
Samoans in the 1920’s were just as sexually restricted as Americans in the 1920’s, if not more so. Mead however wanted to promote greater sexual freedom, as did a growing number of Americans during the Roaring Twenties and later.
I am not claiming that this proves that all science is false. What I am suggesting however is that frequently books labeled “science” are actually “fiction”. Always trust, but verify.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:50 PM