Sex, Time and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution

This book sets out to explore why and when people evolved so far away from other mammals in several key ways, all of which Dr. Shlain ties to the biological differences between men and women. As in his excellent prior work The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (which holds that there are links between the ascendancy of patriarchy and written language and the descent of matriarchal societies and goddess-based religions), some of the concepts proposed in this book might seem a bit of a stretch. And they are—whether or not they turn out to be factual. Shlain contends, for instance, that women essentially invented the concept of time due to their experience of menses. Whatever conclusions the reader comes to, the author exposes the underlying gender biases in so many scientific assumptions; the result is one of those books that cannot help but alter one's perceptions. A consistently engaging writer, Shlain traces the course of his own evolving ideas with what might be called a didactic wit: bold statements are first writ large, then Dr. Shlain reveals how he came upon them, frequently with colorful anecdotes that show these are questions he's been wrestling with for many years. It's difficult to tell whether this fascinating thinker will be viewed as the next Darwin or as a crank, but there's no denying this is an audacious work in the realm of evolutionary biology. --Mike McGonigal