Access your downloads at our archive site. Visit Archive

Evolution and the Sexual Revolution

The question of the division of a species into male and female, and particularly of the significant role of marriage and the family in human life, has always been one of the insoluble problems in the theory of evolution.

  • Thomas Schirrmacher,
Share this

The evolutionist view of the family is a good example of the influence exercised by secular Weltanschauungen on ethics.1 The question of the division of a species into male and female, and particularly of the significant role of marriage and the family in human life, has always been one of the insoluble problems in the theory of evolution. Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, in a widely noticed article in a German newspaper, explains the phenomenon of the human family by deriving it from the breeding habits of animals.2 He rejects all other explanations, including those of Konrad Lorenz3: "Neither sexuality nor aggression nor fear suffice."4 His reliance on speculation, and the substituion of 'invention' for explanation becomes repeatedly obvous:

"The invention of care for the young is certainly the essential origin of differentiated higher social systems."


"The essential invention for us as humans was the supplementary development of the individualised ties between mother and child."5

Naturally, Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt is probably the "most consistent behavioral scientist"6, as his book, Lehrbuch der Humanethologie7, clearly demonstrates. Behavioral psychology considers man a being most strongly programmed by innate, non-conditioned behavior and by instinct. Yet, biology and sociology hold quite similar ideas when they handle this precarious subject. The impression arises that, while the scholars are unnable to agree on any even insignificant details, they are united in insisting that the human family must have originated in the behavior of its animal ancestors. The most distinguished, easy to read dtv Atlas zur Biologie describes the origin of the human family as following:

"Sexuality and integration into the family: The non-humanoid ancestors of Man probably had a social organisation similar to that of the apes. In polygamous relationships, natural selection preferred the sexually active male and the passive female, but the energies of the most active, highest ranking male would be exhausted by competition with rivals and the defense of his group against enemies, so that the raising of the young would be left to the females. This social organisation was only profitable in tropical biotropes, which provided sufficient food for the female and for her offspring. With the transition to the omnivorous or carnivorous lifestyle of the steppe or the savannah, which required hunting and food-collecting, natural selection preferred a different division of labor. The female's perpetual sexual readiness, unique to human beings, made monogamy possible and liberated the male from the incessant necessity of defending his rights from rivals. He could then concentrate on activities outside his territory and transform suppression and rivalry into cooperation, which required exchange of information, and so encouraged the development of speech."8

According to this explanation, assumed without a shred of evidence, monogamy developed before man was even able to speak. Thus, conversation in marriage is at best a later product of evolution. Parents' love for their children is purely a product of evolutionary pressure:

"Parental care and domestication: The chance distribution of a high mortality rate among animal young, which reduces the directive effect of selection, is limited by parental care. The ability to provide for offspring is increased with expanding brain capacity. Both factors seem to be closely related to each other through feedback. As the brain became larger, the child's development decelerated, the period of his dependancy lengthened ... : this increased the value of parental care and encouraged the selection of animals with larger brains. Lorenz discovered that disruption of a child's development resulted primarily in a continuation of childish characteristics (neotony): the human being retains an open-minded curiosity for the rest of his life. The value to natural selection is obvious."9

I do not wish to take the time to refute the theory of the evolution of man and of the inclusion of his supposed ancestors-this has been repeatedly and successfully done elsewhere.10 The discrepancies in the article cited above are obvious. It repeats six contradictory theories about man's departure from his animal ancestry, and, as always, cites no evidence of the transition from animal to human.11 Even if we assume that evolution did occur, this explanation of the origin of the human family is weak. It silently assumes what it wishes to explain; why the woman, unlike the animal female, is always able to have sexual relations, or why the period of time between birth and adulthood is so much longer for humans than for animals, for example. The statement, "The female's perpetual sexual readiness, unique to human beings, made monogamy possible ...", is circular reasoning, comparable to Eibl-Eibesfeldt's 'invention'. (The perpetual availabitlity for sexual activity, by the way, also makes possible other forms of human social life which are forbidden by God, and which restrict the increase of the human race.)

As unfounded as the theory of the evolution of the human family is in its details,12 it is still the basis for many modern currents of thought, for such theories clearly have great consequences for man in his everyday life, particularly when he hold his philosophy for unassailable science. Ever since Friedrich Engels rejected research into the family prior to 1860 as being "still under the influence of the five books of Moses"13 — an influence now considered tabu — there have been no classical alternatives to the evolutionist view of the family.

As a result, we forget that the idea of an evolution of marriage and the family is the basis of many world-transforming, philosophical systems. Whether National Socialism,14 Marxism, the sexual revolution or the Frankfurt school, all assume that the family and marriage have developed in mankind unconsciously by natural selection, and that the responsible human being can and must shake off the tyranny of the roles it prescribes. Whenever one reads a book on the sociology of the family,15 or the wide-ranging literature of the Frankfurt School, whose influence can be observed in politics, education and child raising, one recognises the doctrine of the family's evolution , which is equally the doctrine of the sexual revolution.

We are often unaware how closely opinions about the family are related to religion?16 An 'enlightening' article in the popular youth magazine, Bravo, was written by a Dr. Goldstein under the pseudonym, Korff and Sommer.17 That the writer is employed by the Lutheran Church in the Rhineland as counselor for child-raising and a professor for psychology and sociology, demonstrates the extent to which this problem has penetrated the protective walls of ecclesiastic cirlces. The German State Churches no longer endorses lifelong monogamy, but has adopted evolutionist ideas of sexuality.

A significant early work on the subject, Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Staates (The Roots of Family, Private Ownership, and the State), was written by Friederich Englels.18 Engels, in an historical outline, mentions Bachofens 1861 "Mutterrecht", as the first evolutionary history of the family.19 He then enlarges on Karl Marx's personal notes on Lewis H. Morgans "Ancient Society" of 187720 and relates it to his economic ideas. He believes that man practiced "uncontrolled sexual relations" in the beginning. He contradicts himself, however, by suggesting that the "original communistic community knew a maximal size for the family."21 The development of the family itself and of monogamy resulted, according to Engels, from the condemnation of incest in sibling marriage. At the same time, Engels believes, the developing awareness of 'yours and mine' led to the concept of private property.

Engels derives his arguments from ethnological studies into the societies of 'primitive' peoples. Assuming that the cultures of 'primitive' peoples are identical with those of early man,22 he makes the same mistake made in other studies on the development of culture. One can assume certain wide-ranging changes in these societies, even if one does not accept the possibility of the alternative concept of degeneration. The influence of Engels' work should not be underrated. It contains the one aspect of Communism which has perhaps been most widely adopted in modern thinking.

The Myth of Matriarchy
Since Engels bases his interpretation of history on the supposed matriarchy of earlier epochs, we should investigate the idea. A matriarchy is a society in which the women rule, in contrast to the patriarchy, in which the men rule.

It is not only feminists who propagate the idea of prehistoric matriarchal societies. It is common to 1. feminists; 2. feminists writers who wish to create a feminist religion with a maternal deity; 3. Marxist philosophers, particularly in the official ethnology of socialist states; 4. psychoanalysts who build on Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi; and 5. some journalists, such as Klaus Rainer Röhl,23 who take up the subject of the Amazons, which is apparently fascinating to fans of popular science.

Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs24 has demonstrated in a well-documented work, that Bachofen's theories are experiencing a renaissance in radical left, as well as in radical right camps, according to which consequences are drawn from his interpretation of history.

A standard book on ethnology describes the matriarchy as following:

"J. J. Bachofen's book, Das Mutterrecht, was published in the year 1861. Since then, the treatment of the question of matrilinear societies25 continues to be an issue in anthropological research. Early scholars, such as McLennen, Tylor, Morgan and Engels, believed that the period of the so-called patriarchy had been preceded by a period of matriarchy ... They assumed promiscuity to have been common to primeval society, so that a child's biological father could not be traced. Since the case was different with the biological mother, who could be undeniably determined, society developed, according to the earlier theorists, the complex of the matriarchal system, which was later, with the development of private property, given up in favor of the patriarchy. This reconstruction of social evolution can not hold its ground against the results of ethnological studies, but is still widely upheld, particularly in feminist literature."26

There has never been a matriarchal society, as the quote from Barganski's work shows. The Taschenwörterbuch Ethonologie defines the matriarchy as following:

"A political-legal system conceived by early theorists, who postulated that those societies who recognise only matrilinear descent were ruled by women. No society, as 'primitive' as it may be, knows a matriarchal order in the sense of this definition."27

The Wörterbuch der Ethnologie says:

"There are so many myths about woman's original superiority, that they have given rise to the thesis that there must have been an period of history in which matriarchal power existed (Bachofen, 1861; Morgan, 1877; Reed, 1975; Davis, 1977). Actually, contemporary ethnology has been unable to find any evidence of any purely matriarchal system. Women do have significant influence in matrilineal and matrilocal societies, in which the husband leaves his ancestral home to move to that of the wife. In these societies, however, the men still retain most of the political power ..."28

For this reason, the conservative ethnologist, Uwe Wesel, chose the title, Der Mythos der Matriarchat (The Myth of Matriarchy) for his excellent, comprehensive study of the subject.29 J. Bamberger30 and Hartmut Zinser31 use similar titles for their works. The Marburg ethnologist, Horst Nachtigall originally gave his article, "Das Matriarchat aus der Sicht der Völkerkunde und der Verhaltensforschung" the title, "Das Reich der Amazonen hat es nie gegeben" (There Never Was a Kingdom of Amazons).32

Nachtigall's judgment is devastating:

"A government by women, in the sense that in certain societies women played the same role played by men in Bachofen's time — that only women took part in the communal bodies which passed laws, made decisions or determined public affairs — exists nowhere on the earth."33

Clearly all theories about matriarchal societies meet opposition from exactly those who ought to know best: the ethnologians. Ethnology has grown out of its evolutionistic stage. This does not mean that ethnologists generally view evolutionist ideas critically, but they do consider all concrete theories of a succession of evolutional stages outdated, since any single theory can only consider a fraction of known nations or cultures, but can not do justice to all.

Ethnological materials are devastating for the advocates of the matriarchy. The question is not whether women acted as warriors (Amazons), whether they played a dominating role in the family tree or in inheritance of property, whether a couple's home was located according to the mother's residence (matrililocality) or according to the wife's (uxorlocality). Nor is it whether indiviual women played a dominating role34 in positions of authority or were worhsipped as maternal deities. Ethnology has discovered all of these in past and present cultures. The question ist, whether there has ever been a society comparable to a patriarchy, in which women continually ruled on principal (matriarchy or gynarchy).

The rejection of the historicity of the matriarchy reaches beyond ethnology. Neither archaeology nor classical philology accept Bachofen, which is a serious consideration, since he based his theory almost exclusively on Greek and Roman sources (mythology).35 On the subject of the derivation of the matriarchy from the existence of maternal deities, Kippenberg simply says:

"... the classical construction of Bachofens 'maternal deities as a reflection of the matriarchy' has been annihilated."36

The theologian, Helen Schüngel-Straumann, who writes about the image of God from a feminist point of view, and who believes that she can derive matriarchal structures from ancient mythology even without historical sources, says about Bachofen:

"His study is, however, not historical, but ideological, his background is philosophical Platonism, which holds the masculine (mental or spiritual) principle to be superior. The feminine matriarchal stage serves only as contrasting emphasis to the higher masculine age."37

She speaks of a "masculine self-justification"38 and admits:

"Feminist research into matriarchy do not work with historical sources in the strictist sense of the word, but only with myths, since these often retain or reflect the conditions of the social level of society ..."39

That needs to be proven. Whether, for example, a myth represents reality or a mythical contrast world-which also reflects on reality-can only be determined when historical sources are available as a basis.40

One of the best refutations of the various theories of the matriarchy is the already cited book by Harmut Zinser, Der Mythos des Mutterrechts,41 which, however, does not address their evolutionist roots. Zinser accuses Bachofen's, Engels' and Freud's theories of historical war between the sexes of representing ideals without any basis in reality, of merely supporting the idea of male superiority in a new fashion. Although all three ideas are now being used to defend equal rights, Zinser sees them as a derogation and disparagement of women.

Under the title, "The mind is masculine", Zinser refutes Johann Jakob Bachofen in masterly manner. Bachofen considered the transformation of the matriarchy into the patriarchy to be progress, for now the mind reigns! Under the title, "Labor is masculine", Zinser opposes Engel's work, "The origin of the family ...". Under the title, "The Drives are masculine", Zinser refutes Freud.

Clearly, Bachofen, who himself drew no conclusions from his theories, has been used by others to prove their long-held Weltanschaungen, which widely contradict each other, as can be seen in the renaissance of his ideas in conservative, as well as in liberal cirlces.

I would extend Zinser's conclusions even farther: not the matriarchal theories give the woman new dignity, but only assume the biblically unjustified essential superiority of the man. The 'war between the sexes' cannot be ended by assuming unprovable stages of evolution, but, in my opinion, only by accepting the absolute standards given in the Bible, which reveals the position of man and woman in Creation. Indeed, the 'war between the sexes' can become true love, which ends all uncontrolled domination of mankind over mankind and clarifies the role of true authority. This prevents the distribution of duties between the sexes from becoming a question of relative value, as in the case with Bachofen, Engels and Freud, for, created in the image of God, man and woman are equal in value, but not in nature. Because of these very differences, they can and should become one. On the basis of forgiveness, true love enables both to give up false claims to authority. The denial of self makes proper authority possible, which never goes beyond the limits set by God, "submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Eph. 5:21).


1. As best seen in a lecture by a professor of anthropology: Ch. Letourneau. The Evolution of Marriage, Walter Scott, (London, 1891).

2. Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt. "Wie Liebe in die Welt gekommen ist", Die Welt, Nr. 205, Sept. 1, 1984, p. 1 of "Die Geistigen Welt".

3. On criticism of Lorenz from a Christian point of view, see: Klaus Berger. Abbau des Göttlichen, Schwengeler Verlag, (Berneck, 1990); Klaus Berger. Evolution und Aggresion, Schwengeler Verlag, (Berneck, 1981). From a secular point of view, see Hugo Moesch. Der Mensch und die Graugans: Eine Kritik an Konrad Lorenz, Umschau, (Frankfurt, 1975).

4. Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt. op.cit.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid. Subtext to photograph, Column 1.

7. Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt. Lehrbuch der Humanethologie, (Munich, 1984).

8. Günter Vogel, Hartmut Angermann. dtv-Atlas zur Biologie, Vol. 2, dtv, (Munich, 1975), p. 501.

9. Ibid.

10. See for example, Duane Gish. Fossilien und Evolution, Hänssler, (Neuhausen, 1983) (English original: Evolution? The Fossils Say No!); M. Bowden. Ape-Men: Fact or Fallacy, Sovereign Publ., (Bormley, GB, 1981); Reinhard Junker and Siegfried Scherer. Entstehung und Geschichte der Lebewesen, Weyel Lehrmittelverlag, (Gießen, 1988): Reinhard Junker. Stammt der Mensch von Affen ab?:, Die Aussagen der Bibel und die Daten der Naturwissenschaft, Hänssler, (Neuhausen, 1993).

11. Günter Vogel, et al., op. cit., pp. 492-493.

12. See E. L. Hebden Tylor. "Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Family, Marriage, and Sex", The Journal of Christian Reconstruction 4 (1977/1978), 2: Symposium on the Family. pp. 149-169.

13. Friedrich Engels. Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Staates, Soziale Klassiker 12, Marxistische Blätter, (Frankfurt, 1973), p. 11.

14. Wilhem Schmidt. Rassen und Völker, Vol. 1, (Luzern, 1946), pp. 69-96.

15.. On the Frankfurt School, see Wolfgang Brezinga. Die Pädagogik der Neuen Linken, Reinhardt, (Munich/Basel, 1981); Immanuel Lück. Alarm um die Schule, Hänssler, (Neuhausen, 1979); Joachim Cochlovius. Ideologie und Praxis der Frankfurter Schule, Krelingen, 1983; Georg Huntemann. Die Zerstörung der Person, VLM, (Bad Liebenzell, 1981).

16. See Günther Kehrer. Religionssoziologie, Berlin, 1968, pp. 107ff.

17. Reiner Roedhauser. "In Bravo nichts Neues", Concepte 8, 1977, pp. I-X.

18. op. cit.

19. Ibid., p. 12.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., p. 43.

22. See Will Durant. Kulturgeschichte der Menschheit, Vol. 1, Ullstein, (Frankfurt, 1981), pp. 43ff, 48ff.

23. Klaus Rainer Röhl. Aufstand der Amazonen: Geschichte einer Legende, Econ Verlag, (Düssledorf, 1982)

24. Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs. "Einleitung". in Johann Jakob Bachofen. Das Mutterrecht, Suhrkamp, (Frankfurt, 19824; 19906)

25. 'Matrilineal' means that ancestry is determined by the line of the mother.

26. Thomas Bargatzky. Einführung in die Ethnologie, H. Buske, (Hamburg, 1985), p. 79.

27. Michel Panoff and Michel Perrin. Taschenwörterbuch der Ethonologie, Dietrich Reimer Verlag, (Berlin, 1982), p. 201.

28. Gisela Maler. "Geschlecht", in Wörterbuch der Ethnologie, ed. by Bernhard Streck, DuMont Buchverlag, (Cologne, 1987), p. 65.

29. Uwe Wesel. Der Mythos der Matriarchat: Über Bachofens Mutterrecht und die Stellung von Frauen in frühen Gesellschaften, Suhrkamp, (Frankfurt, 1980).

30. J. Bamberg. "The Myth of Matriarchy: Why Men Rule in Primitive Society", in Women, Culture and Society, ed. by M. Z. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere, (Stanford, 1974).

31. Hartmut Zinser. Der Mythos des Mutterrechts, Ullstein Materialien, Ullstein Verlag, (Franfurt, 1981). Compare with Zinser's comments at the end of the essay.

32. Horst Nachtigall. "Das Reich der Amazonen hat es nie gegeben: Zum Streit um das Matriarchat", Die Welt, Nr. 177/1986, August 2, 1986, "Geistige Welt", p. 15.

33. Ibid.

34. See for example, Walter Hischberg, (ed.), Neues Wörterbuch der Völkerkunde, Dietrich Reimer Verlag, (Berlin, 1988), p. 195).

35. See B. A. Bäumler. Das mythische Weltalter: Bachofens romantische Deutung des Altertums, (Munich, 1965).

36. Hans G. Kippenberg. "Einleitung: Bachofen-Lektüre heute", Johann Jakob Bachofen. Mutterrecht und Urreligion, ed. by Hans G. Kippenberg, Alfred Kröner Verlag, (Stuttgart, 1984), p. XXXVI.

37. Helen Schüngel-Straumann. "Matriarchat-Patriarchat", Lexikon der Religionen, ed. by Hans Waldenfels and Franz König, Herder, (Freiburg, 1987), p. 393.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid.

40. Thomas Schirrmacher. "Sozialhistorische Aspekte der Märchen und Sagenforschung", Zur Kritik der marxistischen Märchen-und Sagenforschung und andere volkskundliche Beiträge, Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft, (Bonn, 1991).

41. Hartmut Zinser, op. cit.

  • Thomas Schirrmacher
More by Thomas Schirrmacher