Scientists Assail Book on Rape
scientists are criticizing the research behind "A Natural History of
Rape," a book that portrays rape as a natural product of evolution and
suggests all men could be rapists.
Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, the scientists describe the book as
scientifically flawed. The journal's editors took the unusual step of releasing
the book review in advance.
authors' evidence either fails to support their case, is presented in a
misleading or biased way, or equally supports alternative explanations,'' said
the reviewers, Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago and Andrew Berry of
Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology.
review angered the book's authors, Randy Thornhill of the University of New
Mexico and Craig Palmer of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. They
questioned the credibility and objectivity of both the reviewers and the
anti-evolution critics don't like evolution applied to any feature of life, but
especially not to human traits," said Thornhill, a biologist.
years, the prevailing view was that rape is a crime of violence and power. But
in their book, published by MIT Press, Thornhill and Palmer suggest that sexual
coercion has evolved as a means to increase the reproductive success of those
men who would otherwise be rejected as mates. They also recommend that women
dress conservatively and young men be taught to control their impulses.
the Nature review, Coyne and Berry criticize the book's underlying science on
example, Thornhill and Palmer report that rape victims tend to be in their prime
reproductive years; the reviewers counter with a 1992 study showing that 29
percent of rape victims were under age eleven.
book's authors say women of childbearing age suffer more violence during rape
because they fight harder to prevent an unwanted conception. The reviewers
suggest that children and older women who are raped often are physically unable
to fight back. Other rape experts have said the book is rich in problems.
read a five-page summary of the book, and I came up with 52 points of
disagreement," said University of Arizona public health professor Mary
Koss. She co-chaired a task force on violence against women for the American
authors claim their book is being rejected on political grounds," Koss
said. "But these are criticisms of content and quality."
and Palmer previously disagreed over the book with Coyne and other scientific
critics, as well as the National Organization for Women and rape counselors.
said the book does not condone rape; it merely explores its biological roots.
The authors contend that forced procreation is documented in species ranging
from insects to apes, and humans are no different.
the Net: New York Academy of Sciences, which published excerpts of book: