Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

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eldin raigmore
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Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

Post by eldin raigmore » Sat 30 Aug 2014, 06:35

1.) Has anyone proposed any sort-of-almost-accepted theories about why more than a couple of Near Eastern and Middle Eastern religio-cultural systems (including the Yazidi and the most traditional Islamic Arabs) insist, contrary to evidence, that only the father's seed has any influence on the child's (or at least the son's) makeup?

2.) At one time there was a similar strain of denial in Europe, particularly in Western Europe.

2a. Does anyone know whether, or has anyone reputable stated an opinion whether, that was imported into Europe from the Near- and Middle- -East? Or did it grow natively to Western Europe as far as anyone can tell, with any connection being shrouded in pre-history?

2b. Why did that strain die out in Europe, or at least Western Europe, but not in the Middle East?
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Re: Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

Post by Ahzoh » Sat 30 Aug 2014, 06:57

Now this is just my opinion:

1) Yea, it's because their religion has parts of it rooted in male-dominance, what else could it be?
2) Christianity, being a descendant of Judaism, also has that male-dominance aspect part of it inherited from the ancestor religion.
3) I dunno, feminism?
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Re: Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

Post by Salmoneus » Sun 31 Aug 2014, 00:58

...what does Christianity have to do with Greek medical theories!?

The theory arises from preformationism, which itself reflects more general concerns over change and creation: the idea is that sperm is made of tiny little people, copies of the father. If the mother contributed directly, that would mean the child would not exist as a person until conception, which would mean that matter that wasn't a person turned into a person at some point, which would obviously be ridiculous.

Additionally, the theory gives balance to nature: it gives both men and women something to do. Having women provide the womb AND half of the child would just be unbalanced and superfluous and wasteful.

Aristotle later put this as saying that women provided the matter, while men provided the form. Of course, Aristotle (like some other Greeks) also believed that female sperm could contribute to the child in some way - but since only white women have sperm (black women can't have orgasms, so can't ejaculate, so don't have sperm, says Aristotle), clearly it's not actually necessary to the process.

Culturally, this also helps explain why the gods had structured society so that inheritance was in the male line - after all, as Athena herself points out, there is no real tie between mothers and children, so of course children do not inherit from mothers. If children were actually the product of their mothers, it would be unjust not to have inheritance in the female line, and if it were unjust, it obviously wouldn't happen. Which it does, so it must be just.

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I assume the later discovery by scientists of such things as ovaries, eggs, conception, DNA, mitochondria and so forth may have played a role in the later acceptance of genetic inheritence from the mother.


EDIT: the theory was probably stronger in Islamic countries due to the greater respect there for Aristotle, who didn't exactly say that women had no formative role in any cases, but who was much closer to that than Galen, who believed in male and female sperm being equal, and who had more followers in Europe. Even those who believed that, though, would tend to lean toward the male role being more important formatively, since it was known that male semen was much thicker (and hence presumably more filled with content) than women's semen. Additionally, since women very rarely became men and then only in puberty, whereas men relatively often reverted to being women for both medical (castration, some illnesses) and economic (lack of female nurses could force men to breastfeed their children themselves) reasons, clearly being male was in some way something extra, on top of womanhood.

Greek philosophy, particularly in mystical form, also commonly encouraged the idea of men and women as fundamentally different from one another, and each with their own distinct non-overlapping purpose (though Galen's view was that women were just men whose genitals were inside-out).
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Re: Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

Post by Thrice Xandvii » Sun 31 Aug 2014, 02:02

salmoneus wrote:(though Galen's view was that women were just men whose genitals were inside-out).
That's very interesting. Especially considering the reverse is actually closer to the truth. Don't we all start out more or less female and then diversify from there?
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Re: Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

Post by Click » Sun 31 Aug 2014, 20:22

XXXVII wrote:
salmoneus wrote:(though Galen's view was that women were just men whose genitals were inside-out).
That's very interesting. Especially considering the reverse is actually closer to the truth. Don't we all start out more or less female and then diversify from there?
If I recall correctly, I think we start with two kinds of structures, one of which evolves into male genitalia and the other one into female ones, until the sixth or so week of pregnancy and then the sexual differentiation kicks in under the influence of hormones.
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Re: Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

Post by Xonen » Sun 31 Aug 2014, 21:12

Click wrote:
XXXVII wrote:
salmoneus wrote:(though Galen's view was that women were just men whose genitals were inside-out).
That's very interesting. Especially considering the reverse is actually closer to the truth. Don't we all start out more or less female and then diversify from there?
If I recall correctly, I think we start with two kinds of structures, one of which evolves into male genitalia and the other one into female ones, until the sixth or so week of pregnancy and then the sexual differentiation kicks in under the influence of hormones.
If I recall am able to read this Wikipedia article correctly, the primordial gonad isn't really either male or female, but it has the potential to develop into either. The former if the SRY gene is present (and functional), the latter if not.
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Re: Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

Post by Salmoneus » Sun 31 Aug 2014, 21:15

To be fair to Galen, he also thought that men were just women with their genitals the inside out.


It would be more accurate to say, though, aiui, that in development we start out as neuter - the structures become more male or female over time. Indeed, much of the change occurs during puberty, not during gestation - descent of testicles vs deepening of the vagina and opening into the womb. It's possible for individuals to remain ambiguous, or appear one or the other, before developing their 'real' sex (as it were) in puberty - this particularly happens with girl children who become men in adulthood (which was recognised as a syndrome even in mediaeval times).

External stuff, anyway. There are indeed different structures internally, but we don't really get to discover what those are until puberty (if then, even).
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Re: Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

Post by Systemzwang » Tue 02 Sep 2014, 10:30

Ahzoh wrote:Now this is just my opinion:

1) Yea, it's because their religion has parts of it rooted in male-dominance, what else could it be?
2) Christianity, being a descendant of Judaism, also has that male-dominance aspect part of it inherited from the ancestor religion.
3) I dunno, feminism?
As for 2) - Judaism, at the very least a significant part of it, has thought that the female does contribute a significant part - see, for instance, how Pharisaic Judaism doesn't consider the offspring of a gentile woman and a Jewish father to be Jewish, but a Jewish mother produces Jewish offspring no matter the ethnicity of the father!

Of course, we're not sure to what extent Christianity grew out of Pharisaism, ... but at least you could get your description of Judaism sufficiently nuanced.
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Re: Denial of mothers' genetic contributions.

Post by eldin raigmore » Thu 04 Sep 2014, 23:55

Systemzwang wrote:…., but a Jewish mother produces Jewish offspring no matter the ethnicity of the father!
... but at least you could get your description of Judaism sufficiently nuanced.
Yes, I was already aware of the "a boy is a Jew if his mother is Jewish" doctrine.
And I agree with the "nuance" bit.

The Yazidi believe they are descended from Adam but not from Eve. They have a myth wherein Adam and Eve quarreled concerning which of them actually had the human-life-propagating contribution. Each put their own contribution in a jar, without the other's, and sealed it for a time. When the jars were opened Eve's jar contained only vermin, but Adam's contained a son (who became the ancestor of the Yazidi -- how, I don't know; did he also make love to a jar?).

Not long ago I saw a question on a website that I characterize as "an Islamic advice version of Yahoo! Answers" wherein the querent asked in all seriousness why Westerners thought a child could inherit citizenship from its mother when, as everyone knew, females had no "tribal seed"? And the answer didn't say anything about the mother's genetic contribution -- which current scientific theory holds is more than the father's, since nearly all the cytoplasmic (i.e. non-nuclear) genes come from the mother only, not from the father ("mitochondrial DNA" being the most famous example). No, IIRC, the answer concentrated on what weird Western cultural assumptions would justify such a ridiculous conclusion.

I think Ahzoh's opinions about this are what most people would answer, at least, most people of whom I can ask this question.
So I'm interested in those answers, but not very interested without some more detail or some more "backing".

Christianity (from Judea) and Mithraism (from Persia, IIANM) were the two biggest religious "imports" into the Roman Empire from the near- and middle- -east. Of course lots of Egyptian deities were also imported. And some of the mystery religions were native to Greece -- east of Rome but not as far east as Egypt, let alone Persia.

So that's why I asked "was this 'strain of belief' imported from the East, or was it native to Europe (even Western Europe), with any connection -- if there was one -- pre-historic?".

I knew (and know) some reasons to guess "it was imported"; but to my mind it's still a guess.

Also, I don't know whether it's actually true that any religion is rooted in "male dominance". I regard that as something which has to be proven of each religion separately, and as something which should be "treated as if it were false" until a preponderance of credible evidence makes it likely that it is true.

OTOH I know that many cases of "male dominance" are "justified" by one religion or another.

So maybe "male dominance" is "rooted" in (particular interpretations of) religion, rather than the other way around.

I could be wrong.
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