tem of benevolent hypocrisy—mostnoften referred to as good manners—nwhat did we have left? We found crude-,nness, boorishness and, in too many instances,nviolence and savagery. ThatnMs. Alther thoroughly approves of thisnshift is best illustrated in the contrastnbetween the militant Donny and hisnlong-suffering Aunt Jemima-ish grandmother,nwho, like all the characters, arencrude stereotypes.nFortunately we, that is Americannsociety, seem to be slowly emerging fromnthe quagmire of the 60’s and 70’s. LisanAlther, so highly touted by the sophisticatesnin the literary press for her assortedncondemnations and exposures, isnbeginning to look a trifle dated. It takesnthe Manhattan cognoscenti a while toncatch up to the rest of the country, ofncourse, but one hopes that by the middlenof the 80’s they will have caught thendirection of the drift. Then will comenthe mad scramble to catch up, and perhapsnthere will be a few novels whichnattempt to show how traditional certitudesncan make life nice. DnBeyond Nature: Sexual Aestheticsnand PoliticsnMarilyn French: Shakespeare’s Dierences. For instance, if the Prince convisionnof Experience; Summit Books; siders Cinderella to be more be’autifulnNew York.nthan her sisters, then it is necessarynthat he believes the ugly sisters to be .. .nWilliam Leach: True Love and Per- uglier . . . than Cinderella. There is nonfeet Union; Basic Books; New York. getting out of it. A Hegelian may talknby Robert B. EckhardtnAt the outset of this essay I offer allndue apologies to Gilbert Keith Chesterton,nwhose key paragraph in “The Ethicsnof Elfland”(from Orthodoxy, 1908)nI have paraphrased here. In this case,nthe limitation is sincerely meant to bena form of homage; while I cannot innconscience share all of Chesterton ‘snviews, he stands as one of this century’snmost energetic and versatile writers innthe English language.nX here are certain viewpoints or explicationsn(cases of one set of phrasesnfollowing another) which are, in thentrue sense of the word, preferences.nSuch are certain philosophical positionsnor literary tastes. We in science (whonare the most imaginative of all creatures)naccept those interpretations and prefer.nEckhardt is author of The Study ofnHuman Evolution.n”… she is quite dazzling. Her reading of ‘Hamlet’ . .nfar more coherept than Ernest Jones’s or T. S. Eliot’s.”nas much fatalism about that fact as henpleases: it really must be. If as a boynDarwin roamed the fields rather thannstudying in classrooms, then youngnCharles preferred bright beetles to dullnlessons. The warmth of a boyish collector’snpassions decreed it from an inscrutablenheart, and we in science submit.nIf a lad tracks a beetle, then henlearns firsthand whether two legs innpursuit are swifter than six legs innflight: that is an experience grown outnof preference, and science is full of it.nBut as I peeked over the disciplinarynhedge into the world of letters, I observednan extraordinary thing. I observednthat learned authors at theirntypewriters were writing about the actualnfacts of biology—human anatomy,nphysiology, evolution and so on—as ifnthese were matters of choice and prefer-nnnence. They talked as if the idea that thenbrain led the way in human evolutionnwere as reasonable as the knowledgenthat our ancestors of four million yearsnago walked about on their hind legs.nBut it is not. There is an enormousndifference by the test of science, whichnis the test of evidence. You cannotnshow physical evidence to document thenbelief that the earliest humans hadnbrains more powerful than those othernanimals, but you can easily observenthat they walked on just two feet at antime when their brains were no largernthan those of chimpanzees. Thesenauthors in front of their keyboards writenof a scientist named Thomas HenrynHuxley, who is supposed to have usednarguments about evolution to lend supportnto feminist positions. But theynapparently failed to read, or, reading,nfailed to believe, the same Huxley’snstatements about girls being not so wellnbalanced as boys, their being naturallyntimid and born conservatives. If Huxleyntruly held these views, then that wasnhis opinion. That is truly subjective, fornseems to me brilliant andn—New York Timesnit is difficult to conceive the extent ofnevidence needed to support such sweepingnjudgments. But we can easily conceivenother statements of opinion, onesnwhich might be better supported bynfactual evidence; we can documentnphysical and physiological differencesnon the average between the sexes whichnare not mere matters of opinion. Wenmust always in science keep this sharpndistinction between evidence, whichncan really be observed, and matters ofntaste, in which there is no test of experience,nbut only subjective judgments.nWe believe in freedom of opinion, butnonly where subjective preferences donnot contradict objective evidence. Wenbelieve that much of the evolution ofnour species took place in the absencen• of firsthand observations; but that doesnnot at all confuse our convictions aboutn.27nJanuary/February 1982n