, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 401–404 | Cite as

Erika Lorraine Milam, Creatures of Cain: the Hunt for Human Nature in Cold War America

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019. 408 pp. $29.95. ISBN 978-0691181882
  • Howard L. KayeEmail author
Book Review

Historian of science, Erika Milam’s, new book, Creatures of Cain, is an impressively researched study of a narrowly defined cultural question: how and why did a “new” conception of human nature, grounded in “science,” and emphasizing both our “innate aggressiveness” and a biologically “unique” capacity for murder, suddenly emerge in the mid-1960s; swiftly gain cultural prominence in America; and then just as swiftly succumb to ridicule and dismissal by the mid-1970s in the face of both scientific and political opposition?

Drawing on extensive archival research and interviews with key scientific figures, Milam presents an answer that is both intriguing and disappointing. According to her historical reconstruction, those scientists in the 1950s who wrote for a broader audience about our evolved human nature; such as, anthropologist Loren Eiseley and geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, deliberately presented an optimistic vision of human evolutionary “ascent,” which emphasized both a...


Further Reading

  1. Ardrey, Robert. 1966. The territorial imperative: A personal inquiry into the animal origins of Property and Nations. New York: Atheneum.Google Scholar
  2. Dawkins, Richard. 1976. The selfish gene. New York: Oxford University Press.
  3. Kaye, Howard L. 1986 1997. The social meaning of modern biology: From Social Darwinism to Sociobiology, 2nd edition. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Lorenz, Konrad. 1963 1966. On Aggression. Trans. By Marjorie Kerr. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.Google Scholar
  5. Morris, D. 1967. The naked ape: A Zoologist’s study of the human animal. New York:McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  6. Rieff, Philip. 1959 1979. Freud: The mind of the moralist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. Trilling, Lionel. 1955 1965. “Freud: Within and beyond culture.” Pp. 77–102 in Beyond Culture: Essays on Literature and Learning. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyFranklin and Marshall CollegeLancasterUSA

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