Selective Breeding and the Birth of Philosophy
By Costin Alamariu
Self-published, 368 pages, $29.69

At some point in the prehistoric past, perhaps as recently as 5,000 years ago, sedentary agricultural societies flourished across large stretches of Eurasia. These societies were largely peaceful and egalitarian, far more so than later periods of recorded history. For the most part, they worshiped female fertility deities, revered women, and assigned them an array of important social roles. Women weren’t merely men’s equals—they were their superiors in many respects. All of this changed when marauding bands of nomadic barbarians overran and brutally subjugated these placid communities, which possessed scant means of self-defense. The conquerors pillaged, raped, subdued, and enslaved the peaceful valley-dwellers, establishing a society that was the opposite of what preceded it: warlike, expansionary, rigidly hierarchical, and male-dominated. The patriarchal social order that ultimately came to prevail across much of the world was the product of this revolution.

Versions of the story summarized above appeared in a wide array of feminist tracts written in the second half of the 20th century. The religion scholar Cynthia Eller dubbed this narrative the “myth of matriarchal prehistory” in her 2000 book of that title, which reviewed this large body of literature and the evidence for it—and found it tendentious, poorly supported, and politically unhelpful. Today, the myth no longer retains the currency it once did. Younger feminists are likely to see books advocating a return to mother-goddess worship as embarrassing kitsch. Matriarchal prehistory is more likely to furnish materials for pulp entertainment than political activism: Consider, for instance, Dan Brown’s 2003 bestselling thriller, The Da Vinci Code, which repurposed the narrative of a benign ancient goddess cult hounded to extinction by patriarchal oppressors.

Over the past week, however, a new self-published book reiterating the myth of matriarchal prehistory has shot up the Amazon sales rankings to become an unexpected bestseller. More surprising still, the author of this tome isn’t a feminist but, on the contrary, a fierce opponent of feminism and a stalwart of the online “manosphere.” His name is Costin Alamariu, and the book is Selective Breeding and the Birth of Philosophy, a revised version of the doctoral dissertation he completed at Yale in 2015.