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“In order to exploit the environment all organisms adapt their bodies to meet specialized environmental conditions,”

wrote Edward T. Hall [1], the anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher, in his book “The Silent Language” [2], in which he analyzed “the many ways in which people “talk” to one another without the use of words”. He gives a few examples of adaptations:

“the long neck of the giraffe (adapted to high foliage of trees), the teeth of the saber-toothed tiger, toes of the tree sloth, hoof of the horse, and man’s opposable thumb”.

The adaptation of the body is not the end of the story. The author continues:

“Occasionally organisms have developed specialized extensions of their bodies to take the place of what the body itself might do and thereby free the body for other things. Among these ingenious natural developments are the web of the spider, cocoons, nests of birds and fish.” [italics added]

Fieldfare by Andreas Trepte

The man “with his specialized body” is not an exception. (The passage below is cited by Marshall McLuhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy [3].)

“Today man has developed extensions for practically everything he used to do with his body. The evolution of weapons begins with the teeth and the fist and ends with the atom bomb. Clothes and houses are extensions of man’s biological temperature-control mechanisms. Furniture takes the place of squatting and sitting on the ground. Power tools, glasses, TV, telephones, and books which carry the voice across both time and space are examples of material extensions. Money is a way of extending and storing labor. Our transportation networks now do what we used to do with our feet and backs. In fact, all man-made material things can be treated as extensions of what man once did with his body or some specialized part of his body.”

Farmer in rocking-chair reading The Progressive Farmer. “Farmer reading his farm paper” By George W. Ackerman, Coryell County, Texas, September 1931

This can be summarized in the table:

Function Body Body Extensions
Weapons teeth, fist atom bomb
Temperature control biological mechanisms clothes, houses
Rest, recreation, relaxation squatting, sitting on the ground furniture
Communication voice TV, telephones, books
Transportation feet and backs transportation networks

What I learned from this list is that one specialized extension of the human body stands out against the other developments. It is neither shameful nor illegal to squat or sit on the ground, to carry something on your back or to use your voice without touching the phone. But it is extremely undesirable to control your body temperature without clothes on even at comfortable ambient temperatures. It seems ridiculous, especially when one takes into account that the purpose of developing specialized extensions of the body is to free the body.

According to Edward T. Hall, “culture controls behavior in deep and persisting ways, many of which are outside of awareness and therefore beyond conscious control of the individual”. The rich experience taught anthropologists one thing, namely that

“culture is more than mere custom that can be shed or changed like a suit of clothes.”

References
[1] Edward T. Hall – Wikipedia
[2] Edward T. Hall. The Silent Language (Anchor Books, 1973)
[3] The Gutenberg Galaxy – Wikipedia

Animals don’t wear clothes. We learnt it from early childhood. At three years old, you could keep asking why your cat didn’t wear “some clothes” [1]. You could even get a scientific answer: “animals don’t wear clothes because, for the most part, they are still restricted to climates where they don’t need them” [2]. If you are a little older, you may begin to ask yourself whether taking off clothes brings a man or a woman closer to an animal or even “crosses border” between a human being and an animal.

Once Jacques Derrida [3], a French philosopher, found himself frontally naked “faced with cat’s eyes looking” at him “from head to toe” [4]. He started thinking about “the property unique to animals, what in the last instance distinguishes them from man, is their being naked without knowing it”. The philosopher continued, “naked without knowing it, animals would not be, in truth, naked. They wouldn’t be naked because they are naked. In principle, with the exception of man, no animal has ever thought to dress itself”. It appears that clothing “would be proper to man, one of the “properties” of man”. “There is no nudity “in nature”. Then new questions arose: “Before the cat that looks at me naked, would I be ashamed like an animal that no longer has the sense of nudity? Or on the contrary, like a man who retains the sense of his nudity?” [4]

Leaving all these childish and philosophical questions aside, we can specify what indeed “distinguishes humans from other animals” [5]. The answer lies in the sphere of mind and it is not restricted to awareness of nudity. According to modern scientific studies,”mounting evidence indicates that, in contrast to Darwin’s theory of a continuity of mind between humans and other species, a profound gap separates our intellect from the animal kind”.

Abraham Maslow [6], an American psychologist, introduced the notion of peak experience, “the most wonderful experience or experiences of your life; happiest moments, ecstatic moments, moments of rapture, perhaps from being in love, or from listening to music or suddenly “being hit” by a book or a painting, or from some great creative moment” [7]. Peak experiences can be described “as moments of maximum psychological functioning”, when a person “feels more intelligent, more perceptive, wittier, stronger, or more graceful than at other times” [7,8].

Maslow considered “the taboos on nudity to be entirely a matter of folkways and customs rather than a matter of ethical or moral principle in any cross-cultural sense” [9]. He “had an established but purely theoretical interest in whether nudity would make people in therapy “an awful lot freer, a lot more spontaneous, less guarded” [10].

In the late 1960s, basing, in part, on Maslow’s ideas about peak experiences, it was supposed that nudism can be “a viable path to personal growth, authenticity and transcendence”. The therapy called nude psychotherapy was developed. The naked body was considered “as a metaphor of the “psychological soul”. “Uninhibited exhibition of the nude body revealed that which was most fundamental, truthful, and real” [8,10-12]. “Although nude therapy has an indisputable tabloid character, it is also rooted in a long-standing academic search for authenticity and ultimate meaning through science” [11].

Despite the controversy concerning nude therapy, it gives an insight that nudity does not interfere, but rather helps to realize the human potential.

References
[1] Clare Painter, Learning Through Language in Early Childhood, A&C Black, 2005
[2] Question: why don’t other animals wear clothes?
[3] Jacques Derrida – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[4] Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, Fordham Univ Press, 2009, see also Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Winter, 2002), pp. 369-418
[5] What Distinguishes Humans from Other Animals?
[6] Abraham Maslow – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[7] Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, Start Publishing, 2013
[8] Margarita Tartakovsky, The History of Nude Psychotherapy – World of Psychology
[9] Jessica Lynn Grogan, A Cultural History of the Humanistic Psychology Movement in America, ProQuest, 2008
[10] Nude psychotherapy and the quest for inner peace – Mind Hacks
[11] Ian Nicholson, Baring the soul: Paul Bindrim, Abraham Maslow and ‘Nude psychotherapy’, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Volume 43, Issue 4, pages 337–359, 2007
[12] Nude psychotherapy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There is one mystery that continues to evade scientists of numerous disciplines like “archaeology, anthropology, and zoology, as well as the evolutionary, psychological, and sociological branches of biology”: “why, comparatively, man’s penis is so disproportionately large” [1,2]?

It is true that “virtually all human penises are big in comparison with those of the other 192 primate species. Flaccid, the penis of the gorilla and the orangutan, both with much bigger bodies, is virtually invisible; erect, it reaches 1.5 inches or less; the chimpanzee, man’s closest relative (sharing 98 percent of his DNA) achieves an erection twice that of the other two apes but still only one-half the average human one” [2]. It seems obvious that this human superiority cannot be explained solely by the requirements of sexual reproduction, since “the male ape successfully propagates his kind with much less”. So another theory is put forward that “the human penis has also become an organ of display, like a peacock’s tail or a lion’s mane” [3].

Jared Diamond states in [3] that “the human penis is an organ of display … intended not for women but for fellow men” and the main role of this organ is to pose a threat or emphasize a status. But, I think, there is one problem with this explanation. Not only human males are generously endowed by the nature. “Human females are unique in their breasts, which are considerably larger than those of apes even before the first pregnancy” [3]. The simple rough charts below demonstrate that men and women show the same tendency in exceeding their ape counterparts.

Image: The length of the erect men’s penis and size of the women's breasts in comparison with primates, respectively

Image: The length of the erect men’s penis and size of the women’s breasts in comparison with great apes, respectively

The real explanation must be applicable to both genders. It is highly unlikely that women’s breasts are organs of display for “fellow women”. It is probable that men’s and women’s organs are indeed intended to be displayed, that is why, their sizes are so noticeable. Also it is notable that here we are dealing with primary and secondary sex characteristic, which allow to distinguish with certainty one gender from another. So, in my opinion, the display in both cases is addressed to both genders and it has some social function. There might be definite scientific grounds for nudist practices not to cover the body with clothes from time to time, since man and woman have evolved to be nude and not afraid to show it.

References
1. Thomas Hickman, God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis, Soft Skull Press, Berkeley, 2013.
2. Thomas Hickman, Slate: Average penis size
3. Jared Diamond, The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee, Vintage, London, 2002.

One small article on ScienceNews (published online yesterday, Thursday, October 22nd, 2009) summarizes all you should know about fat in the light of recent scientific advances.

First. Women and men tend to carry fat in different parts of their bodies: men inside the abdomen near their organs, women in a concentrated layer directly under their skin (in scientific terminology used in an article, in their butts). When women hit menopause, their fat relocates to their bellies.

Second.  Fat could be healthier or dangerous. Belly fat cells (i.e. men’s) go directly into internal organs like the liver and can inflame the organs. Hormones from subcutaneous fat (common to women) go into the bloodstream, where they do less harm.

Third. Male and female … rats have the same fat distribution patterns as humans and can be used as guinea-pigs in scientific research on fat.

Then. Post-menopausal women and men lack a molecule called estrogen receptor alpha that grabs on to estrogen. The studies of human fat cells suggested that when estrogen binds to ER-alpha, the cell is more able to break down fat. Women have more ER-alpha in their bellies than men do and that keeps fat away from that fat depot (The researchers mentioned fat depot at least twice in a small article. I think, they’ve invented a new scientific term.)

The main conclusion. Even in males, estrogen is important for marking the fat tissue to be relatively healthy.

Your belly is putting you at greater health risk. The fat in the butts (forgive me this scientific term) is healthy.

1940 RETOUCHED POSTCARD,,,,,, by twittey on deviantart

1940 RETOUCHED POSTCARD,,,,,, by twittey on deviantart