James DeMoe's Sahararsia Hypothesis

Here’s a graphic from a writeup by DeMeo called Saharasia: Geographical Comparisons of World Cultures and Civilizations

What he calls “Matrist” cultures are those “pre-fall”. Those called “Patrist” are those who display characteristics consistent with the free will introduced through Adam.


I’m not buying this. Too many red flags…

The North African women felt that De Meo’s analysis seriously misrepresented the Saharan cultures. Malika Grasshoff spoke quite passionately in defense of her Kabyle culture. Helene Claudot-Hawad (who married into a Tuareg community) rejected the presentations as “essentialist.” It collapses the origin of patriarchy down to a single factor, and failed to address the presence of the Tuareg in the Sahara. This striking survival of mother-right culture was simply deleted from the maps De Meo showed, which depicted all of North Africa as one bleak expanse of patriarchy.

The distinguished anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday called the theory “reductionist and dangerous.” She was shocked that De Meo was relying on a discredited data set, “the most flawed data-base I can imagine.” Its “data” was collected before 1956, Sanday explained, by white men “who had no idea what was going on” in the cultures they were studying. Much of it was collected in the 30’s, when ethnology was riddled with racial and gender bias. Sanday later told me that no anthropologist would take seriously conclusions based on this bad information. Even its creator, George Peter Murdock, later came to recognize that it was problematic.

Claiming a Saharan origin of patriarchy occurs in a context of intensely negative racialized portrayal of African societies. DeMeo says he uses anthropological evidence to prove Saharan patriarchy, but modern ethnographic data does not constitute evidence of ancient culture. In the absence of real historical documentation, it is beyond dubious to extrapolate a 6000-old patriarchy based on present-day excision customs, or even on the last 1000 years. Why would Africans not be offended by a claim that people who come from lands like theirs are more likely to create oppressive societies? This is why Helène Claudot-Hawad denounced the hypothesis as “essentialist.”
Flaws of the Saharasia Hypothesis of James DeMeo


I’m familiar with these objections. But they’re more objections to DeMeo’s claim that desertification caused this shift, which if true should have included all the cultures in that region, including the Kabyle culture, as Grasshoff was pointing out.

But if this were introduced, not by climate change, but by the method I’m speaking of, then this doesn’t conflict. Some cultures would not have been affected. Only those where groups with these characteristics integrated. Other cultures in between would be left unaffected.

For example …

“In modern times, it is precisely in the most difficult terrains (and therefore the most inaccessible to conquest) that most matrix cultures have lasted the longest: in remote highlands and deserts, and some islands or peninsulas.”

This is not consistent with DeMeo’s claims that these “difficult terrains” were the catalyst of the behavior change, but are consistent with my claim that these regions were not reached by those who carried these characteristics.

Do me a favor and check out Steve Taylor’s book before you dismiss this.

That is not what I am reading. These are claims that he has doing invalid and very poor work.

This is indefensible methodology if is true, and it has nothing to do with his conclusions.

Don’t let this dissuade you. Read Taylor’s book. I think you’ll find it hugely relevant to what’s being discussed here.

“Sanday knows whereof she speaks, having studied with Murdock and worked with these statistical ethnic data collections for decades. It was Sanday, by the way, who first proposed back in 1981 that eco-stressors – especially food shortages – may have been a factor in the development of patriarchy (but not the factor).”

Even here Sanday also identified a “development of patriarchy” in the same region and time frame. The disagreement is primarily related to the cause, not the behavioral patterns.

I’m dissuaded entirely. This is poor scholarship. Even if the conclusions are correct (and I doubt it), this is inexcusable:

It is not enough to be right in academic work. One also has to marshal a valid argument for ones position. This argument appears to be totally fallacious. There is no reason to consider it more, unless there is material mistake in the three quotes I presented.

Yes, his claim that desertification is the cause is totally fallacious. But the behavior patterns he’s attempting to explain with that cause is what’s relevant here.

If you hope to find the genetic evidence you’re looking for, this behavior change is the place to start. This goes well beyond DeMeo’s research. This is why I keep stressing to look into Taylor’s book. You will then see the correlation between the sweeping changes in human behavior in relation to what’s described in Genesis.

It is not DeMeo’s argument that is valid, it’s mine.

It is a demonstrable fiction that “desert religions” always nutured male patriarchy.
The first chapter of Genesis, verse 1:27 states that male and female are created together in God’s image; i.e., they reflect God best in mutually supportive relationships. Then, in chapter 2, God says that “He” will make Eve to be Adam’s “ezer kenegdo,” a “power corresponding to” Adam, using a phrase reserved elsewhere to describe the very LORD Himself!
Later, after the fall, God announces a consequence --that Adam will try to “rule over” Eve, and that Eve’s primary desire will “turn towards” (teshuquah) Adam, and away from God.
That is what results in pariarchy --an abandonment of God’s original egalitarian intentions… all right there in an ancient Hebrew text!
Some may wince at my use of the word “egalitarian” here, and can mentally substitute “complementarian” instead.


Exactly. Male dominance, increase in violence, and increase in technological capability are all characteristics consistent with post-fall Genesis and consistent with this behavior change.

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Agreed to that extent. Also note that Genesis doesn’t favor a “god” or “goddess” view; the image of God encompasses all of what we normally “segregate” as either male only or female only characteristics. That doesn’t render God as androgenous, either --there is no inherent gender (certainly no “male body”) in the one we call “the Father of our Lord Jesus.”
It is a vestige of patriarchy to so construe God’s image, in my opinion.
But we can comfortably think of and call God our good Father as revealed in Jesus.

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Agreed. Male/female is only relevant biologically. Irrelevant in relation to God.

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What comment do you have regarding Taylor’s “transpersonal psychology” leanings? Any cautions there, too?
Here’s an (unvetted by me, personally) example of one type of critique thereof.

I can only really speak about transpersonal psychology in itself, as I’m not really familiar with Taylor’s specific leanings.

I do agree the human psyche cannot be explained in purely material terms. Part of my whole “free will” stance stems from this.

If all we are psychologically is determined solely by our physiological brain then this limits humanity to only being biological machines whose behaviors are determined by brain states with no willful volition. We are passive observers rather than active participants in life.

Considering we certainly hold one another accountable for behavior, if we are in fact merely biological machines then we have no willful control over behavior. How we respond to any given situation is the only way we physically could have.

Not sure if this answers your question.

Theologically, the debate usually centers around whether “dichotomism” versus its newer cousin, “trichotomism,” are true. One posits a body / “soul” duality, and the other a body / soul / spirit triunality. There are some who say that trichotomism (inartfully named, in my opinion, as if you could somehow “cut” or separate one aspect from another in a person) is the result of progressive revelation upon the earlier view.
In any case, these are the kinds of terms biblical theologians use to describe some of what you’re getting at.

Well, I guess you can put me in the ‘dichotomism’ column as I don’t see a need to split soul and spirit into different types. Not sure what the distinction is.

Update… It seems the ‘tri’ is body, mind, spirit. That makes a little more sense.

But I’d have to say I’m still in the ‘di’ camp. I see mind as more of a construct of body/brain and soul.

More specifically, I see life itself as one and the same as ‘soul’. As in, in my view, all living things have a soul. It is what animates living organisms and is the ‘non-physical’ phenomenon that “disappears” in death.

In this view, all physical life is as capable as is its body/brain to express it’s will/desire.

@Jeremy_Christian that is a possible thesis to defend, only if you can successfully distance yourself from every bad argument to this end. DeMoe is proliferating bad arguments in support of your conclusion. He is undermining your case, and you inability to quickly distance yourself from his arguments ends the conversation.

Poor arguments in service of your preferred conclusion are your enemy here.

I hope you’ll read Taylor’s book and not use this as a reason to not check it out. It’s not so much DeMeo’s work as it is Taylor’s book.

The above “defendable” thesis comes from this. There may be some dubious sources pulled from and such in DeMeo’s work, but since first identifying this behavior change I’ve gone through all sorts of other materials to verify the behavior patterns match up in location and time frame with the interpretation I’m laying out. This is not the only source.

I’m trying to help you all see something that isn’t immediately apparent, understandably. It’s like one of those 3D posters at the mall. Even staring at it you can’t see it yet. But you will. Just have to shift that focus a little bit. See it first, then we can root through all the more credible sources that agree with this behavioral change. It’s really there.

Excuse me, I know this is a week old but, considering God’s gender, I think Ortega (church father) said it best:

“Because we call God, the Father, do you take God to be male, do you take God to be female because Godhead (in Greek) is a female noun, do you take God to be ‘sterile’ (not the same meaning as today) because Holy Spirit is a neutral noun?”

Note, I was writing from memory, I couldn’t find the exact quote I found years ago.