chapter  9
27 Pages

Virgin Birth, Parthenogenesis, and Physiological Paternity: An Essay in Cultural Interpretation

ByMelford E. Spiro

In 1961 Edmund Leach wrote a legitimate inference to assert that these Australian aborigines were ignorant of the connexion between copulation and pregnancy.” Referring to the numerous European folk tales which recount the magical conception of gods and heroes, Leach observes that “some of these stories resemble very closely indeed the account given to Roth by the Tully River Blacks of how ordinary human births occur”. According to Dr. Leach, the “modern interpretation” of the Tully River conception beliefs is that “the relationship between the woman’s child and the clansmen of the woman’s husband stems from the public recognition of the bonds of marriage.” Leach’s real concern, however, is not with the Australian evidence, but with the Christian analogy, the Virgin Birth. In sum, Leach’s analogical argument is invalid. Whatever else it can imply, the Virgin Birth cannot imply ignorance of physiological paternity; it must imply knowledge of physiological paternity.