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The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature [Paperback]

Matt Ridley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2003

Sex is as fascinating to scientists as it is to the rest of us. A vast pool of knowledge, therefore, has been gleaned from research into the nature of sex, from the contentious problem of why the wasteful reproductive process exists at all, to how individuals choose their mates and what traits they find attractive. This fascinating book explores those findings, and their implications for the sexual behaviour of our own species. It uses the Red Queen from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ – who has to run at full speed to stay where she is – as a metaphor for a whole range of sexual behaviours. The book was shortlisted for the 1994 Rhone-Poulenc Prize for Science Books.

‘Animals and plants evolved sex to fend off parasitic infection. Now look where it has got us. Men want BMWs, power and money in order to pair-bond with women who are blonde, youthful and narrow-waisted … a brilliant examination of the scientific debates on the hows and whys of sex and evolution’ Independent.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Frequently Bought Together

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature + The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary edition + Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060556579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060556570
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 197,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matt Ridley received his BA and D. Phil at Oxford researching the evolution of behaviour. He has been science editor, Washington correspondent and American editor of The Economist. He is the author of bestselling titles The Red Queen (1993), The Origins of Virtue (1996), Genome (1999) and Nature via Nurture (2003). His books have sold over half a million copies, been translated into 25 languages and been shortlisted for six literary prizes. In 2004 he won the National Academies Book Award from the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine for Nature via Nurture. In 2007 Matt won the Davis Prize from the US History of Science Society for Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code. He is married to the neuroscientist Professor Anya Hurlbert.

Product Description

From the Publisher

Science is...
According to Matt Ridley, science is not a catalogue of facts; it is a search for new mysteries. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

MATT RIDLEY is a research fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs and a Trustee of the International Centre for Life, living in Northumberland. His last book, The Red Queen, was short-listed for the Rhone-Poulenc Prize for science books and the Writers' Guild Award for non-fiction. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The Red Queen - named after a theory which is itself named for the 'Alice' character, who must run as fast as she can simply to keep pace with the world around her - fascinated from beginning to end.
Looking at the evolution of sex, it is filled with intriguing facts, remarkable examples, and frequently alarming revelations. From why the peacock has that remarkable tail (it's probably to do with sexy sons) to why polygamy benefits females rather than males, the book is a real eye-opener.
Once you've learned the secret of the lek, the local disco will never seem the same again. And, given that a man's testicular size is evidence that neither he nor his partner evolved for true monogamy, you may not find this book terribly reassuring.
Polygyny, polyandry, incest, infanticide, and group-bonking bonobos: it may leave you thinking that, in comparison to even some of our closest relatives, we humans have very conservative sex lives indeed. And we may only have started doing it at all so that we don't fall prey to parasites!
A great read, and real incentive to read anything else available by Matt Ridley.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating topic explained well 13 Aug 2005
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A very enjoyable popular science read. Evolutionary scientists are coming out with more and more evidence and theories on how evolution makes us what we are - not just the flesh and bones but why we think like we do. This book covers much of this interesting subject and does it well. He is a good writer that makes it easy to understand.
Some people will have an issue with this book -by it's nature, evolutionary biology and behaviourology are somewhat deterministic. It also necessarily recognises sexual differences. People of a left-wing bias tend to find this at odds with the fundamentals behind their politics (although the same fuss is not made when the same principles are applied to animals...) - hence low scoring reviews of this book having a sexist/political slant. This is unfair as the subject matter is what it is - the book itself is a very well written popular science tome and that is what you want when buying such a book.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Red Queen- A topic for debate 12 Jan 2004
Format:Paperback
Matt Ridley's book the red queen talks about human evolution, but also how our love lives are similar to animals. Matt writes this book with conviction and spreads his love of zoology onto us when he compares how similar the courting rituals of birds to humans.
Matt also opens us up to debate as in one of the chapters he mentions about sexual reproduction "why do we have sex, why not go asexual, that way we would waste less energy" He wants us to question things instead of just accepting things for what they are just because someone famous made a discovery. He also mentions about the psychology of men and women and how any why they are different, the roles of beauty and how that could attract parasites and that is what makes this book so interesting up to the final ending when he leaves with a final analogy in the end of the chapter in The intellutual chess game. Recommended Reading!!!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good summary of a fascinating topic 8 Jan 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is "popular science" at its best. Ridley deals with an extremely complex topic in a manner which anyone with a reasonable level of common sense/logic can understand. At the same time the book is very well referenced and in no way lacking in scientific content or examples. It is at once shocking, exciting and educational, smoothly linking invertebrate parasitology to 20th century human society and convention - and covering a fair amount of ground on the way! I have persuaded all of my friends, (especially my girlfriend) to read it, and they have all found it as fascinating as I did.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The paradigm shift left me dizzy 6 Oct 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I have sinced read many more books on Evolutionary Psychology, but I still recommend The Red Queen (along with Robert Wright's The Moral Animal) as the best introduction. I have sent the pair of books to at least a dozen friends, one of whom responded, "It's like we were living in a biological Dark Ages until the 1970s."
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing 4 May 2005
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I couldn't believe the poor reviews this book got - don't believe them! This book was an amazing insight when I read it during my biology degree around 10 years ago, and I still mention things from it. Admittedly, there may have been progress since then, but the info. in this book is an absolute must for anyone who is interested in evolution and the fallacy of 'the survival of the fittest' (the Red Queen representing Alice in Wonderland character i.e. evolution is not going anywhere, it is just adaptation to a constantly changing environment, and we are no more 'advanced' than any other organism). One of the best books I've ever read (and accessible to a wide audience).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very good read 9 Oct 2010
By sanyata
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
all the standard criticisms are true: the first part is too long and technical, ridley disgresses and says more than the science allows for

but all the standard praise is true as well: ridley writes like an angel and keeps putting interesting twists on every subject adressed in this book

it really is a gem
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By Painter
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fantastic insight into the nature of the beast that is human beings... A lot of very well presented theories I read this book lent it to a lecturer while at Uni and never saw it again, so I'll let you judge how good it is from that!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Book will help out a lot with my AS pysocolgy.
Published 3 months ago by Louis Potts
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good summary
I read The Selfish Gene (Dawkins) and was left with many questions - at the crossroads of knowledge in biology and ethical reflection. Read more
Published 5 months ago by forcevitale
4.0 out of 5 stars Sexual Reproduction Explained
This book is built around an explanation of why humans have evolved to reproduce sexually, and not asexually. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jack Kenyon
4.0 out of 5 stars it is good
It gives lot of information that we never know before..but it take long time to finish reading it.But it is worth reading it.
Published 19 months ago by sam
1.0 out of 5 stars Utter Rubbish!
I was really looking forward to reading this book and maybe use it as a literature review. Ridley is a major disappointment. Read more
Published on 11 Oct 2012 by Neda
1.0 out of 5 stars C'est ridicule
The kindle price is more expensive than the paperback. This is ridiculous. Kindle you are really annoying me. either you don't have the titles I want of they are more expensive!
Published on 18 Dec 2011 by Lucky
5.0 out of 5 stars Evolution of sex
What is sex? It's The Red Queen - nature's way of enabling us to `run in order to stand still'.

It turns out that the purpose of sex is to enable our genes to refresh... Read more
Published on 5 Mar 2011 by anozama
4.0 out of 5 stars well researched
This book has been well researched and a thoroughly good read. It is an indepth book about sex in nature and Matt has obviously gone to alot of trouble to back up his idea with... Read more
Published on 17 Feb 2011 by Mr. H. D. Phillips
3.0 out of 5 stars Curious and flawed, but worth a read.
This curious, flawed book is an interesting concoction of evolutionary science, story-telling and anthropomorphism designed to explain, and to posit as dominant, the impact of sex... Read more
Published on 12 Jan 2011 by Dr. G. SPORTON
5.0 out of 5 stars Dating will never be the same
With most evolutionary science there is an ongoing debate about the prevailing selection forces over the millennia, and the factors that created some non-obvious biological... Read more
Published on 7 Jan 2011 by Dave C
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