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4.2 out of 5 stars41
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 9 September 2000
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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on 8 January 1999
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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on 12 January 2004
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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on 13 August 2005
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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on 6 October 1999
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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on 4 May 2005
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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on 5 March 2011
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 themselves often enough to outwit our equally `ingenious' parasites.

Sex itself has had to pass numerous Darwinian hurdles in order to prevail as a useful mechanism for survival. Ridley seems to have mastered vast amounts of research, and astonishes us with a scintillating account of the rigour, in genetic, biochemical, and biological terms, of the evolutionary tests which sexual reproduction itself has successfully overcome.

Once we understand the enormous respect which this evolutionary adaptation deserves, we are eager to hear more about it. Maintaining the ruthlessly exacting scientific perspective of Darwinian logic, Ridley surveys sexual selection and mating behaviour in the animal kingdom, including humankind.

For a fascinating new light on your love life, read this book !
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on 9 October 2010
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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on 14 February 2014
This book is built around an explanation of why humans have evolved to reproduce sexually, and not asexually. Instead of the commonly held belief that sexual mutations help us to exploit our environment, Ridley proposes that mutations help us to fend off parasitic infection. With this idea in place, he then provides a broad overview of evolutionary psychology: our mating habits, mate preferences, learning processes etc. The Red Queen theory of evolution, which this book explains perfectly, is the accepted theory for sexual reproduction at this point in time, and probably will be for the foreseeable future.

To explain many ideas in the book, Ridley references behaviour within other species that provide insight into our own behaviour. Some of these are fascinating, although there are perhaps a few too many.
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on 27 May 2016
Fascinating book covering many interesting topics. Very readable for a non fiction book.
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