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Curious and flawed, but worth a read.
on 12 January 2011
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 on the nature of human beings. In place of methodology, Ridley's championing of cliche and 'common-sense' is also the content of this work, taking to task as it does enquiry into human nature in the Human Sciences (with the exception of Machiavelli and a few novelists) that in their determination to assert the triumph of culture, they miss the very foundations of life and social organisation. To that extent, it is a very persuasive argument: men accrue status to have sex with young, attractive women who withold sex from those without it in relation to their judgements about their relative worth in their context. But this all falls down with inadequate accounts of fetishism, or a foolish genetic argument about homosexuality, or the incest taboo. The myriad examples drawn from animal and bird species are implied renderings of possible human structures, but sometimes this only serves to confuse the argument (or, occasionally, to inflame it).
The intriguing thing about this book is that it manages to be popular science at the same time as arguing that popular science (as practised by you and I in our daily lives in terms of social interactions) is the answer to a question about our species at once overcomplicated and oversimplified, especially by the dull-witted human sciences (and Stephen Jay Gould gets singled out on this). Nonetheless, despite its care to deny reinforcing prejudices. it does exactly that. Time to get a BMW and watch the blonde chicks flock around me.