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4.3 out of 5 stars21
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 6 April 2010
This book has the distinction of being both interesting and boring. The early part of the book deals with how the attitude to sex is different for men and women in order to maximise the survivability of their offspring and genes. If I understand the conclusion of the book correctly; then men want sex with any woman within field of view and women want money and status. This may explain why women take to prostitution so easily and men find it easy to pay them for sex. This is probably the most interesting part of the book because it stays focused on a specific subject and is based on other peoples research work as well as the author's analysis. This part of the book could have benefited from a lot more about how the human psychology had evolved when humans had to live in cities. Far too much of the book is concerned with the private life of Charles Darwin... why?. What is so special about his private life that warrant dedicating half the book to it. There are no shortage of scientists who have had a greater influence on everyday life; but nobody spends half a book on electrical theory telling you about the physicist's private life. The author sometimes uses Darwin as some kind of moral example of Victorian morality... why?. I can only assume that the book was intended for an American reading audience where half the American states don't teach evolution; presumably Darwin is still seen as a kind of bogey man. My presumption is that this book was written for the American intellectual elite: I don't know what proportion of them are still trying to crawl out of the hole dug for them by the `monkey trial'(see Summer of the Gods by Edward Larson will give you a good background ). The book seems to be predominantly about how human psychology has evolved from animals. Although a bit waffley and speculative in places; this is quite interesting. There is also a great deal of whether Darwin got this right or that right; so what if he got it 50 percent right or 100 percent right. Darwin set the evolution ball rolling; it has since been added to by other people: typical evolution of a scientific theory. I wonder how many people realise that when they bow to royalty they are aping chimpanzee behaviour. The author seems to wait till the end of the book before declaring what the intention of the book is: did the sense of morality which we attribute to `human only' and not to animals: in fact evolve from animals. The problem with discussing morality is that the word had been so successfully hijacked by religion; it is virtually impossible to talk about it in a scientific context. The author does try to do this; but fails to keep it separate from religion. The book also tries to throw the word Darwinism all over the place to the degree that I could not really grasp what he was trying to say in places. The attempt to define Darwinism at the beginning of the book was more confusing than just guessing what it meant. There are too many long winded arguments where the discussion goes round in circles and goes nowhere. For the layman the first section on sexual attitudes of men and women and the evolutionary psychology are the most interesting. The rest of the book comes and goes. If you could remove the boring non-psychology bits; this book could be quite good.
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on 25 March 2015
Great book. Impossible to put down. Very well research and astonishingly impartial, it never takes one side without strong evidence backing it up. It connects in places with what you read in other books and in some other places, it helps you refine what really can be inferred on our human nature. For example, while books like C Ryan's Sex at Dawn point towards a polygamous nature of the hunter gatherer. R Wright will clarify that polygamy is allowed in most tribes living close to the hunter gatherer lifestyle referencing mostly the same sources. Being allowed in certain conditions and being the norm is a big difference. he paragraph "winners and losers" in the marriage section for example will explain the benefits of socially institutionalized monogamy for social stability (society is less stable when you have too many males unable to attain reproductive success). It seems Richard Wright conclusions jump a bit less than other writers in the field. And it's quite nice that way. The rest on Darwin's life is great too. Overall, a must read book for those interested in evolutionary psychology.
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This is certainly an interesting book: it gets the reader to re-think his/her place in society and wonder about his/her life choices. However, as with all attempts to reduce a topic as complex and ever-changing as human nature to a simple formula, its certainties and claims wind up sounding a bit glib, if not arrogant. Because evolutionary biologists can posit that their discoveries are "scientific" by their choice of a methodolgy, they forget that the answers they find depend almost entirely on the questions they ask. Essentilally, like sociobiology, evolutionary psychologists apply neo-darminian theory to human society. For example, because male fruit flies are promiscuous (i.e spread their DNA), Wright argues that that explains why virtually all men have wandering eyes for the "scarce eggs" of women other than their spouses. By the same token, one's place in the hierarchy reflects directly on one's genetic fitness. Thought-provoking yes, but, human life is a bit more complex.
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on 16 February 2012
This book is great, really thought provoking and well written. I can see why the detail of Darwins life could be seen by some as distracting and irrelevant but i thought it was a clever way of exploring many different ideas. As a big Darwin fan i found the details about him interesting anyway.
The book aims to show how evolutionary psychology can illuminate many aspects of our lives, an essential read for everyone!
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on 7 September 2013
Every so often I'd have to put the book down midway through a paragraph or chapter, just to mull over what I'd just read as it has the effect to change your understanding of everything you've come to think you already know. Often quite dense and slow to read in parts, but wholly worth the struggle.
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on 7 September 2013
This is a good explanation about people and why we are what we are I would recommend it to thinkers ,those who are interested in why people do the things they do and say the things they say,it explains a lot .
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on 11 August 2012
An evolutionary approach to human nature. AT first I thought he was taking a rather limited and deterministic approach to the subject, with old conservative, pre-feminist theory that men and women have evolved for different roles and should therefore keep to their proper places, seemed to be the theme of the first few chapters. Things become more nuanced later on and he deliberately rebuts the 'naturalistic fallacy' but contrarily takes the view that 'nature' is amoral and we humans can take some (albeit rather limited) charge over our lives and decide what sort of future we have as a social species. It needs digesting, its not as simple as it at first appears and a lot of his theories are overly speculative but very thought-provoking. I am going to have to read it again and think hard about the implications.
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on 24 August 2000
An eye-opener of a book. Clearly and concisely presented, The Moral Animal gives the layman a chance to enter the world of eolutionary psychology.
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on 6 November 2009
Lots of interesting ideas, I now often find myself thinking in ways similar to those in Wright's framework in my real-life situations. The book is a bit long, so I had to make efforts to speed-read.
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on 7 May 2013
If you want the basics of evolutionary psychology, then this book will give it to you, but in a long-winded, rather boring way. However the basic position remains essentially bogus - I mean the attempt to tie particular bits of human behaviour to particular genes. Every example depends on Just-so stories - fictions attempting to explain a feature of behaviour that could be explained as well, or better, by non-genetic means. And, as always with sociobiology, there is simply something nasty at the core.
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