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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought
I cannot remember exactly why I bought this book, but having done so I decided I really ought to read it. I am so very very glad that I did, and will certainly read it again (probably in about 6 months, after I have had time to digest it the first time, for there is a wealth of information to take in).

I won't bother with the synopsis, other reviewers have...
Published 17 months ago by R. E. Cameron-dick

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3.0 out of 5 stars Politically Correct, well they are trying very hard!
The general ideas here are accepted in most of the scientific community they are embraced with joy by the pseudo-science community where the only group you can attack is the male in general.
At the very start I was uneasy about the scientific vigor of this book when they talked about the patrilineal inheritance from Genghis Khan but call it simply inheritance which...
Published 1 month ago by R. Haylock


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought, 1 Feb 2013
By 
R. E. Cameron-dick (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sex & War (Paperback)
I cannot remember exactly why I bought this book, but having done so I decided I really ought to read it. I am so very very glad that I did, and will certainly read it again (probably in about 6 months, after I have had time to digest it the first time, for there is a wealth of information to take in).

I won't bother with the synopsis, other reviewers have provided that already. Instead, I will just say that I thought I had a pretty good grip on the major issues affecting the earth in the 21st century (and as an Army Officer, war was certainly amongst them), but Potts' insight into the issues of population growth, family planning and how these affect war and effect global crises was truely novel (for me). I would certainly recommend it...in fact I would recommend CGS or Philip Hammond pick up a copy too.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books I've read in years, 13 Mar 2009
By 
Dennis Littrell (SoCal/NorCal/Maui) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sex And War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism And Offers a Path to a Safer World (Hardcover)
Potts' main thesis is that all men have the potential to kill other people to get what they want or because they are told to kill or because they have dehumanized their victims. All men--you, me, and Professor Potts himself, but for the grace of God, could be in Darfur slicing people up with machetes. All that is required is that the victims be seen as members of an outgroup as opposed to the ingroup to which we belong.

This is a startling thesis, one that sets the standard social science model, in which it is said we have to be carefully taught to kill, on its head. What Potts says is that the violence we have seen throughout human history is innate, an evolved trait that was once useful for hominids in the tribal setting. This is also the thesis of evolutionary psychology. Instead of learning to kill, or being taught to kill, we need to be taught NOT to kill. We don't usually kill members of our family or friends because they are part of an ingroup with which we identify.

Potts has a solution, which is why he has written this fascinating and exhaustive treatise on war and its causes. His solution begins with an understanding that our psyches are governed by evolved Stone Age emotions similar to what we see in chimpanzees as they conduct their horrific raids on isolated individuals from neighboring groups, ripping and tearing their victims apart with their bare hands and teeth. Potts calls this "team aggression," a strategy that has been perfected in human beings. Men bond together and use their greater numbers to kill members of other tribes so as to gain resources such as territory, slaves and women to impregnate.

In the modern world we have men with Stone Age brains in positions of power with their fingers on weapons of mass destruction. We know that they will posture and threaten and eventually convince themselves of the evil of the enemy and pull the trigger.

Understanding all this, Potts moves to the solution. Since it is men--not women--who engage in team aggression, we need to put women in positions of power since they have proven to be less likely to go on killing raids. (Potts presents a formidable amount of evidence to support this idea.) Furthermore, the average woman needs to be empowered to the extent that she can choose when and if to have children. Potts shows that countries with large and growing populations relative to resources are more likely to engage in raids on their neighbors than countries with stable populations. Additionally, it is the demographic makeup of the population that is significant. A country with a large percentage of young men relative to older men and women tends to be more violent. Women in sub-Saharan Africa for example typically do not have access to contraception and family planning. Consequently they (and women in the Middle East as well) typically have six, seven or eight children in their lifetimes. Rapid population growth is the result which strains resources and leads to a society with a lot of young men in it who have little to lose and so are easily led to acts of violence.

He adds: "Fundamentalist teachings, whether Christian, Muslim, or any other religion, end up restricting and controlling women, which in turn makes wars and terrorism more likely. The twenty-first century is seeing a clash of cultures, but that clash is not between Islam and Christendom. Rather it is between fundamentalism and reason." (p. 363)

Potts notes that "In the past fifty years the world has accommodated rapid population growth tolerably well, although as rising oil and food prices suggest, this may not be true in the future." He compares us to the "first people to cross into North America, or the Polynesians who first landed at Easter Island...Presented with vast new supplies of food, energy, building materials, and luxury goods our forbears could never have imagined, we have gorged ourselves on consumption, and we have driven our global population...to six billion in 2000... The evidence of that increase is now all around us, in our polluted environment, our warming climate, our disappearing rainforests, and our increasingly degraded farmland: We are, as a species, in the process of proving Malthus's proposition that population will always outstrip resources." (pp. 296-297)

We are Easter Island natives. We have arrived not at an unspoiled island with flightless birds and a virgin forest to ravage, but at a planet with resources still rich enough to exploit and a powerful science and technology to do the exploiting. It took a few hundred years for the Easter Islanders to deplete their resources and return to a mean and savage, poverty-stricken existence. How long will it take us?

Potts writes, "...it is highly likely that our numbers and industrial demands have already exceeded the environment's capacity to support them. Mathias Wackernagel in California, Norman Myers in England, and others calculate that we may have exceeded Earth's carrying capacity as long ago as 1975. According to these calculations, we already need a planet 20 percent larger than the one we have." (p. 299)

There are two points that Potts does not dwell on that I want to emphasize. First, wars have the ability to fix the problem of too many young men with nothing to do. Second, women make sexual choices and in doing so often choose the most violent men to mate with because they know that such men are more likely to survive and provide for their children than less violent men. Women in precarious situation do not make moral judgments. Instead they make realistic ones.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Politically Correct, well they are trying very hard!, 14 May 2014
By 
R. Haylock (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The general ideas here are accepted in most of the scientific community they are embraced with joy by the pseudo-science community where the only group you can attack is the male in general.
At the very start I was uneasy about the scientific vigor of this book when they talked about the patrilineal inheritance from Genghis Khan but call it simply inheritance which implies that woman have no role in passing genetic material to their offspring. I note Wikipedia does this as well maybe that is where they obtained their information. It is interesting that this despite all their efforts with their Men bad Women good message they subconsciously believe in part of their mind that only the male matters in inheritance. In reality it is quite possible to believe that well over a billion people are descended from Genghis Khan when you include both patrilineal and matrilineal inheritance. Actually I am sure (at least I hope so) understood this and were just being sloppy for the general reader. They probably don't have to fight in genetics tutorials to correct this sloppiness. The was also the general statement about people we do not share genes with. Who are they, I ask? Certainly not human beings! Firstly they should say alleles and even then people share many of the same alleles. Again I think sloppiness for a general audience as they talk about the lack of diversity in human populations, I think to show keep them on the politically correct genre. I will now I am sure be told I am just picking up small important points but accuracy in Science is tantamount and should not be undermined.
I am not an expert in behavioral genetics but I got the feeling that examples were being picked to prove their point and some of the book would not stand peer review. I obtained the book as an audio book so I don't know if it contains references to studies that cited. But it is a good rehash of the old selfish gene theme which is hard to argue against.
There is also the suggestion that terrorists have little regard for their own life which I assume mostly refers to suicide bombers. They then lump in the IRA and ETA, living in Northern Ireland one thing that never worried my was being killed by an IRA operative sacrificing their own life. Why then this lumping all terrorists together. Most suicide bombers these days are Muslims killing for religious reasons, IRA, FARC and ETA terrorists although mostly nominally Roman Catholics are not killing for reasons of religion they consider themselves freedom fighters. A possible exception to this is the Palestinian, Chechen terrorist/freedom fighter who live in a hopeless situation (as stated in the book) in an oppressive state with a veto in the UN Security Council or under the control of an oppressive state always supported by a very powerful nation with veto in the UN Security Council. But again the Islamic religion plays a great part and like it or not teachings of that religion do not all together reject such notions at least in the Arabic. The only real exception I can think of are the Tamils. So is this political correctness again?
One last point is: This is the first time I have ever heard anybody suggest that women agreeing with abortion is a sign of their lack of aggression. Whatever you may think of abortion, a sign of a woman's lack of desire to kill?
I look forward to all the comments that will probably come in from the Pseudo Science aficionados who set the political agenda in the UK but before you start remember I do not deny inherited male aggression it would be stupid to do so, there is a massive amount of evidence for it and there is a sound theoretical basis behind it but let's have balance and scientific rigor.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 24 April 2009
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This review is from: Sex And War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism And Offers a Path to a Safer World (Hardcover)
This book is a masterly synthesis of a very wide range of studies that explores the hypothesis that our aggressive nature is a relic of the behaviour of the warring groups of Hom saps from 160,000 years ago. It has enormous relevance to tackling wars, gangs and poverty. Very readable and well-referenced - buy it! read it!
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