- Paperback: 252 pages
- Publisher: Tarcherperigee; Reprint edition (2 Sept. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399534539
- ISBN-13: 978-0399534539
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 295,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters: From Dating, Shopping, and Praying to Going to War and Becoming a Billionaire-- Two Evolutionary Psychologists Explain Why We Do What Wedo Paperback – 2 Sep 2008
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That mouthful of a title says it all. According to Kanazawa, a media-savvy researcher whose studies of "beautiful people" have been covered by the BBC and the New York Times, and the late Miller, a professor of social psychology, evolutionary psychology explains almost everything about human behavior. Proponents of what they call "the Standard Social Science Model" believe that the human mind is exempt from biological pressures, while evolutionary psychologists hold that people are an animal species driven by animal needs. The authors suggest that human evolution stopped when agriculture began changing the world much faster than the world could change us, and now 10,000-year-old impulses to find the right mate and produce healthy offspring control nearly every aspect of our existence, from choosing jobs to religious belief. This accessible book opens the youthful field of evolutionary psychology wide for examination, with results often as disturbing as they are fascinating. ("Publishers Weekly")
aA powerful jump-starter for conversations about the nature of being human.a
aA rollicking bit of pop science.a
a"Los Angeles Times"
aAn exuberant, accessible, exhilarating, intellectually aerobic workout.a
aDavid P. Barash, author of "Madame Bovaryas Ovaries"
A powerful jump-starter for conversations about the nature of being human.
A rollicking bit of pop science.
"Los Angeles Times"
An exuberant, accessible, exhilarating, intellectually aerobic workout.
David P. Barash, author of "Madame Bovary s Ovaries"
?A powerful jump-starter for conversations about the nature of being human.?
?A rollicking bit of pop science.?
?"Los Angeles Times"
?An exuberant, accessible, exhilarating, intellectually aerobic workout.?
?David P. Barash, author of "Madame Bovary's Ovaries"
About the Author
Alan S. Miller was a professor of behavioral science at Hokkaido University and an affiliate associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington. He was the coauthor, with Satoshi Kanazawa, of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters: From Dating, Shopping, and Praying to Going to War and Becoming a Billionaire--Two Evolutionary Psychologists Explain Why We Do What We Do, Why Men Gamble and Women Buy Shoes: How Evolution Shaped the Way We Behave and Order by Accident: The Origins and Consequences of Conformity in Contemporary Japan.Satoshi Kanazawa is a British-American evolutionary psychologist who is currently a reader in management at the London School of Economics. He is the coauthor, with Alan Miller, of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters: From Dating, Shopping, and Praying to Going to War and Becoming a Billionaire--Two Evolutionary Psychologists Explain Why We Do What We Do; Why Men Gamble and Women Buy Shoes: How Evolution Shaped the Way We Behave; and Order by Accident: The Origins and Consequences of Conformity in Contemporary Japan.
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The book is organized so that you can skip from chapter to chapter or read randomly; however, the little positive achieved thus is unfortunately more than compensated by very noticeable repetition all over the book. (that's why 4 stars not 5)
From that simple, but profound, realization has sprung evolutionary psychology, which is a fine tool for gazing more or less objectively into the labyrinth of human behavior leading to some understanding of why we behave the way we do.
As wonderful as I think evolutionary psychology is--and it is indeed an eye opener that has taken the groves of academy by storm in the last couple of decades--I can readily see five problems:
One, it upsets people much in the same way that Freud or Darwin upset people, namely by making us more like animals than like beings made in the image of God.
Two, evolutionary psychology, like all psychologies, is limited.
Three, sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between something obviously true (men want lots and lots of reproductive opportunities) and something that may be true ("the death penalty cannot deter young men" from violent crimes--see page 130).
Four, the unwarranted leap that many people, even some very intelligent and educated people, make from the IS of an evo psych discovery to the OUGHT of a moral or societal truth; e.g., women want a man committed to helping them raise their children, but they also want the genetic input from the most alpha male they can find. This, to many people, makes it sound like cuckolding your hubby is the right thing to do since it is the "natural" thing to do. It is also the natural thing to take what you want when you want it, but that doesn't make it right.
Five, behavioral tendencies as gleaned from a study of humans in the so-called Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness are just that, general tendencies that most people at one time or another, for a myriad of reasons, do not always follow. Evolutionary psychology describes main tendencies; it does not prescribe anything. Of course some of these tendencies are powerful biological imperatives that most people find difficult to ignore.
The strength of this book is that the authors go well beyond the familiar discoveries from evolutionary biology to lesser known but fascinating discoveries such as the evolutionary rationale behind beautiful people being more likely to have daughters than sons, to why rich people are more likely to have sons, or why having sons reduces the chance of a divorce, to even why gentlemen prefer blondes.
Here are some observations on the few cases I think the authors didn't get quite right:
They ask: "What is the adaptive problem that religion is designed to solve? Do religious people live longer or have greater reproductive success? So far, no one has been able to point to an adaptive problem that religion is designed to solve." (pp. 158-159) Not so. As Edward O. Wilson so eloquently put it in Human Nature (1978): "When the gods are served, the Darwinian fitness of the members of the tribe is the ultimate if unrecognized beneficiary." (p. 184) What he meant was that the adaptive reason for religion is to make the tribe more cohesive and better able to defeat other tribes in, for example, warfare.
The authors write: "The reason most Western industrial societies are monogamous, despite the fact that humans are naturally polygynous, is that men in such societies tend to be more or less equal in their resources, compared to their ancestors in medieval times." (p. 90) While I suppose this is true, a better reason is that large polygynous societies are politically unstable since large numbers of males without mates tend to revolution; and given suffrage, they would vote against polygyny, as in the US.
The authors aver that there is no satisfactory (adaptive) explanation for why soldiers die for their country. (p. 186) The clear explanation is that young men put themselves in positions in which they are likely to die in battle because society sees that as being brave and manly, and females like to mate with brave and manly men. The fact that many of these men might die before reproducing is offset by the increased reproductive fitness of those who don't die and the fact that they often (as the authors report) have sex before going off to war.
Another bugaboo that authors don't believe is answered is how homosexuality can be adaptive. (See page 180.) The simple answer is that homosexuality in many environments leads to effective male bonding which in turn can lead to a monopolizing of the available females. While homosexual men may not copulate with the females as much as their heterosexual buddies, they will nonetheless copulate a lot more often than loners who do not have access to the females.
One more point: many sociologists might object to the authors' use of the term "Standard Social Science Model." Not being a sociologist myself, I find it hard to believe that the Standard Social Science Model, as characterized by the authors, virtually ignores evolutionary biology and sees everything in purely cultural terms, leaving us to believe, for example, that gender differences in male-female behaviors are largely the result of a patriarchal bias in society.
Written in a popular style with some understandable simplicity, this book is an excellent introduction to evolutionary psychology, nee sociobiology, which, along with cognitive psychology and neuroscience, constitutes the essence of contemporary academic psychology.
For example in chapter 8 the question - "Why are most suicide bombers Muslim?"- is posed. To which the author offers an answer based on polygyny and the teachings of Islam. Such an explanation is not invalidated simply because it is offensive to some. However as a topic for a book on evolutionary psychology both the framing of question and the answer is highly suspect. Mr Satoshi Kanazawa may be well advised to ponder a related question - "Were most Japanese Kamikaze pilots Muslim?"
In summary -"Why beautiful people have more daughters" is a sloppy discussion of some interesting questions.
Anybody who is capable of thinking will revel in the many, many wonders exposed by both Miller and the late Satoshi Kanazawa's most impressive work on evolutionary psychology. Actually, just writing that term, evolutionary psychology, will sound alarm bells in some, but it really shouldn't: you are here in for an instantly fascinating, and always easily accessible read. There are no generalizations here, because this book is very carefully footnoted with extensive referencing throughout.
Yet it's still a book for everyone of the few of we who enjoy thinking for thinking's sake (and I'm sure you know what I mean in saying that!).
Buy this book and learn something about how the world we know is not exactly the world we think we know. And more importantly, why!?
Because this is one of the most interesting psychology books I've ever read, I most surely give it an unquestionable 5/5
PS if you want to believe anyone who gave it less than 5/5, just read their other reviews for all the reasons why they're so very blissfully mistaken. 'Nuff said...
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