The Red Queen

The Red Queen

Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

Book - 1994
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Baker & Taylor
A look at the implications of sex and human nature draws on cutting-edge research to detail the evolution of sex in plants and animals and to illustrate how it influences our intellect, our choice of mates, and our social structure

Book News
The author, a science journalist, draws on a wide range of sources (which he notes and annotates) to present some biological (unromantic) reasons behind seduction and sexism, beauty and polygamy, attraction and adultery. The title refers to Lewis Carroll's character in Through the Looking Glass who told Alice "we must run as fast as we can just to stay in the same place," her comment being used metaphorically for evolution. For the lay audience. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.

Blackwell North Amer
Two fascinating questions lie at the heart of The Red Queen: Why is Homo sapiens a sexual species, and what implications does this have for human nature?
That man is sexual may seem unremarkable, yet in fact not all plants and animals need to have sex to reproduce; simple cloning is practiced by many animals with much greater efficiency. To understand how life evolves, and what benefit sex provides for humans, we must think like the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, who had to keep running just to stay in place.
According to a controversial yet persuasive new theory, evolution is not about progress, but about changing in order to survive. Because humans are in a perpetual battle with the parasites lurking within our bodies, we need to be able to change molecular locks as fast as parasites invent new keys. Sex enables us to alter genetic combinations every generation. Sex, then, is a vital weapon in disease resistance. It enables us to change, not so we progress ahead, but so we avoid falling behind.
But what does all this mean for human nature? From a lucid overview of the Red Queen theory, Matt Ridley follows the logic of its argument into the heart of human behavior. For just as the human eye is a product of evolution, so is human nature.
Evolutionary theory provides the clues to help us understand fundamental facts about human beings, from our fashion consciousness to our "system of monogamy plagued by adultery." Ridley's probing mind asks a series of provocative questions. Is mankind naturally polygamous like most of our ape relatives? Are men and women mentally different as well as physically, and if so why? Why do people share so many sexual habits with swallows? Are our notions of human beauty arbitrary, or is there method in them?
Jumping into the middle of the debate over the definition of "human nature," The Red Queen offers an extraordinary new way of interpreting the human condition and how it has evolved. It throws fresh light on seduction and sexism, beauty and polygamy, attraction and adultery - even intelligence itself. This is a brilliantly written book of considerable intrigue and uncommon sense.

Baker
& Taylor

A look at the implications of sex and human nature draws on cutting-edge research to detail the evolution of sex in plants and animals and to illustrate how it influences our intellect, our choice of mates, and our social structure.

Publisher: New York : Macmillan Pub. Co., 1994
ISBN: 9780026033404
0026033402
Branch Call Number: 573.2 RIDLE
Characteristics: ix, 405 pages ; 24 cm

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1aa
Nov 14, 2017

I rather liked the first third (or maybe first half) of it the best: the survey of explanations of why sexual reproduction even exists, and why it exists the way it does. The oddest creatures are mentioned for examples.
Other oddness also is mentioned: putting baking soda into the vaginas of rabbits to determine the gender of the offspring (page 123). Such cruel perversion! Its astonishing that no one has ever really held to account the scientists for abusing the imprimatur of the quest for truth, as well as the theatrics of authority, to engage in and pursue their cruelly perverted imaginations!
No diagrams, charts, graphs, or tables - its all words.
Long bibliography, decent index. The notes were of the "See Dawkins (1982), pg x)" sort, forcing one to then flip to the bibliography - a second flip, and an annoying one.

j
jmarynowski
Feb 27, 2013

I really enjoyed this book. It explores biology with a focus on the "why" not the "how" which makes it more accessible to people with little background in the sciences.

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