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Burnham and Phelan divide life issues into 10 categories (debt, fat, drugs, risk, greed, gender, beauty, infidelity, family, and friends and foes), and then offer up a two-step guide to better living: "Step 1 is to understand our animal nature, particularly those desires that get us into trouble and can lead to unhappiness. Step 2 is to harness this knowledge so that we can tame our primal instincts."
Needless to say, Nancy Reaganesque bromides don't fit into the Mean Genes scheme of things:
"Just say no" to drugs is the simplest way to kick a habit. Unfortunately, this obvious and low-cost approach is also the route most likely to fail. For example, only one person quits smoking for every twenty who attempt to just say no. Raw willpower seems like a great solution right up until weakness strikes and we light up a cigarette or mix a margarita.Instead of slogans, the Mean Genes approach to overcoming drug addiction is to first recognize that "every person has strong, instinctual cravings for destructive substances." This, coupled with a thorough scientific understanding of a given drug's pleasurable effects on the brain, offers a more realistic course of action, such as finding a less harmful substitute for achieving a similar buzz.
Be it talk of weight loss, saving for retirement, or resisting the neighbor's wife, such practical, tough-love suggestions for subduing the beast within are provided throughout the book. Phelan describes how he instantly smears mayonnaise all over tempting sweets served with airline meals to keep from eating them during long flights, and Burnham writes of giving away his Internet access cable in order to free himself of a serious day-trading fixation.
The authors also rely heavily on findings from the animal world in stating their case, which makes for fascinating reading, if not always for the most readily transferable lessons to daily life. Consider, for example, certain frog species that "continue individual bouts of mating for several months. If people mated for a similar percentage of our lives, a single round of intercourse would last almost ten years." And then there's the famed black widow spider. "Shunning the more traditional chastity belt, the male breaks off his sexual organ inside the female, preventing her from ever mating again. When the act is completed, the female kills and eats the male."
Put off by all the sex and violence? Don't worry. There's also a nod to family values in the form of the Australian social spider. "Soon after giving birth to about a hundred hungry spiderlings, Mom's body literally liquefies into a pile of mushy flesh. The babies then munch on the flesh so they can start their lives with full bellies."
Mean genes indeed. --Patrick Jennings --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Bought this book for a college class. It was an interesting and easy read.
- relatively short chapters
- chapters deal with life in general (greed,... Read more
Couldn't finish this. The book starts off with the premise that all human behavior is primarily determined by their genes. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Priya
Seriously, this is kindles way of forcing me for feedback. I hope they get it someday. Nothing else to sayPublished 18 months ago by vibhor
Some of it was randomly cut off which made it hard to read on my phone. I downloaded the pc app and had the same issue. Read morePublished 21 months ago by AB
This book was assigned when I took a course with Professor Phelan and it was the perfect companion to the course. He's great BTW. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Emely Montes de Oca
and then fill in the blank...eating, spending money, hoarding. Ah, the power of genes...gotta love em cause you can’t get away from them. Read morePublished on October 2, 2013 by Nancilee Wydra
Good read...summarises nicely on how to self-control and control over ones weaknesses. Some of the suggestions are very very practical.Published on October 2, 2013 by ANSHUL DOSI
The book really wasn't as interesting as I had hoped. A couple of chapters were pretty good - but otherwise I just was less than impressed.Published on July 3, 2013 by Shad