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Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature Hardcover – June 12, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520269713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520269712
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"If you are willing to enhance your worldview by sleuthing to discover "who we are and why
we do what we do," Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You is for you."
-Science

"This book is a must for anyone looking to explore where the lines of human nature and artificial class structure are, and where Fuentes says they've been artificially created."--Charleston Post & Courier

"Fuentes deserves praise for and success with this book. The myth-busting toolkit, which is essentially a pattern of questioning, is a wonderful device. . . . Fuentes is not just informing, he is teaching readers how to think critically."--Washington Independent Review of Books

"Where these myths come from, and how to bust them, is the basis of this lively,
thoughtful book. Fuentes declares himself on neither side of the debate...
Instead he's firmly on team logic." -The Boston Globe

"In this compelling bit of pop science, Fuentes, professor of anthropology at Notre Dame, asks readers to throw out their preconceptions about what it means to be a human."--Publishers Weekly

"...a provocative text for both novices to the field of biological anthropology and seasoned professionals....At the core of Fuentes' argument is the relationship between the real world complexities of biocultural systems and the reality of reductionist, often misguided, commonly held understandings
of such systems" Adam Van Arsdale American Journal of Physcial Anthropology 152(1)

“The author masterly conveys his knowledge in an informative way. . . . If you are willing to enhance your worldview by sleuthing to discover ‘who we are and why we do what we do,’ Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You is for you. Whether you agree with Fuentes or not, it will at least engage your critical thinking skills and encourage you to be a more active and discerning consumer of information.”
(Science (AAAS) 2012-08-03)

“This book is a must for anyone looking to explore where the lines of human nature and artificial class structure are, and where Fuentes says they’ve been artificially created.”
(Charleston Post & Courier 2012-08-05)

“Accessible, compelling, and original, this book is a rich and nuanced account of how nature, culture, experience, and choice interact to influence human behavior.”
(Ian Paulsen Birdbooker Report/The Guardian 2012-07-15)

“Recommended.”
(J. Stauder, University of Massachusetts--Dartmouth Choice 2012-11-20)

“Fuentes dismantles persistent fallacies about the validity of biological races, innateness of aggression, nature of monogamy and differences between sexes.”
(Living Anthropologically 2012-10-30)

“Useful. . . . [Fuentes] debunks some popular misconceptions about evolutionary change and provides a basic primer on evolutionary theory.”
(Joan C. Stevenson, Western Washington University American Jrnl Of Human Biology 2013-04-11)

“Engaging. . . . Fuentes’s work goes a long way toward burying some of the most pervasive myths about human beings.”
(Stefano B. Longo and Nicholas Malone Monthly Review 2013-04-16)

From the Inside Flap

“Unlike advocates who promote one-cause-fits-all explanations for human behavior, Fuentes appreciates the array of influences that make us human. This book is guaranteed to give the reader a more nuanced view of who we are, and why we do what we do.”—Joel Best, author of Everyone’s a Winner and Damned Lies and Statistics

“Agustín Fuentes has established himself as an original and authoritative voice for the study of human origins. While interrogating the narrative of where we came from, the domain of both science and mythology, he explains scientific subtleties with grace and ease and successfully guides us through a confrontation with our bio-cultural nature.”—Jonathan Marks, author of What it Means to be 98% Chimpanzee

“Fuentes brings together an enormous array of information from diverse fields to counter some of the most pervasive myths about human nature in our society.” —Karen B. Strier, author of Primate Behavioral Ecology

“It is about time that an anthropologist discusses these pervasive myths of human nature and shows them to be just that: myths. Using data from across anthropology and debunking popular writings that do not account for all of the relevant literature, Fuentes does an exceptional job in deconstructing many commonly held beliefs concerning human behavior.” —Robert W. Sussman, coauthor of Man the Hunted

“Fuentes challenges us to undertake the most fundamental of self-help programs and free ourselves of harmful misconceptions about race, aggression, and sex. By approaching the study of human nature through the lens of evolution, he has produced an illuminating, refreshing, and uplifting view of humanity that is both a superb history of our species and a manual for our future.” —Nina G. Jablonski, author of Skin and Living Color




More About the Author

Agustín Fuentes, trained in Zoology and Anthropology, is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. His research delves into the how and why of being human. Ranging from chasing monkeys in the jungles and cities of Asia, to exploring the lives of our evolutionary ancestors, to examining what people actually do across the globe, Professor Fuentes is interested in both the big questions and the small details of what makes humans and our closest relatives tick. Fuentes brings nearly two decades of training and research to his current book on busting myths about human nature.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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So to say that race and ethnicity has no biological basis is well intentioned but wrong.
Viewer
While he is careful to avoid jargon unless it is absolutely necessary, Fuentes is also sure to define that which he does use.
Richard Powis
Buy this book, read it, and make sure that your friends and family know that you have read it.
Ed Evans

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jay Young on January 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As my interests in sociology, social stratification, identity, and the scientific enterprise develop, I am very happy to have come across a book that ties all of these interests together. The book explains, clearly, what evolution is, and more importantly, what it is not, and the relation evolutionary biology has to culture and society. Specifically, he explains how race, gender, monogamy, and aggression relate to biology, and why there are so many widespread misconceptions about them.

Above all, Fuentes' book provides what he calls a toolkit for bustin myths about human nature. A strong understanding of evolution is the foundation of the discussion, and Fuentes provides that in one of the early chapters. Most importantly, in the toolkit for busting myths about human nature, he wants readers to understand the things that evolution is not: a process to the best, strongest, fastest, prettiest, or "best" species or individuals; that evolution is over, or that humans have reached the "end of evolution"; that it is oriented toward progress toward a particular goal and that organisms are perfectly suited to their environments; that it all happens by chance. Basically, evolution is change over time within populations in genotype and phenotype. In addition, it involves more than simply natural selection. In detail, he discusses, among other things, gene flow, genetic drift, and the intriguing (and to me, new) niche construction theory; a new habitat or environment that a species constructs can itself become a selecting force in evolution in its own right. By transforming natural selection pressures, niche construction generates feedback in evolution, on a scale hitherto underestimated, and in a manner that alters the evolutionary dynamic.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Edwin Lyngar on July 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Agustín Fuentes offers a take down of conventional thinking on a number of topics. If you like books that challenge conventional "wisdom" then this book is for you. I don’t understand sociology to any great extent, and as a bonus Fuentes offers the reader a primer in examining culture “from the outside” as much as is possible. The fact that every human in the planet is raised in a “culture” makes it impossible for any person to be completely unbiased.

I thought I would be most interested in the “busting” of monogamy, but Fuentes’ take down of our artificial racial divide is the thing that most stuck with me at the end of this book. Humans tend to view race as a very large, real difference between human beings, but this book pokes serious holes in that assessment. Fuentes shows that race is a minor, superficial difference between humans. This analysis alone is worth the price of the book.

I also felt that religion was needled a bit in this book, if often incidentally in several cases. I read this book as part of a Freethinking book club, and it generated a lot of passion and discussion in the membership. Worth the read.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard Powis on March 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
For many years, influential scientists have been stepping outside of academia to remind the public that they do not need college degrees to effectively scrutinize the myths, legends, dogmas, and conspiracy theories perpetuated by pop culture. Published in 1981, Mismeasure of Man, by evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, showed us how a popular misconception about the relationship between race and intelligence was made worse by scientists with a priori knowledge and a defective version of the scientific method. In 1995, astrophysicist Carl Sagan published The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark in which he gives readers the "Baloney Detection Kit," - now famous in secular humanist communities - and uses it to dismantle claims about UFOs and alien abductions. In 2011, biologist Richard Dawkins published The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True, an incredible book for the public that explains how mythological cosmologies are supplanted over time by advances in scientific knowledge. Recently, in this spirit of setting the record straight, Agustín Fuentes has made an anthropological contribution with Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature. And who better to discuss the life-cycle of a myth than an anthropologist?

In Race, Monogamy, and other Lies, Fuentes takes on what he considers to be the three major myths about humans: biological race, human aggression, and that men and women are wired differently. The first matter of Fuentes' deconstruction revolves around his rejection of the "nature-nurture" dichotomy.
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29 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Viewer on September 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
It is hard to take this book seriously given the absurd strawman Fuentes creates to combat the "myth" of race. He suggests that there are no race specific genes, that races aren't static, entitities and the categories can change over time. This does not mean they don't exist - if that was the case then a lot of species wouldn't exist either. It would also be interesting to see how many sub-species or races would exist in other species if one were to adopt Fuentes' absurdly narrow concept of race.

A more reasonable approach is adopted by Professor Jerry Coyne, who recently wrote:

"In my own field of evolutionary biology, races of animals (also called "subspecies" or "ecotypes") are morphologically distinguishable populations that live in allopatry (i.e. are geographically separated). There is no firm criterion on how much morphological difference it takes to delimit a race. Races of mice, for example, are described solely on the basis of difference in coat color, which could involve only one or two genes." Coyne notes that using this approach that of course there are human races.

Fuentes also manages to avoid the work of Professor Neil Risch, the 2004 Curt Stern award winner for outstanding genetics research over the previous 10 years. Risch points out that population genetics research have recapitulated the classical definition of races based on continental ancestry. So to say that race and ethnicity has no biological basis is well intentioned but wrong. You might as well say there is no such thing as population biology. If there were no biological basis to race, then people who identify themselves as African American or Chinese would be no more likely to have certain genes than people who identify themselves as Native American. But that is not true.
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