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The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man Paperback – January 8, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (January 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743203437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743203432
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,767,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Brown writes like an angel" -- The Independent, London

Brown is a wonderful writer, giving the reader a front-row seat on the proceedings. -- Irish Times, 1 May 1999

Brown succeeds in writing a personality-driven story which is in fact the best guide to current theories considered here, -- The Guardian, London, April 3 1999

Good science writing is in a class of its own, with an irreplaceable value. -- Science, 1 April 1999

Is Brown's book one more "sleazy bit of trash journalism"? I don't think so, -- Nature, 1 April 1999 (David Hull)

From the Inside Flap

Steven Rose I read the book in one sitting last night - enjoyed it especially the penultimate chapter on religion which is spot on ... incidentally you use the term Darwinism without really explaining what you mean by it - I was sorry you hadn't taken on board some of the deconstruction of that term I tried in Lifelines. As you will anticipate you will put some noses out of joint (I guess especially Lewontin and Wilson!) by grouping the participants into Gouldites and Dawkinsites, but I suppose its fair game.

Mary Midgley Hey, I really like that book. Thanks for sending it -- how about you having a chair in the Sociology of Feuding? As for my shoes, I'll put you in a book some day.

Ian Pitchford The book is a splendid piece of work which is obviously going to be an international best seller. I bought your book yesterday and read it straight through as I just couldn't put it down. As you might expect I think neo-Darwinism is one of the most important stories, and chief triumphs, of the century.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Todd I. Stark VINE VOICE on January 24, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book through twice. Not because it was difficult, it is actually very easy reading considering the depth of some of the topics covered. I read it twice because after the first time I was amazed that things I thought I already knew about had become so much clearer in my mind, and I was wondering how he did it !
Brown cuts right to the most interesting aspects of each controversy in evolutionary theory, makes each side clear, and all the while places each controversy into larger perspective in a coherent narrative from the first page to the last. It would be very difficult to read this book without coming away bubbling with ideas about it; which is a way the author describes Richard Dawkins' books; but I think it applies just as well to Brown.
I was particularly impressed with how the author managed to make his presentations of some very technical points so very clear without resorting to pedantry at any point, and at the same time gave a vivid picture of the personalities and their motivations without reducing them to charicatures or elevating them to icons. The power of Andrew Brown's straightforward conversational writing is very misleading and sneaks up on you, he teaches a great deal here without you realizing you are being taught.
The journey here beings appropriately with the very thing that makes sociobiology most uncomfortable: the startling mathematical discovery that selfless behavior could in principle evolve through natural selection. If even our lofty ideals are the product of an algorithmic process in nature, our view of ourselves is fundamentally tainted somehow, a conclusion of no small importance as Brown dramatizes with the tragic suicide of theorist George Price.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, and evolutionary biology in general are subjects whose temperatures are way above comfortably warm. You can get scorched by plunging in unprepared. You guarantee this if you decide to move beyond "nature vs nurture" and extend the debate to the moral, ethical, and (scalding now) - the religious implications of science.
Brown's opening chapter hints at where he intends to go with the argument. He discusses the sad ending of George Price's life. Price was a brilliant biologist, who through work on the evolution of altruism, developed a mathematical formula that proved that human nature was grounded in selfishness. Brown says that "through algebra, George Price had found proof or original sin." Price's story illustrates the changed nature of THE DARWIN WARS as it is now less about scientific differences but more about philosophical issues. Brown argues that there has been a shift in interest in what is now considered important. Thus his subtitle that this is "The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man". This is the framework into which he places the competing scientists. Brown creates two camps - the "Dawkinsians" and the "Gouldians", named after of course Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. Brown does a reasonable enough job of explaining the differences between the two groups. He then spends a chapter discussing the adaptive benefits of religious belief and whether or not they are "viruses of the mind" He says they're not.
I give Brown credit for being balanced in his analysis and incredibly open to contending views. I think his book is unique in this respect. His divergent philosophical positions with well known thinkers on this subject have led to strong words.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Duncan on May 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Ever since biologists such as Edward O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins first popularized the idea that human psychology might be explainable in Darwinian terms, they encountered fierce opposition, not only from sociologists brought up on the "standard model" whereby the mind is a blank slate, but also, and less obviously, from other biologists, such as Stephen J. Gould and Richard Lewontin, who saw evolutionary psychology as genetic determinism. The battles between different groups of biologists, whom Andrew Brown characterizes as Dawkinsians and Gouldians (while recognizing that nobody will be happy with these names: "this won't please anyone involved"), were remarkably vicious, full of ill will on both sides, and, for anyone who was not emotionally engaged in the struggle, entertaining to read about. Andrew Brown has risen warmly to the challenge, and has written a very readable book about them.

He is a journalist, and has a journalist's ability to write clearly and well, but, far more than that, he has a scholar's ability to check his facts and to get them right, and to present opinions that he does not necessarily agree with in a fair and balanced way. He interviewed many of the participants, and appears to have established friendly relations with everyone he spoke to. He has also studied the biological and philosophical aspects with care, and his opinions are worthy of respect. Only occasionally does he lapse into unsupported assertions, as, for example, when he writes "Is the difference in the striping of Burchell's and Grevy's zebra a result of different selection pressures in the different parts of Africa where these species originated, or, as is more likely, was there simply a selection for striping to which the genotypes of the two species responded differently?
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