Customer Review

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and thought-provoking, December 8, 2004
This review is from: The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation (Paperback)
Ridley says that our behavior is the result of natural selection -- that we behave the way we do because it's been the most successful strategy for passing along our genes. He then tries to apply certain lessons he believes we can learn from that process to social structures. A lot of it is very speculative, but it's quite interesting.

He may be right in his general approach, but I don't share his near-mystical trust in mutation and natural selection. He assumes, for example, that if a creature is better off by adopting behavioral pattern A, then mutation will create and natural selection will prefer pattern A -- no matter what it is. But who says that all possible behavioral patterns can be expressed in our genes?

ISTM that his view of ethics could be compared to Euthyphro's "advantage of the stronger," and may be subject to similar criticisms. Also, I don't see how a high school kid could be convinced to change his behavior on the basis of Ridley-an ethics. "So you're telling me," the kid will say, "that I should do such and so because it was to the selective advantage of hunter-gatherers in the Pleistocene? Give me a break! Your entire scheme is based on one imperative -- that we should do what's most efficient for passing along our genes. I don't care if my genes stop with me, so your system has no moral traction. But thank you for debunking the notion that values and ethics are transcendant. Now that I know the source, I can ignore my conscience with impunity."

A population of youths trained by Ridley would be a scary proposition, IMO. Ridley means well. He wants to establish a solid basis for ethics. But his system can't do it.

Later, Ridley gets away from biology and starts talking about trade and economics. Many of the other reviewers believe this is the weakest part of the book. I disagree. It's the best part! I recommend the whole book, but if you just have time for the important stuff, read from chapter 10 to the end of the book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

Reviewer


Location: Laurel, MD USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 408,543