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Looking for a Few Good Males: Female Choice in Evolutionary Biology (Animals, History, Culture) 1st Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801894190
ISBN-10: 9780801894190
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Milam uses the topic of female choice as a lens through which to view intellectual, disciplinary, and social developments in the life sciences... An invaluable synthesis for historians of biology, scientists, and those with a popular interest in animal studies.

(Karen A. Rader Science)

The discussion of how female choice in humans was treated throughout this time period is especially illuminating, as is the contention that there has never been a lull in interest on this topic. Highly recommended.

(Choice)

Excellent and fascinating history... Anyone interested in our ambivalence over the degree to which humanity’s roots lay in its animal nature will benefit from reading this book.

(Margery Lucas PsycCRITIQUES)

Milam demonstrates that sexual selection has been contentious and politically loaded ever since Charles Darwin first proposed it... An accessible and important contribution to the history of an active topic of biological research today.

(Joan Roughgarden American Scientist)

By taking on the historical relationship between gender and evolution, humans and animals, and science and social analysis, Milam's study makes an important and fascinating contribution to numerous historical sub-disciplines.

(Kirsten Leng Gender and History)

A carefully researched, fascinating history of rich detail on a part of evolutionary biology that has so far garnered little attention among historians, scientists, and the public. This is a thoughtful book that appeals to anyone with an interest in animal behavior or the uneasy relationship between evolution science and the study of human social relationships.

(Elen Oneal Wilson Journal of Ornithology)

In Milam’s hands, the issue of female choice becomes a useful sampling device for revealing the distinctive methods and values of biologists of different stripes as they contended for intellectual jurisdiction over evolutionary theory and what came to be called ‘organismal biology.’ This is a fresh and fascinating book.

(Angela N. H. Creager, Princeton University)

An essential read for anyone interested in the rigorous treatment of evolutionary sexual behavior and its implications.

(Mara Flannery Cosmos)

Milam's detailed attention to the different ways in which sexual selection was conceptualized and the diverse research programs that it motivated, as well as to the disciplinary disputes about the research and its history, reveals a fascinating and complex world.

(Marga Vicedo Isis)

From the Back Cover

Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine

Why do female animals select certain mates, and how do scientists explain their choices? In considering these questions, Erika Lorraine Milam explores the fascinating patterns of experiment and interpretation that emerged as twentieth-century researchers studied sexual selection and female choice.

"Milam uses the topic of female choice as a lens through which to view intellectual, disciplinary, and social developments in the life sciences... An invaluable synthesis for historians of biology, scientists, and those with a popular interest in animal studies."— Science

"The discussion of how female choice in humans was treated throughout this time period is especially illuminating, as is the contention that there has never been a lull in interest on this topic. Highly recommended."— Choice

"Excellent and fascinating history... Anyone interested in our ambivalence over the degree to which humanity’s roots lay in its animal nature will benefit from reading this book."— PsycCRITIQUES

"Milam demonstrates that sexual selection has been contentious and politically loaded ever since Charles Darwin first proposed it... An accessible and important contribution to the history of an active topic of biological research today."— American Scientist

"By taking on the historical relationship between gender and evolution, humans and animals, and science and social analysis, Milam's study makes an important and fascinating contribution to numerous historical sub-disciplines."— Gender and History

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Product Details

  • Series: Animals, History, Culture
  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (January 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780801894190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801894190
  • ASIN: 0801894190
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,780,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Milam's book is generally a good book, but it doesn't come without some disappointment. Scholarly reviews of the book are glowing, and I do think the book satisfies most criteria of the highest standards in scholarship. However, I don't think the book has as much value for someone interested in acquiring a survey-like understanding of the history of sexual selection, and the narrative isn't sewn together as well as I expect from high-end scholarship in the history of science. On the latter point, I think this detracts from the value an intellectual or non-specialist academe might expect from such a well-reviewed text. If the book was, in places, not that interesting to me, the average person, intellectual, undergraduate, and non-specialist will probably not be too interested in large sections of the book. So let me do the following: I'll spend a few sentences on why a general Amazon audience might not be thrilled with the book, and then I will proceed with my glowing review.

The book has some rather irritating discontinuities. The chapters just don't mesh. The bright side is that the book's chapters are self-contained. The downside is the lack of smoothness in chapter-to-chapter transition. Reading any given chapter, the reader will not likely guess what is to be addressed in the following chapter. Milam is focusing her energies on an unwritten history, in a very extreme sense. (I don't know of a single historical work that catalogues the history of sexual selection, especially in the way that Milam wants.) The book is, I think, a bit lacking in narrative flow, too. This is a consequence of the just-the-facts-ma'am reporting style present in the text --not bad, in my opinion, but historians and history buffs like a good story.
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Format: Hardcover
In addition to 'natural selection' Darwin had also invoked what he called 'sexual selection' which might account for the evolution of chacacteristics that rather than aiding in the preservation of the life of the indivudual concerned, aided in its ability to reproduce. In the process 'fitness' came to be focussed much more explicitly upon an organism's ability to leave progeny, than merely to survive. In Origin (1859), and further in Descent of Man (1871) Darwin had acknowledged two distinct aspects of sexual selection, "the law of battle" - the competition between males for posession of females, and "female choice", or, the female selection of male breeding partners. It is with this latter that Milam is concerned.

"Female choice" was always problematic, not only in light of the shocking idea to many victorian minds that women might select their mates!, but because it raised the problem of exactly what was implied by "choice". Certainly, while we might talk about female humans 'choosing' from a range of suitors (however unlikely in Victorian middle class circles) Many biologiosts asked the question: Do we really want to say that female insects 'choose' their partners in any meaningful sense of the word? Darwin clearly thought this was so in the higher animals, and spoke too of animals appreciating the beauty of their partners, thus female birds found the exotic plumage of the males aesthetically pleasing. Alfred Russel Wallace, the 'co-discoverer' of natural selection found the whole concept of sexual selection deeply troubling, and this is where Milam starts her story. Wallace argued that natural selection alone might account for the phenomena for which Darwin invoked sexual selection, and worried too that his friend was guilty of overly anthropomorphising the animals concerned.
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Great seller, as advertising,
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