- Series: Animals, History, Culture
- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition (July 22, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1421404028
- ISBN-13: 978-1421404028
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,912,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Looking for a Few Good Males: Female Choice in Evolutionary Biology (Animals, History, Culture) Reprint Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
See the Best Books of 2017 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
"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
Top customer reviews
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. I had this impression that it wasn't quite clear to Milam the commentary to be brought to the facts, though her suggestive style does fill the gap in a number of places, playing to her advantage. As far as substance, I am not sure whether Milam was intentionally trying to be so parsimonious as she is in the book, because I felt there was quite a bit of history not being told. Character development wasn't happening, social and political forces weren't being mentioned...and on and on. I think all of the relevant "facts" were there, and one sees all of the forces' resultant influence (through the products of the science), but too much went unsaid. Too much.
As for the overall value of the book, it fills, what seems to me, a very, very important gap in the literature. In fact, I am expecting it to be a highly cited work, because the facts are so well laid out that, not even being a historian of the life sciences, I see research projects falling out of the text, at every turn. I appreciate the effort that goes into writing a book that doesn't have much already-collected literature to stand on, and, taking this into account, the book really is a fantastic work. As someone coming to sexual selection for basically the first time, I felt the way that the book began (w/ the Wallace-Darwin debate), building an historical trajectory, it was quite accessible and informative. In so saying, the book is very approachable, readable, and highly informative, regardless of the background the reader has going in. I rate the book at about four stars for the average reader interested in the subject, and five stars for the scholar, for an average of four and a half (but I round up). Most of all, I think this is an important gap-filling text for gender studies in science, as much as anything, and, therefore, well worth a perusal to all.
"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. Milam tracks this ambivalence to the concept of female choice from the 1860s through to its apparent 'rediscovery' in the 1970s, the result of social as well as biological developments. On the one hand, the concept of "female choice" was hard to ignore in the context of second wave feminism, on the other, sexual selection, and with it female choice provided a convenient and productive field for organismal biologists to rally to in light of the increasing focus upon molecular biology.
American behavioural and British zoological studies figure in Milam's telling of this tale. Of course it is more nuanced than my retelling of it here, and Julian Huxley Niko Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz, Eibl-Eibesfeldt and David Lack recieve some detailed consideration, as do Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ernst Mayr, John Maynard Smith, W.D. Hamilton and Marlene Zuk. This is not the place to go into a full-length summary of this work, but it is certainly a book that anyone interested in a rigourous treatment of the subject really must read. As Milam concludes, this story reveals that "Laboaratory and field research provided complementary approaches to understanding both the evolution of sexual behaviour and the ways in which behaviour could alter the processes of evolution itself" (167).
Milam gives us pause for thought regarding not only the role of sex in evolution, but regarding how contemporary understandings of sex and gender have shaped scientists understandings of the role of sex in evolution. Finally, of course, and as Milam concludes, this history asks us to think more deeply about the nature of 'choice' per se. As Darwin long ago noted, the issue of free will and 'choice' would always be difficult concepts in a world evolved through natural law.