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The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature Paperback – April 17, 2001
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Where many evolutionary psychologists see the mind as a Swiss army knife, and cognitive science sees it as a computer, Miller compares it to an entertainment system, evolved to stimulate other brains. Taking up the baton from studies such as Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, it's a dizzyingly ambitious project, which would be impossibly vague without the ingenuity and irreverence that Miller brings to bear on it. Steeped in popular culture, the book mixes theories of runaway selection, fitness indicators, and sensory bias with explanations of why men tip more than women and how female choice shaped (quite literally) the penis. It also extols the sagacity of Mary Poppins. Indeed, Miller allows ideas to cascade at such a torrent that the steam given off can run the risk of being mistaken for hot air).
That large personalities can be as sexually enticing as oversize breasts or biceps may indeed prove comforting, but denuding sexual chemistry can be a curiously unsexy business, akin to analyzing humor. As a courting display of Miller's intellectual plumage, though, The Mating Mind is formidable, its agent-provocateur chest swelled with ideas and articulate conjecture. While occasionally his magpie instinct may loot fool's gold, overall it provides an accessible and attractive insight into modern Darwinism and the survival of the sexiest. --David Vincent, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
As a neophyte I was impressed with the intriguing ideas evenly sprinkled throught the book. Principal among these was the runaway brain, fitness indicators and the handicap principle that Miller uses as a basis to explain human mind's intricate evolution. Miller tries to argue that any form of sexual selection for fitness indicators should even out genetic variation in fitness - which means if females favor tall males then all males should be tall. Yet we dont see that and the differences remain in the species - so why does evolution allows such differences. Another interesting idea, originally proposed by Zahavi, is the handicap principle - which is advertising fitness and "sexual ornamentation" by handicapping an individual with a survival cost. It basically means fit peacocks showing off extravagant plumage to attract mates even if it means making themselves more prone to predators or simply carrying the extra load around risking their survial. Highly evolved fitness indicators means using costly signals to attract a mate. In human terms it might transform to - you buying an expensive diamond ring from Cartier for your lady-love fully aware that its gonna make a dent in your pocket, will add no survival benefit whatsoever to you or her but yet show her that you make so much money that not only you can buy that ring but you are willing to devote tremendous personal resources to win her.
Evolution of human morality - which itself is a costly indicator, may also have been selected through sexual choice.Read more ›
But is it correct? Miller tries to explain the mystery of human intellect and creativity. Why would a creature (us) who evolved under the most primitive of material conditions, who lacked even sedentary agriculture until 10,000 years ago, have evolved the mental capacity for beauty, wit, rhythm, and truth? His answer is: sexual (as opposed to survival) selection. In short we are smart and talented because women preferred to mate with smart and talented men.
There is a problem, however. There are two theories of sexual selection: runaway selection (associated with Darwin and Ronald Fisher), and the handicap principle (Zahavi). Most of Miller's arguments require the former (although he formally disavows this early in the book), while the latter is probably the only plausible model of sexual selection.
For instance, the idea that we have large brains because women prefer intelligent men, even if intelligence imposes a fitness cost on men, is plausible only if intelligence is a signal of a superior fitness in some other hidden area (e.g., a lower parasite load). But I cannot think of one such area, nor does Miller supply one. Intelligence may have direct fitness benefits for humans, but that is NOT sexual selection, but straightforward selection for survivability.
In short, I think Miller is wrong, and I know there is no quantitative evidence for his 'just-so story,' but I loved the book anyway.
However, anyone familiar with Darwin's book will note that Miller prudently left out one of the "The Descent of Man's" major themes: how sexual selection leads to differences among the races. As a young man starting out, Miller can be forgiven for not touching that huge taboo, but as his reputation solidifies, we can only hope that he returns to the crucial question of human biodiversity.
I also look forward to his future writings on IQ. He is one of the few evolutionary psychologists (who study human universals) who is also a behavioral geneticist (who study human differences). We're desperately in need of somebody who can synthesize the two fields. Miller has the talent, and hopefully he can muster the courage to shatter the Tooby-Cosmides party line that thinking about human differences is evil, or boring, or just not done in polite society, or whatever their latest reason is.
Despite these missing pieces, "The Mating Mind" is an impressive launch to what should be an impressive career.
Steve Sailer -- President, Human Biodiversity Institute ---
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm a dating expert, and I constantly search for research and studies pertaining to love and attraction, and The Mating Mind clarified in my mind so many issues that were not very... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Leonardo Bustos
This book was recommended to me by a friend studying evolutionary psychology, a branch of study I never even knew existed. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Richard J. Meltz
The mating mind is a brilliant theory and it is very well explained. It's very insightful regarding the differences between men and women.Published 18 months ago by Lorne Bishop