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The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology Paperback – August 29, 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
What's exciting about evolutionary psychology is that for the first time psychology has a firm scientific foundation upon which to build. But it's a tough subject for some people, I think, mainly because they confuse "is" with "ought.Read more ›
Many have criticized this work as a justifying gender inequality, usually as related to male oppression and abuse of females. Wright openly states that he is attempting to explain human behavior from a Darwinian perspective. He argues that this perspective sheds much light on the subject, though he admits is isn't perfect or all inclusive. Wright closes with several behaviors that Evolutionary Psychology can not adequetly explain (most glaringly, homosexuality).
Though many women have been outraged by this work, this book has much to offer for both females and males who read it from a non-ideological perspective. I've read several interviews with Wright and other Evolutionary Psychologists who have stated that by understanding why we (all people) are naturally inclined to behave in certain ways are we better able to control behavioral tendencies that may be detrimental to ourselves and others. When read from this perspective, this book can only help men and women better undertand each other and improve relations between the sexes.
The quote is: "...humans are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse."
Science journalist Robert Wright compiled these findings of evolutionary psychology (EP) for the lay reader in 1994 and "Moral Animal" is still a timely treatise. Matt Ridley introduced his excellent "Red Queen" about the same topic around the same year. Wright writes in an engaging manner, intertwining his pearls with biographical sketches of Charles Darwin. Disclaimer: For those who are offended by the very suggestion that our behavior evolved from apes - and that our behavior is an elaborate, sophisticated manifestation of language and socialization which evolved by natural selection along with a huge brain - you won't like this book.
I realize the following assessment of mine is anecdotal, but here goes: I have seen step-children treated differently than genetic children. I have seen how men and women preen, peacock-like, showing off their best (?) sides during courtships and how they pair off in society according to commonly accepted determinants of status, differing depending on sex. I have read about and subsequently observed how people (unconsciously?) score each other during their social interactions, rating relationship values for the future.Read more ›
One of the best analogies in the book is that of a human being as a stereo: the genes direct the structure of the knobs, and the environment serves to tune the knobs. However, the author shows the danger of argument by analogy when he takes this one step further than it applies, arguing that a human is no more to blame for his behavioral patterns than a setero is to blame for its music. This argument may blend nature and nurture, but doesn't get out of the trap of determinism. Like many other authors writing about human nature, Wright forgets to add an element of human reason into the discussion.
A few other minor problems crop up when the author discusses the applications of his findings to social policy. The fact that the sense of justice is, in effect, an adaptive instinct with a slight skew toward the self does NOT negate objective "retributive" justice as a social concept. Just because our minds evolved to think in a certain way doesn't mean we can't get out of the habit, especially through meme-gene competition.
Basically, "The Moral Animal" is very good, but readers should remember that imputing social policy from scientific fact must be done with extreme caution. The book is worth reading for its interesting flaws as well as for its generally excellent presentaion of a fascinating new science...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this book as a gift for a friend. I read it years ago and loved it.Published 1 month ago by Annette A. Holm
Makes one undrstand the human race and Darwin and his theory like no other book.Published 3 months ago by ourjewishstorysam
I bought this for textbook but instead of selling it off I kept it because it really was interesting. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Yvanna
One of the ten best books ever written. Probably the most important.Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
Wright is evidently a good writer. He easily attracts the reader's attention, and takes them on a journey to understand the basics of evolutionary psychology. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
Taking a class with the author as we speak. Never read Darwin but this book gives a whole lot of insight & some fundamental basics on evolutionary psychology. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer