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The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature Paperback – April 29, 2003
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About the Author
Matt Ridley is the award-winning, bestselling author of several books, including The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves; Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters; and The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. His books have sold more than one million copies in thirty languages worldwide. He writes regularly for The Times (London) and The Wall Street Journal, and is a member of the House of Lords. He lives in England.
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"The Red Queen" is the very interesting book about how human nature evolved as a result of sex. According to the author, human beings were "designed" to reproduce and that without understanding competitive reproduction we will not be able to comprehend the human psyche and nature. Well known journalist, scientist and educator; Matt Ridley, brings us a well-rounded science book that deals with many fascinating topics involving sexual evolution. The first third of book or so starts off a little dense and may put off some readers but once it picks up it really takes off and rewards readers with invaluable knowledge. This 416-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1. Human Nature, 2. The Enigma, 3. The Power of Parasites, 4. Genetic Mutiny and Gender, 5. The Peacock's Tale, 6. Polygamy and the Nature of Men, 7. Monogamy and the Nature of Women, 8. Sexing the Mind, 9. The Uses of Beauty, and 10. The Intellectual Chess Game.
1. A well-written and well-researched book.
2. The fascinating topic of sexual evolution in the hands of a master.
3. The book was originally published in 1993 but it holds up generally well and it's still worth reading.
4. Good use of the best that science had to offer at that time.
5. Thought-provoking and refreshingly honest and witty approach.
6. Provides compelling arguments in support of a universal human nature.
7. Explains the reasoning behind the title which is a metaphor in evolution for "the faster you run, the more the world moves with you and the less you make progress".
8. Some great analogies, "The fashion in evolutionary science now is to scoff at progress; evolution is a treadmill, not a ladder".
9. What sex is. A look from three different kinds of scientists. Great stuff.
10. The unbelievable world of sex in both the animal and plant kingdom.
11. Some great facts and perspectives, "The `great war" of 1914-18 killed 25 million people in four years. The influenza epidemic that followed killed 25 million in four months".
12. What drive the evolution of sex.
13. Understanding what evolution is in a practical sense.
14. How science works to address a problem.
15. Understanding gender in terms of "genetic lottery". Or leave it to the environment.
16. Some great anecdotes, "Anaxagora's belief that lying on the right side during sex would produce a boy was so influential that centuries later some French aristocrats had their left testicles amputated". Ouch!
17. The nature of "choosy" females.
18. The two warring factions in sexual selection: "Fisher" and "Good-genes".
19. Testosterone and its relation to disease.
20. What men find attractive in women.
21. The impact of human culture.
22. An honest look at the roles of the sexes.
23. An understanding about homosexual behavior.
24. Game theory and how it plays out between males and females. Always interesting.
25. Human evolution always fascinating.
26. The growth of our brains.
27. Understanding the evil practice of female infanticide.
28. Power as a tool for sexual success. It's good being the king.
29. Marriage, understanding the institution of.
30. Adultery and how it shaped human society.
31. Fascinating look at what societies favor daughters over sons and vice versa.
32. The differences of mental features between the sexes.
33. A look at social statuses.
34. The innate instinct of learning language.
35. The evidence for neoteny.
36. Links to notes worked great!
1. The first third or so of the book was a bit dense and may have put off some readers.
2. Despite holding up generally well (book was published in 1993), some topics are outdated. For instance, free will is an illusion. I will provide a list of suggestion that offers more up to date information.
3. Animal altruism is not a myth.
4. Some topics are fairly logical. We all have a basic grasp of sexual selection.
5. Some topics may irk feminists. Let me leave it at that.
6. The author purposely sidesteps the issue of morality and the little that is here is inadequate.
7. "Deception is therefore the reason for the invention of the subconscious." - Trivers Really?
In summary, I wished I had read this book when it first came out in 1993. The book started off a little dry but once it gets going I wasn't able to put it down. Many topics of popular interest in the hands of an accomplished author make for good reading. In spite of its age, I learned some new things and have a much better grasp of why human nature evolved as a result of sex. If you have the patience to make it through the early chapters the book will reward you with wisdom, worth reading!
Further recommendations: "Human: The Science Behind What Makes Your Brain Unique" and "Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the BrainWho's In Charge?" by Michael S. Gazzaniga, "The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution" by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, "Why Evolution Is True" by Jerry A. Coyne, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined" and "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" by Steven Pinker, "SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable" by Bruce M. Hood, "The Myth of Free Will, Revised & Expanded Edition" by Cris Evatt, "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths" by Michael Shermer, and "Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors" by Nicholas Wade. All books reviewed by me.
After all, at the core of natural selection you'll find males and females (and sometimes others) competing with, cooperating with, tricking, confusing, manipulating, and using one another. This applies to male-female relationships (of course), but also male-male, and female-female ones. The complexities of their strategies are unveiled with the full treatment: Competing theories, evidence for and against, and then a summary or synthesis to put it in perspective.
All this puts The Red Queen square on my top shelf with The Origin of the Species, The Selfish Gene, The Ancestor's Tale, Social Evolution, and the Moral Animal. Not an easy read, perhaps, but if you want to understand natural selection, you must have this book.
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