- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691089752
- ISBN-13: 978-0691089751
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why Sex Matters: A Darwinian Look at Human Behavior.
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From Publishers Weekly
University of Michigan professor Low uses an evolutionary approach to understand and explain many common human actions. The central question she poses is, "How do environmental conditions influence our behavior and our lifetimes?" While many might balk at reducing much of human interaction merely to a desire to reproduce and provide for our offspring, Low argues persuasively that similar analyses of other species work remarkably well, and she provides a wealth of supporting data from studies of cultures ranging from indigenous populations in Africa to 19th-century Sweden. She concludes that men and women, because of the difference in the numbers of sperm and eggs produced, are evolutionarily designed to have disparate ambitions: males seek many mating opportunities, and females concentrate on acquiring the resources to ensure the survival of their young. Low notes that many social problemsAwarfare and environmental degradation among themAare the results of the power, perhaps misdirected, of the reproductive drives of both men and women (she links war to male aggression and environmental problems to the female drive to acquire resources for the raising of children). Having deduced that "we have created these problems by doing what we have evolved to do," she admits that she has no advice about "what to do next." Her findings are not new. Indeed, her biological explanation of what many people now view as socially constructed gender roles is bound to earn her vociferous critics. But her cross-cultural data set makes her conclusions hard to ignore. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Scientific American
Sex differences, Low says, are central to our lives. Are they genetically programmed or the result of social traditions? "New research ... supports the perhaps unsettling view that men and women have indeed evolved to behave differently." The differences arise from "the fundamental principle of evolutionary biology, that all living organisms have evolved to seek and use resources to enhance their reproductive success." Low, a professor of resource ecology at the University of Michigan, develops her argument through examinations of genetics, primate societies, and human behavior past and present. Then she asks a haunting question. Have we, simply by doing well what we have evolved to do, "changed the rules so that now it may even be detrimental to 'strive' to our utmost abilities?" It seems likely, she says, "that we will face new problems as growing, and increasingly consumptive, human populations interact with environmental ... stability."
EDITORS OF SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
With a thesis that could be subtitled: "Sex, Power and Resources," the book is principally about the ecology of sex differences - the conditions under which we predict male and female behavior to be more, and less, alike. Low points out (chapters 1-3) that  we seldom actually know the genetics of any trait, and  mostly what we do is ask: what strategies succeed reproductively in particular environments?
In chapters 4-15 she offers a tour de force of the selective pressures that have created the complex behavior of such a species as ours. The exploration of the evolutionary basis for our systems of mate selection, politics, war, cooperation, and resource accumulation make Why Sex Matters such an important book.
This book is highly readable, with dozens of tales, quotes and legends that help tie it to the heart of the human condition, but its strength is in leaving myth behind and explaining behavior through the science of ecology.
I found the book fascinating and will gladly place it on the same shelf as E.O.Wilson's, On Human Nature, Richard Dawkin's, The Blind Watchmaker, and Jared Diamond's, Guns, Germs & Steel.
Thane Maynard, Director of Education, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Definitely a book worth not only read, but keeping around as a reference.