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Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People [Hardcover]

Joan Roughgarden
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 17 2004
In this innovative celebration of diversity and affirmation of individuality in animals and humans, Joan Roughgarden challenges accepted wisdom about gender identity and sexual orientation. A distinguished evolutionary biologist, Roughgarden takes on the medical establishment, the Bible, social science—and even Darwin himself. She leads the reader through a fascinating discussion of diversity in gender and sexuality among fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals, including primates. Evolution's Rainbow explains how this diversity develops from the action of genes and hormones and how people come to differ from each other in all aspects of body and behavior. Roughgarden reconstructs primary science in light of feminist, gay, and transgender criticism and redefines our understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality. Witty, playful, and daring, this book will revolutionize our understanding of sexuality.

Roughgarden argues that principal elements of Darwinian sexual selection theory are false and suggests a new theory that emphasizes social inclusion and control of access to resources and mating opportunity. She disputes a range of scientific and medical concepts, including Wilson's genetic determinism of behavior, evolutionary psychology, the existence of a gay gene, the role of parenting in determining gender identity, and Dawkins's "selfish gene" as the driver of natural selection. She dares social science to respect the agency and rationality of diverse people; shows that many cultures across the world and throughout history accommodate people we label today as lesbian, gay, and transgendered; and calls on the Christian religion to acknowledge the Bible's many passages endorsing diversity in gender and sexuality. Evolution's Rainbow concludes with bold recommendations for improving education in biology, psychology, and medicine; for democratizing genetic engineering and medical practice; and for building a public monument to affirm diversity as one of our nation's defining principles.

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From Publishers Weekly

This brilliant and accessible work of biological criticism has the potential to revolutionize the way readers conceive of gender and sexuality in the natural world. Roughgarden, a professor of biology at Stanford University and a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, argues that the diversity of gender and sexuality one finds in many species suggests that evolutionary biologists of a strictly Darwinian bent are often misguided, since, according to Roughgarden, they erroneously assume a universally applicable gender binary in all species. The first half of the book brings that sexual diversity to light through innumerable examples among birds, reptiles, fish and mammals provided in highly readable anecdotes. The significance of this first section lies not only in this startlingly original portrait of nature, but also in how it suggests that contemporary Darwinian sexual selection theory is in part a result of cultural bias, since it "predicts that the baseline outcome of social evolution is horny, handsome, healthy warriors paired with discreetly discerning damsels." Roughgarden critiques this theory through an expansive study of biological scholarship, highlighting the frequent contradictions between such claims and the data used (and, she argues, manipulated) to prove them. The second and undoubtedly more controversial section discusses sexual diversity in humans. Taking as a given the presence in our own species of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual and intersex persons, she reads current scientific writing-on a supposed "gay gene," on gender reassignment and other issues-through a perspective that sees diversity as an advantage, not a handicap. Readers more accustomed to traditional categories of gender and sexuality in humans will undoubtedly be surprised at how different a portrait emerges from Roughgarden's deeply personal and insistently ethical point of view.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“A fascinating discussion about diversity in gender and sexuality in [the] living world.”
(Evelyne Bremond-Hoslet Mammalia 2011-01-01) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
All species have genetic diversity-their biological rainbow. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Un livre à lire! May 1 2010
Format:Paperback
Ce livre se lit comme du bonbon tout en faisant comprendre de façon très claire à quel point la théorie de Darwin n'est pas basée uniquement basée sur la lutte mais aussi la coopération, ce dont je me doutais depuis toujours.

Très agréable à lire, et ce, même s'il s'agit d'infos scientifiques. bravo!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag May 21 2004
Format:Hardcover
Roughgarden's convingly-argued case against the theory of sexual selection is long overdue, and the alternative she proposes -- social selection -- is intriguing. However, one is advised to approach the second half of the book with caution. Roughgarden is far too uncritical in her acceptance of sex differences research. Definitely read Fausto-Sterling, Tavris, and/or Hubbard before tackling this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a must read Sept. 21 2013
By Kate
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everyone should read this book It's written by a transgendered woman biologist named Joan roughgarden. Even if your not particularly interested in biology it's a must read.I learned so much from reading this book. She covers all the topics , homosexuality in animals, intersex animals and people, cloning. Did you know some fish species have 3 sexes? It's a fascinating book. I couldn't put it down. She also talks about how biological theories are often biased specifically Darwin's theory. I'm much more enlightened after reading this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gripping July 2 2004
Format:Hardcover
I loved this clearly written, pioneering book. It's a perspective I've never read before, backed by lots of facts and reasonable logic. It's hugely broadening to read, and I'd recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in human beings.
I bought this fearing it would be too dry. I couldn't put it down.
One of the most intellectually stimulating books I've read in years.
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