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Human Nature: A Critical Reader [Paperback]

Laura Betzig
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

April 30 1999 019509865X 978-0195098655
"Human nature" has meant many things to many people. Why do we do what we do? Before 1859, when Darwin published The Origin of Species, the meaning of "human nature" was anybody's guess. This book collects the first, classic tests of Darwinian theory on us -- including studies of traditional societies (from the !Kung of Botswana to the Ache of Paraguay), studies of modern societies (from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to southern California), and comparative and historical studies (from the ancient Near East to imperial Rome). These classics are interspersed with new critiques -- both by the authors themselves, and by biologists who used modern Darwinian theory to pioneer field studies, cognitive studies, and comparative studies of other species. Last but not least, Human Nature adds an introduction which covers the basics in evolutionary theory, and reviews cutting-edge tests of that theory on human anatomy, physiology, emotions, thought, and interactions. This pathbreaking book collects the best of the first tests of Darwinian theory on humans, critiques them, and comprehensively reviews the work being done now. It is an ideal - and long needed - text for courses in biology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, history, and philosophy which use Darwin's theory to explain what we do and who we are.

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"Great! I can't wait to use it in my senior seminar!"--Vicki K. Bentley-Condit, Grinnell College

"An excellent text for courses in which students find and present current research. It provides a comprehensive historical and contemporary foundation for their presentations."--Henry Schreiber, University of Texas at Schreiber

"This is a useful and thoughtful collection of readings."--Kent Berridge, University of Michigan

Advance praise: "The tabula of human nature was never rasa and it is now being read. The inscription found is no dogma or world system and it bids to build no empire whose later painful collapse will sweep it away. Darwinist and self-critical, data-based from pole to tropic and from gamete to despot, the text is the science of a young and growing army. [This] book is their story and it shows what we are universally like -- and above all, it explains why. Thirty years ago I had no idea that a critique I had a hand in could reach so far into the human sphere and explain so much. To the romantic I was then, it's depressing that it can; to me now, on the whole, it's inspiring." -- Bill Hamilton, University of Oxford

"Betzig has put together an exciting and authentic picture of current evolutionary studies of human behavior, and of both their triumphs and pitfalls. Anyone with any interest in Betzig's big questions, 'where we came from, why we're here, and who we are' ought to read this book. The book's organization and juxtaposed selections make it thought-provoking in a way reminiscent of the classic dialogues of Socrates, Galileo, and Hume. It is an ideal way to introduce students to recent progress in the biology of human behavior." --George Williams, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at Stonybrook

"This book offers a sampling of some of the best empirical work in human sociobiology from its beginnings some 20 years ago."--American Anthropologist

"Collectively, these works cover a lot of territory, and vividly depict the mosaic character of the field....a useful methodological resource for veteran behavioral and life scientists."--Peggy La Cerra, Quarterly Review of Biology

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
This book is a compilation of 18 pioneering articles on Darwinism.
Very original is the fact that the different authors are commenting on their research 10 or more years after the publication.
One needs a rather profound knowledge of statistics in order to fully understand some, not all, the articles.
These researches were not only very original but sometimes also disturbing, like Hrdy's work on infanticide, or Chagnon's research on the Yanomanö tribe, which was used against the tribe by 'financial' interests in the 'development' of their territory.
For me, the most important article was the one by Tooby and Cosmides, who brilliantly refuted and even ridiculed the SSS Model of the content-free, independent mind. They proved that the human mind is not a blank which works with general purpose mental processes. On the contrary, the mind contains specialized mechanisms which evolved as adaptations to the social environment (see also, Lumsden and Wilson's 'Promethean Fire').
This book is an essential read for all those who are interested in the human nature.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Knowledge = power. Darwin's theory is the route to knowledge Dec 26 2003
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a compilation of 18 pioneering articles on Darwinism.
Very original is the fact that the different authors are commenting on their research 10 or more years after the publication.
One needs a rather profound knowledge of statistics in order to fully understand some, not all, the articles.
These researches were not only very original but sometimes also disturbing, like Hrdy's work on infanticide, or Chagnon's research on the Yanomanö tribe, which was used against the tribe by 'financial' interests in the 'development' of their territory.
For me, the most important article was the one by Tooby and Cosmides, who brilliantly refuted and even ridiculed the SSS Model of the content-free, independent mind. They proved that the human mind is not a blank which works with general purpose mental processes. On the contrary, the mind contains specialized mechanisms which evolved as adaptations to the social environment (see also, Lumsden and Wilson's 'Promethean Fire').
This book is an essential read for all those who are interested in the human nature.
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