This was an interesting book about many human behaviors, and their evolutionary foundations. I have mixed reviews about the book because I'm well-versed in E.P., so I found it very low and slow. If you're familiar with evolutionary psychology, you'll probably find that this book treads very familiar ground. There are some newer pieces of evidence, but it really is aimed at a general audience who are unfamiliar with evolutionary psychology. From that perspective, it does a very good job of introducing the topic in clear, easy-to-understand language, and it gives lots of relevant examples.
I will quibble about the cuckoldry rates (rates of false paternity). I think they're almost an order of magnitude too high. And at times, I think the tone of the book is a little more certain than psychologists generally are. But the authors do point out several points that are unclear or uncertain, so this certainly isn't an effort to gloss over uncertain areas. Overall, this is a great book for the general public, less so for experienced readers in the area.
on January 13, 2009
'Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters' reviewed by Jean-Francois Simard
The authors begin their book by telling us what Evolutionary Psychology is. It is the study of human nature. Human nature refers to the collection of components called evolved psychological mechanism or psychological adaptations. They then warn us of the 'Two Ways Of Thinking We Must Avoid.' The naturalistic fallacy is the leap from is to ought - that is, the tendency to believe that what is natural is good; that what is, ought to be. The second is the moralistic fallacy, which is the opposite of the naturalistic fallacy. It refers to the leap from ought to is, the claim that the way things should be is the way they are.
Written as a series of questions and answers, the book goes into as varied subjects as: 'Why Is Ethnic and Natinalist Conflict So Persistant throughout the World?', 'Why Is Family More Important to Women Than to Men?', 'Where Does Religion Come From?'
I want to elaborate a bit more on that last one. Apparently, religion comes from the fact that we evolved anthropomorphic tendencies. That is to say that we tend to assign meaning and purpose to things that happen to us, as if done by a being even though it might be nothing more than the wind or gravity at work. For example, if one happened to be walking in a forrest and noticed that there was some rustling going on in a bush nearby and assumed that it was an enemy, you would be alert and ready to defend yourself. However, it may have just been the wind. Now suppose that it was an enemy that was planning an attack. The person would be ready to fight. If it was just the wind, then nothing would happen and the person would continue on with his walk, albeit a bit more cautiously. Those that tended to be alert, to assign meaning to the bush's rustling, tended to survive, and those that weren't paranoid were more likely to get killed off.
There are two camps when it comes to human activity. One says that we are product of our nurturing, that we are made by what we are surrounded by. Another says that we are a product of nature. That it is a man's nature to be violent and to want to get laid at every opportunity and for woman to want to be beautiful and be pampered and to be secure. I'm with the later camp. I know it's wrong to say these days, but it is what it is. As the authors mention, we are made for life 10,000 years ago (The Savanna Principle: Why Our Brains Are Stuck in the Stone Age), not modern life. Men have tremendous impulses to seek very young women with which to mate and they can't do anything about it due to laws and social norms. They feel ashamed and don't understand why they feel the way they do, not knowing that it is natural (but not necessarily as it ought to be, remember the authors naturalistic fallacy). As men, everything we do is in order to help our chances of getting laid, whether it be writing great works of literature, becoming a President, or winning eight gold medals at the Olympics (here's looking at you, Michael Phelps). Women will tend to select a male that will ensure her offspring are well taken care of, but will still seek handsome men in secret in order to ensure her children receive the best genes possible, and using her husband only as a caregiver (thus becoming a cuckold).
A lot of people that are reviewing this book are taking it personally. Just relax a bit, they're only telling you what they've found. Science is cold and doesn't take into account your feelings. So if you don't like to be told how and why we have evolved a certain way, then this book isn't for you. When I was reading the book, I often found myself saying things like 'but I don't like blondes at all, in fact I prefer dark haired woman' or 'I'm not xenophobic at all, I feel comfortable with all races' but then I am reminded that in the first case, I am probably a statistical anomaly, and in the second, I have worked against my innate racism to eventually become comfortable with everybody (through reading history of slavery, reading about other cultures and religions).
Now I don't know if it's proper to quote from another review, but I'm going to do it anyways because this person says perfectly what I want to say. It refers to the language they use in the book to describe why men seek out young women. Here it is (written by Eli C. Rector in an Amazon.com review) 'The authors repeatedly refer to natural selection with flavorful yet somewhat incorrect language. For example, explaining the universal male preference for youthful women, they describe men as looking for the most fertile partner. Yet men have no such interest. It is the process of SELECTION which has given certain men the adaptation (desire for youth) allowing them the procreational advantage.'
Overall a great work and well researched. I recommend it to people who are interested in evolution and aren't afraid of facts, no matter where they take us. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
on December 7, 2007
Be prepared for a politically incorrect and enlightening foray into the emerging science of evolutionary psychology. The authors stress early to avoid the common 'moral fallacies' when evaluating this material. This means that just because the science points to X, doesn't mean it is inherently good or evil; it's just the way our species is. Nor do these conclusions necessarily lead us to certain conclusions, whether they be political, economic or what have you.
The authors (one now deceased) have created this work mostly in Q&A format. It can be read chapter by chapter or you can pick and choose what topics interest you (and you won't be doing yourself a disservice). It is well written and engaging. Read it with an open mind, be prepared to challenge some long held preconceptions, and you will definitely not look at our species the same way ever again. Whether you are into behavioral finance, marketing, academia, or just curious, this work in invaluable.
on March 16, 2013
Good start for someone who has no previous knowledge in the field. Written in a simple, yet attractive way.
The only thing that I didn't like about it is the oversimplification, and sometimes the over-expectation that this new science can explain everything in life. I am sure that one day this will be true, but definitely not now. So I would of appreciate the book more if it stuck to the areas where there has been a lot of research and confirmed results, rather than approaching areas of profound uncertainty (like the blond bombshells and terrorism) and presenting its argument as a confirmed science.
Still, it is a good choice for light reading and getting basic knowledge in the field.