Evolutions Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People Hardcover – May 17 2004
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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.
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From the Inside Flap
"An entrancing tale of sexual ambiguity in animals and people, but also that rarest of literary beastsa science book written from the heart."Steve Jones, author of Darwin's Ghost
"A thoughtful and scholarly, yet deeply personal, perspective from a brilliant theoretical biologist. This articulate and provocative disquisition is must reading for anyone fascinated by one of the most important contemporary social challenges."Simon Levin, author of Fragile Dominion
"This book challenges not only the assumptions about male-female differences in behavior and homosexual-heterosexual differences, but also the very meanings of maleness’ and femaleness’ in physical and biological terms. Roughgarden builds a strong case for biological diversity related to what humans call sex, gender, and sexuality."Bonnie Spanier, author of Im/partial Science: Gender Ideology in Molecular Biology
"Joan Roughgarden asks, and indeed tries to answer, all the big questions about sexual diversity among humans and animals. She takes her readers on a wonderful journey through ecology and evolution and is a brilliant and talented narrator. Evolution's Rainbow will fundamentally change many ongoing conversations on sexuality and science."Judith Halberstam, author of Female Masculinity
"Every now and then science focuses on a subject that matters. Gender and gender differences matter to us social primates. And we will judge, condemn, restrict or incarcerate people based on our notions of biologically normal variability in gender and sexuality. Thus, it is immensely important when a book comes along, written clearly and authoritatively by an eminent scientist, that demonstrates how wrong most people’s ideas are about this subject. This is such a book."Robert Sapolsky, author of A Primate’s Memoir
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most recent customer reviews
... for the better. FINALLY! A book on the reality of nature (beyond classical, archaic and now defunct theories) is so long overdue seeing as how we are in the 21st century and... Read morePublished on July 18 2004
Roughgarden embarrasses herself and decides to abandon her former role as a scientist in favor of becoming a politically correct activist. Read morePublished on June 27 2004
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