Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women's interests? These are among the questions that have made The Moral Animal one of the most provocative science books in recent years. Wright unveils the genetic strategies behind everything from our sexual preferences to our office politics - as well as their implications for our moral codes and public policies.
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Excellent introduction to evolutionary psychology
You should read this book for an excellent introduction to evolutionary psychology.
Although this book was written in 1994, it is not dated as evolutionary psychology is still quite new and the book touches on many subjects that are thought-provoking and would probably shock 99% of your dinner party guests. The author does a very good job of introducing the discipline, providing a history of its development and placing it in the context of academic thought (at least at the time of writing). A reader will get a good sense of what is meant by neo-Darwinism, or the New Darwinian Paradigm, and the implications of this movement for understanding human behavior.
The author also ties together related disciplines and brings in relatively well-known examples of evolutionary thinking (e.g. vampire bats sharing blood as an example of reciprocal altruism) to weave an interesting book that makes a lot of complex interrelated disciplines interesting, relevant to the book, and accessible to the casual reader. The book is well written and many parts are fun to read and discuss subjects (e.g. human sexuality) in the light of evolutionary psychology such that the subject is fresh and frequently amusing. Humor runs through this book, which is a good thing given the brutality of nature and callous self-interest of natural selection.
Some of the discussion of morality later in the book gets a little far afield in my opinion and Wright gets on shakier ground as he attempts to explain why natural selection might develop a moral animal. Granted, he is dealing with some very heavy subjects, each of which could be a philosophy course in itself, but he leans a little too much towards a progressive view of human nature in which morality is the “right” thing to do. This runs counter to most of the book in which natural selection is described as completely uncaring of morality and even as an “evil” process. Wright cannot have it both ways,
Nonetheless, most of the book is very informative and an interesting and amusing read.
The best book on this topic. I find myself quoting it often.