Natural Selections: Selfish Altruists, Honest Liars, and Other Realities of Evolution

Natural Selections: Selfish Altruists, Honest Liars, and Other Realities of Evolution

by David P. Barash
     
 

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“Barash . . . brilliantly integrat[es] science, literature, and pop culture into elegant and insightful commentaries on the most interesting and important questions of our time. A delightful read.”—Michael Shermer, author of The Science of Good and Evil

“Entertaining and thought-provoking.”—Steven Pinker, author of

Overview

“Barash . . . brilliantly integrat[es] science, literature, and pop culture into elegant and insightful commentaries on the most interesting and important questions of our time. A delightful read.”—Michael Shermer, author of The Science of Good and Evil

“Entertaining and thought-provoking.”—Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate

If we are, in part, a product of our genes, can free will exist? Incisive and engaging, this indispensable tour of evolutionary biology runs the gamut of contemporary debates, from science and religion to our place in the universe.

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Kirkus Reviews
The most literate popularizer of Darwinism since Thomas Huxley visits evolution's Dark Side, the front-lines where biological realities clash with cultural idealism, and returns with news both depressing and cheering. The latest from Barash (Psychology/Univ. of Washington, Seattle; (Madam Bovary's Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature, 2005, etc.) bristles with evidence of his wide reading in the Western canon. Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Poe, Twain, Hardy, both George and T. S. Eliot, Stephen Crane, Thomas Pynchon, Ian McEwan, Barbara Kingsolver, SpongeBob SquarePants and others make appearances to animate his breezy intellectual tour. Here, too, are Barash's customary cool critters from elsewhere in the animal kingdom (worms that reprogram the brains of ants, gang-raping male mallards) and sensible explanations of common conundrums (why dogs are easier to toilet-train than humans, why males of all species do most of the murdering). He takes some sly shots at creationists and delivers some heavier body blows to the Bush administration, but he is less interested in piling up the bodies of his adversaries than in exploring the most fundamental questions of human experience. Is it hopeless, he wonders, to attempt to combat our biology? Aren't our selfish genes always going to trump our social consciences, our stewardship of our families, our communities, our planet? Unfortunately, the case for hopelessness is a compelling one: Humans didn't spread across and dominate the planet by saying please and thank you. "We are all time-travelers," Barash writes, "with one foot thrust into the cultural present and the other stuck in the biological past." However, he notes, we are probably the onlyspecies capable of rising above our biology-and we'd better get on with it. A journey to the center of human nature, where the view is not always agreeable.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781934137246
Publisher:
Bellevue Literary Press
Publication date:
10/01/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
192
File size:
364 KB

Meet the Author

David Barash, professor of psychology at the University of Washington, is the author of over 20 books (among them Natural Selections, The Myth of Monogamy and Madame Bovary's Ovaries) and over 200 articles. One of the earliest proponents of "sociobiology" in the 1970s, now know as "evolutionary psychology" or "evolutionary biology," he remains among its most articulate popularizers.

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