The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology

The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology

4.1 22
by Robert Wright
     
 

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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

Overview

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. Illustrations.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
New Republic senior editor Wright's account of the latest trends in Darwinian theory unravels the evolutionary logic behind subjects ranging from friendship and romance to xenophobia and sibling rivalry. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In the past 25 years, a new model of human behavior has arisen. Originally termed sociobiology (a term that fell out of favor when its early proponents were labeled neo-Social Darwinists), this model seeks to apply evolutionary theory to human behavior. Wright (Three Scientists and Their Gods, LJ 8/88) does a fine job of explaining the current state of sociobiological theory and illustrates its tenets in an unusual way-by applying them to the life of Charles Darwin himself. Answering some critics, Wright argues that the evolutionary paradigm is not at all incompatible with support of religious or moral codes, liberal political agendas, or women's rights. Wright has written a fine state-of-the-art introduction to this increasingly important model of human psychology. Highly recommended as a single source on the topic for small libraries and as an addition for larger libraries needing to update their holdings in this still-developing area.-Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, Wa.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307772749
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/03/2010
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
157,066
File size:
4 MB

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The Moral Animal 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an amazingly clear, concise, and well-written account of how genetics and survival/selection have evolved over the eons to affect both animal and human behavior. The reasoning and theories Mr. Wright puts forth make good sense, and he does a great job of providing examples-- from ant colonies to singles bars-- to support his hypotheses. This book gave me incredible insight into the complex workings of the human mind, and provides a succinct, elegant explaination as to why we do the wierd things we do, or are motivated to act seemingly irrationally. Genetics is the core. Evolution is the playground. But with awareness, the final choices, the ultimate decisions, are up to us.
lzumerling1 More than 1 year ago
Amazing book! The author does a great job with giving explanations for certain human behaviors by making comparisons to animals. He brings up the theory of Darwinism and evolution. This book made me want to learn more about evolution and the study of animals.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is well written, at times humorous, not as dry as it could be, and interesting in it's use of Darwin's life to explain it's theories. Though some critics have not liken this take, I find it clever and well done. While some areas are left gray, Wright is quick to admit that he doesn't have all the answers. However, the theories he does provide are well thought out and generally make sense. His dismissal of some Freudian psychology is refreshing. The topic of evolutionary psychology has taken alot of heat lately, and in this book Wright tends to tread lightly in certain areas. My only criticism is that he should not have pulled any punches whatsoever. All in all, a very important book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
On the whole, I think this book is great. It discusses connections between evolution and contemporary life that I wouldn't have thought of, and it certainly is thought-provoking. I found myself putting down the book numerous times just so I could mull over one of Wright's points. However, I could have done without all of the correlaries back to Darwin -- as interested as I am in evolutionary psychology, I'm not nearly as interested in, say, Darwin's home life. Some of the points need to be worked on, but it was an entertaining read overall.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely well written book, combining scientific seriousness with wit and humor. It is a wonderful introduction to the theory of natural selection that gives strong insights about how and why certain traits, both physical and psychological, have been selected for our genes to be passed on from generation to generation. For psychologists in general it offers the wonderful option to solve the nature/nurture conflict. Indeed, it shows how it is the environment that selects certain genes, and then in turn how our genes can influence the environment, leading to a new selection and thus going full circle. Therefore, it becomes obvious that genes and environment are entertwined for ever, and that it is their interaction that makes us who we are. It is also a wonderful tool to understand how very complex behaviors can be executed automatically (or unconsciously), either for strategic reasons or because the number of variables to consider is way too big for our limited consciousness to grasp. Indeed, haven't you ever found yourself saying 'I am not sure why I did that...' or 'I know it was stupid but I just could not help it...'? Evolutionary psychology is trying to understand why we sometimes feel compelled to do certain things, or why we are attracted toward certain persons, even though we are not aware of the powerful forces behind our actions. Among other things, the author presents compelling evidence about why males and females are so fundamentally different psychologically, why we feel love toward our offsprings and which ones we are likely to favor over others, why and how frienships emerge, and the role of social status in the search for a mate. Additionally, one of the most impressive things I found in the book was the explanation of the emergence and purpose of feelings. Indeed, feelings seem to be so deeply routed in our animal nature that it is extremely hard, if not impossible, for us not to react in very emotional ways in many situations. Evolutionary psychology offers a logical way for us to make sense out of this fact, and provides insights about why it is such a central part of us to feel outraged, humble, grateful, indignant, proud, etc... Do not expect to feel very good about yourself after you read this book. Indeed, the author points out that the most noble behaviors emerged for a very selfish end, that is, for our genes to be passed on to the next generation. This is why the last couple of chapters are dedicated to ethics. If you ask me, this part sounds way too patronizing for my taste, and I would have been glad to draw my own conclusions about what is to be done with the knowledge I acquired reading the book. However, it is important to note that we evolved to be moral animals; that is, we became able to be aware of unconscious forces and thus to slowly learn how to master them. Finally, the author indicates that our genes were selected in what he calls the 'ancestral environment,' when we lived in small groups in a world where the word civilization did not even exist. Thus, it allows us to understand why so many people either feel out of touch with their environment or are considered deviant. In the past our genes were selected for their fitness in a particualr environment and our children were thus fit for it as well, as the environment remained virtually the same. However, in our modern world where everything is changing so fast, the genes that had been fit for hundreds of thousands of years are now lost and clueless, and our ever changing environment is leaving us no hope to ever adapt ourselves to it. It is obviously impossible to go back to our ancestral environment for our genes to feel at home again. However, we still can stop our mad race toward destruction and allow human beings to once again feel like they are belonging to this world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has to be studied in schools instead of religion.It woud serve young people much better then ten comandments.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I very much enjoyed this book. The author does a nice job of presenting complex processes in a simple way. I agree with the positive comments of the other reviewers, so I won't re-hash. However, I do think that the author could have provided additional foundation for his arguments. Given that the primary thesis of the book is that psychological processes are transmitted via genes, it seems like he could have provided some evidence (other than to argue that it makes sense) that love or ambition are actually in the genes. He gets around this by saying that every culture has these characteristics and since there are so many differences in the cultures and we all share the same genes, then it must be in the genes. Not very convincing. I am guessing that there is additional evidence, but the author (perhaps not wanting to make things too complex) chooses not to present additional arguments.
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