The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

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Overview

Referring to Lewis Carroll's Red Queen from Through the Looking-Glass, a character who has to keep running to stay in the same place, Matt Ridley demonstrates why sex is humanity's best strategy for outwitting its constantly mutating internal predators. The Red Queen answers dozens of other riddles of human nature and culture — including why men propose marriage, the method behind our maddening notions of beauty, and the disquieting fact that a woman is more likely to conceive a child by an adulterous lover than ...

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The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

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Overview

Referring to Lewis Carroll's Red Queen from Through the Looking-Glass, a character who has to keep running to stay in the same place, Matt Ridley demonstrates why sex is humanity's best strategy for outwitting its constantly mutating internal predators. The Red Queen answers dozens of other riddles of human nature and culture — including why men propose marriage, the method behind our maddening notions of beauty, and the disquieting fact that a woman is more likely to conceive a child by an adulterous lover than by her husband. Brilliantly written, The Red Queen offers an extraordinary new way of interpreting the human condition and how it has evolved.

Citing the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, who has to keep running to stay in the same place, Ridley demonstrates why sex is humanity's best strategy for outwitting its constantly mutating internal predators, and answers dozens of other riddles of human nature and culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The author, a science journalist, draws on a wide range of sources (which he notes and annotates) to present some biological (unromantic) reasons behind seduction and sexism, beauty and polygamy, attraction and adultery. The title refers to Lewis Carroll's character in Through the Looking Glass who told Alice "we must run as fast as we can just to stay in the same place," her comment being used metaphorically for evolution. For the lay audience. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A former editor of The Economist asks how sexual selection has molded human nature. The title here alludes to a scene in Lewis Carroll in which Alice and the Red Queen run as fast as possible to remain in the same place. Ridley looks first at current thinking on why sexual reproduction exists at all, when many organisms manage quite well without it. The answer has to do with disease: a species must rebuild its defenses from one generation to the next merely to keep from falling behind in the race against opportunistic viruses. Sex, by allowing a new shuffle of the genetic material with each generation, improves the chance of survival. But the predators also improve with each generation, so the race (vide Lewis Carroll) is never over. Turning to animals, Ridley describes mating patterns with an eye as to whether mates are selected for health and vigor, or for esthetics. He concludes that both play a role: neither sickly fashion-plates nor healthy wallflowers will pass on their genes as often as those who combine both beauty and health. Given the contrast between a brief sexual act and long years of child- rearing, aggressive males will tend to have more children, while nurturing women will have healthier ones. Those who select mates with these qualities will transmit them to ensuing generations, along with other qualities affecting offspring survival. Ridley contends—not a popular thesis in recent decades—that such genetic programming is far more central to human nature than social conditioning. Extensively researched, clearly written: one of the best introductions to its fascinating and controversial subject. (Notes, bibliography, index; eight pages ofphotos—not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060556570
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/29/2003
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: 1st. Perennial Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 185,300
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Matt Ridley is the author of several award-winning books, including Genome, The Agile Gene, and The Red Queen, which have sold more than 800,000 copies in twenty-seven languages worldwide. He lives in England.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 Human Nature 1
Ch. 2 The Enigma 23
Ch. 3 The Power of Parasites 53
Ch. 4 Genetic Mutiny and Gender 89
Ch. 5 The Peacock's Tale 129
Ch. 6 Polygamy and the Nature of Men 171
Ch. 7 Monogamy and the Nature of Women 209
Ch. 8 Sexing the Mind 245
Ch. 9 The Uses of Beauty 277
Ch. 10 The Intellectual Chess Game 307
Epilogue: The Self-Domesticated Ape 345
Notes 351
Bibliography 369
Index 395
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2004

    Excellent!

    This was an amazingly well-written book. Ridley describes some very complex concepts in language that is easy to understand. Interesting to people in the field, but simple enough for anyone to read. I highly recommend it. One of the important points to keep in mind when thinking about evolutionary psychology, and one which Ridley emphasizes, is just because something is 'natural' doesn't mean it is 'right'. For example, forced copulation (i.e. rape) is a 'natural' behavior in many animal species. You wouldn't argue, though, that this means rape should not be a criminal offense. This book does not espouse any particular political ideology and anyone who attempts to use it to do so is probably taking something out of context. Read this with an open mind.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 23, 2009

    The delemma of attraction in humans is answered here

    We all know that there is no reasoning with the basis of attraction in people. Now we have the answer, this book explores the theory of sexual attraction in various species including ours. Why do women like "bad boys"? Why are mem so polygamous? What is the genetic payoff here for both? And why are we all so attracted to performers?

    This book does an excellent job of answering these questions and more. I picked this book up out of curiosity about the Red Queen's Race frome Alice in Wonderland. To my surprise, this book had many other revelations.

    At it's lowest level this book could be considered a manual for seduction for both genders. At the highest level it can reveal the reason for our unconcious choices and allow us to deal with life at a much wiser level.

    If you want to get above the Darwin rat race, read this book. If you want to understand your mate or why you are attracted to a particular kind of mate, read this book. If you want to get the most unwelcome surprise of your life, don't read this book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2014

    Outstanding review of the topic

    Every social science and liberal arts student on the college level should immediately read this book. In fact every person claiming to be educated needs to read this excellent treatment of central concepts in biology. Well written and significant for our survival as humans overcoming the forces of ignorance and religious dogma.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    book was good

    book was good

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 10, 2009

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