When Culture and Biology Collide: Why We are Stressed, Depressed, and Self-Obsessed / Edition 1

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Overview

Why do we do things that we know are bad for us? Why do we line up to buy greasy fast food that is terrible for our bodies? Why do we take the potentially lethal risk of cosmetic surgery to have a smaller nose, bigger lips, or a less wrinkled face? Why do we risk life and limb in a fit of road rage to seek revenge against someone who merely cut us off in traffic? If these life choices are simply responses to cultural norms and pressures, then why did these particularly self-destructive patterns evolve in place of more sensible ones?

In When Culture and Biology Collide, E. O. Smith explores behaviors that are endemic to contemporary Western society, and proposes new ways of understanding and addressing these problems. Our physiology and behavior are the products of thousands of generations of evolutionary history. Every day we play out behaviors that have been part of the human experience for a very long time, yet these behaviors are enacted in an arena that is far different from that in which they evolved. Smith argues that this discordance between behavior and environment sets up conditions in which there can be real conflict between our evolved psychological predispositions and the dictates of culture.

Topics such as drug abuse, depression, beauty and self-image, obesity and dieting, stress and violence, ethnic diversity, and welfare are all used as sample case studies. In all of his case studies, Smith emphasizes the importance of not using an evolutionary explanation as an excuse for a particular pattern of behavior. Instead, he seeks to offer a perspective that will help us see ourselves more clearly and that may be useful in developing intelligent solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Smith provides ways of developing strategies for minimizing our self-destructive tendencies.

E. O. Smith is an associate professor of anthropology at Emory University and the coeditor of Evolutionary Medicine. He is also the editor of Social Play in Primates and Primate Ecology and Human Origins.

"Each chapter is filled with thoroughly researched, documented and fascinating facts."-Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

"This book will be completely accessible to laypersons, and yet equally thought provoking for scientists."-Human Nature Review

"My goal is not to suggest an evolutionary explanation for all of our personal and societal ills but to offer a perspective that may be useful in developing intelligent solutions to what seem to be intractable problems. In addition, I am not suggesting that an evolutionary explanation should be taken as an excuse to engage in certain undesirable behaviors. To say that we are predisposed to be aggressive, so dangerous driving practices are justified, is nonsense. Understanding something about how we have evolved to express and manage our aggressive behavior may allow for the development of alternative methods to modify behavior. One of the risks that a book like this runs is that people will use it to rationalize dangerous and antisocial behavior. I hope that instead it will allow us to see ourselves more clearly and develop strategies for minimizing those destructive tendencies."-from When Culture and Biology Collide

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813531038
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Intersection of Biology and Culture 1
2 Road Rage, Stress, and Evolution 18
3 Beauty, Blepharoplasty, Barbie, and Miss America 53
4 Fat, Diet, and Evolution 97
5 Depression, Antidepressants, and Evolution 124
6 Welfare, Cooperation, and Evolution 154
Notes 193
References 233
Index 257
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