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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 poli 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.


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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 poli 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.

30 review for The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are - The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Evolutionary Psychology is a dangerous field. In all of evolutionary science, there's a lot of temptation to endorse a just-so-story that happens to fit all your current data (or worse, ignore some of the data as noise). But this is Human evolution we are talking about and thus it becomes even more important that we A) get the story right B) understand how general trends apply to individual cases and C) don't draw think that science can dictate morality. Surprisingly, the book is best on point C, Evolutionary Psychology is a dangerous field. In all of evolutionary science, there's a lot of temptation to endorse a just-so-story that happens to fit all your current data (or worse, ignore some of the data as noise). But this is Human evolution we are talking about and thus it becomes even more important that we A) get the story right B) understand how general trends apply to individual cases and C) don't draw think that science can dictate morality. Surprisingly, the book is best on point C, showing how science can inform some moral debates but not settle them. It's also good on point B, making the qualification several times, but perhaps not forcefully enough for it to really sink in for all readers. Point A is my biggest issue. The majority of the book was well argued, well documented, and likely right. The problem is that when the author is speculating, he tends not to tell you he is. The book might be a "must read" for everyone, but it's a "must read carefully". I especially loved the use of Darwin's life for examples and the comparisons to J.S. Mill and Samuel Smiles, all of three of whom published classic works in 1859.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    This is one of those seminal books (to me at least) that has a lot to say about the nature of human relationships. Quotes: p 36 - ...while there are various reasons why it could make Darwinian sense for a woman to mate with more than one man (maybe the first man was infertile, for example) there comes a time when having more sex just isn't worth the trouble. Better to get some rest or grab a bite to eat. For a man, unless he's really on the brink of collapse or starvation, that time never comes. This is one of those seminal books (to me at least) that has a lot to say about the nature of human relationships. Quotes: p 36 - ...while there are various reasons why it could make Darwinian sense for a woman to mate with more than one man (maybe the first man was infertile, for example) there comes a time when having more sex just isn't worth the trouble. Better to get some rest or grab a bite to eat. For a man, unless he's really on the brink of collapse or starvation, that time never comes. Each new partner offers a very real chance to get more genes into the next generation - a much more valuable prospect, in the Darwinian calculus, than a nap or a meal. As the evolutionary psychologists martin Daly and Margo Wilson have succinctly put it: for males "there is always the possibility of doing better." There is a sense in which a female can do better too, but it has to do with quality, not quantity. Giving birth to a child involves a huge commitment of time, not to mention energy and nature has put a low ceiling on how many such enterprises she can undertake. So each child, from her (genetic) point of view, is an extremely precious gene machine. Its ability to survive and then, in turn, produce its own young gene machines is of mammoth importance. It makes Darwinian sense, then, for a woman to be selective about the man who is going to help her build each gene machine. p 38 whatever the ancestral environment was like, it wasn't much like the environment we're in now. We aren't designed to stand on crowded subway platforms, or to live in suburbs next door to people we never talk to, or to get hired and fired, or to watch the evening news. This disjunction between the contexts of our design and our lives is probably responsible for much psychopathology, as well as much suffering of a less dramatic sort.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karl-O

    If you find yourself uncomfortable while hearing about genes for altruism or genes for retaliation..etc., then this book is for you. It will clear many misunderstandings about what is meant by a Selfish Gene. In fact, the book has many explanations that would have been good for Dawkins to include in later editions of his book The Selfish Gene or write about later. Like Dawkins' book, The Moral Animal talks much about altruism and how it can be understood in the new Darwinian light (based on kin If you find yourself uncomfortable while hearing about genes for altruism or genes for retaliation..etc., then this book is for you. It will clear many misunderstandings about what is meant by a Selfish Gene. In fact, the book has many explanations that would have been good for Dawkins to include in later editions of his book The Selfish Gene or write about later. Like Dawkins' book, The Moral Animal talks much about altruism and how it can be understood in the new Darwinian light (based on kin selection and reciprocal altruism). The book is surely disturbing and Wright doesn't shy away from taking ideas to their logical conclusions. Many things are counter intuitive, like for example how monogamy is (contrary to the popular belief) good for men more than women, since in the former many men will be without wives but no women without husbands. He argues that monogamy was probably adopted lately in order to maintain social stability. It is a highly intelligent and earnest book. There's a beautiful technique used here by trying to explain Darwin's life (which is described by most as "saintly") in light of Evolutionary Psychology which I enjoyed immensely, with Darwin being the moral animal. However, like any science, some things are still speculative and need to be verified by data as Wright always reminds us. Having said all this, I marveled at the first 300 pages or so of the book. It changed many of my views about Evolution which I took for granted. We want to think of ourselves as animals with an extra part controlling the animal. This is most certainly false. We are animals capable (but not efficient) of contemplating our being an animal. Our brains are battlefields between our nature and our nurture (unlike what "anti-genetic determinists" think about Evolutionary Psychology). What I liked less in this book were the parts about Utilitarianism and how we can overcome our genetic tendencies. I agree with many Utilitarian ideas which I read elsewhere, but I was somehow disappointed here after the amazing explanations of Evolutionary Psychology. This part needed further elaboration and treatment, and some ideas were left midway. However, it is a great introduction to the topic and I highly recommend it. The first 300 pages easily deserve a 5-star rating.

  4. 4 out of 5

    C C

    He doesn't find your cat story interesting, and he won't call in the morning. He has gazillions of sperm and you have 400 eggs. Harry was right when he told Sally men and women can't be friends. Any guy who tells you otherwise is just trying to sleep with you. They're all trying to sleep with you, all the time. Your co-workers, your friends, the traffic cop, your high school math teacher, your cousins, all of them. all the time. Even the gay ones. And that's why they invented fire, the wheel, ca He doesn't find your cat story interesting, and he won't call in the morning. He has gazillions of sperm and you have 400 eggs. Harry was right when he told Sally men and women can't be friends. Any guy who tells you otherwise is just trying to sleep with you. They're all trying to sleep with you, all the time. Your co-workers, your friends, the traffic cop, your high school math teacher, your cousins, all of them. all the time. Even the gay ones. And that's why they invented fire, the wheel, carrots, sport cars, and football. To get some.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lynne King

    On the road from Gethsemane to Calvary I lost my way. For some obscure reason when I read the last page of this book and put it down, the above quote from one of the Lewis television series sprang to mind. I had to recheck the internet to ensure that my memory was in fact correct. I lost my way and my mission in fact with this book The Moral Animal on page 128/464 and my positive thoughts gradually diminished as I began the slippery downward slide to the last page. I thought it was excellently On the road from Gethsemane to Calvary I lost my way. For some obscure reason when I read the last page of this book and put it down, the above quote from one of the Lewis television series sprang to mind. I had to recheck the internet to ensure that my memory was in fact correct. I lost my way and my mission in fact with this book The Moral Animal on page 128/464 and my positive thoughts gradually diminished as I began the slippery downward slide to the last page. I thought it was excellently written up to then. This book promised me everything I wanted in a book on evolution and Darwin has interested and intrigued me for years, leading me onto my current fascination with genetics. This was meant to show me the new science of evolutionary psychology but this didn’t prove to be the case. It is a study of men and women and relationships. It compares the Victorian culture with ours today that I thought would be worth reading but there are too many personal interpretations, the book is not linear and it meanders, well to me anyway, everywhere. I’m not too sure either that I agree with the author’s views on natural selection. As an example: The way natural selection has worked its will is to make some things seem “obvious” and “right” and “desirable” and others “absurd” and “wrong” and “abhorrent”. We should probe our common sense reactions to evolutionary theories carefully before concluding that common sense itself isn’t a cognitive distortion created by evolution. I’m sure that many individuals will view this work favourably but it’s not for me. I actually don’t like the writing style. My other problem is that I’ve already read a really good biography on Darwin and other excellent books on evolution, and I was hoping for something new here. If it is to be found within these pages, well obviously I’ve missed it. This is another case of the book looking the part, promising marvellous things, having excellent reviews and proving to be disappointing. I chose badly on this occasion.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amir Tesla

    I believe whoever wants to better understand the world, know why they feel what they feel and know why people behave the way they do, has to read evolutionary psychology. This book provided me with two critical pieces I had been missing in the puzzle of evolution. I had learned that many desires of ours are the manifestation of our genes. I also had learned that the environment is also responsible for shaping a huge portion of our behavior. But I lacked the knowledge of the relationship between th I believe whoever wants to better understand the world, know why they feel what they feel and know why people behave the way they do, has to read evolutionary psychology. This book provided me with two critical pieces I had been missing in the puzzle of evolution. I had learned that many desires of ours are the manifestation of our genes. I also had learned that the environment is also responsible for shaping a huge portion of our behavior. But I lacked the knowledge of the relationship between the two and I also didn't know the precise relation of the environment and the genes in forging our behavior. Now, thanx to this book, I do. It turns out that the evolution implants knobs in our brain, but how low or high these knobs are set to, is determined by the environment. It was a huge revelation for me. I also have been pondering the boundaries of morality. Is there any objective morality to which we can cling? Yes, now I know and it is utilitarianism. Our behavior is moral to the extent that they benefit the people and contribute the good of all. This is a touchstone with which we can hope to discern if an act is moral. The writing was exceptional, the structure and depth of the material were superb. I loved the book, and profoundly recommend it to anyone who aspires to reach a higher intellectual level.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marvin

    So where does man get his morals from? Some people would say God. That assumes there is some absolute idea of virtue and morals handed to us from the almighty. Best evidence against this? The Bible. Read the first four books of the Old Testament, not just the ten commandments, and then tell me you would want to live in a society that allows you to sell your daughter into slavery and stone your spouse for adultery. Clearly our ideas of morality evolve and continues to evolve...for the better in m So where does man get his morals from? Some people would say God. That assumes there is some absolute idea of virtue and morals handed to us from the almighty. Best evidence against this? The Bible. Read the first four books of the Old Testament, not just the ten commandments, and then tell me you would want to live in a society that allows you to sell your daughter into slavery and stone your spouse for adultery. Clearly our ideas of morality evolve and continues to evolve...for the better in my opinion Perhaps the question should be not where but how do we get morality and virtues. Sociology see social values as originating to unify people and protect themselves from their own savage natures. But if this is true why do people often choose an altruistic stance even when it goes against cultural edicts. Along comes the science of evolutionary psychology which states our morality is not from societal causes but our own genes. As genes originates physical changes, they also originate behaviors that help us survive through generations. The author illustrates, not just through human examples but other mammals, how certain moral behaviors have developed to insure survival, which in the sense of natural selection means to reproduce and leave lot of descendents. Not only are we genetically predisposed to behave in certain ways but we often go out of our way to deceive ourselves about this. Bye bye freewill. Evolutionary Psychology (EP) is the new kid on the block. While evolution is an established fact, EP is young enough that the author of this thought-provoking book is often left to speculation, and he freely admits to this. However there is a lot to digest and ponder in these pages. Much is controversial and not just to fundamentalist Christians. Some have accused EP as condoning sexism and even rape. Not so. While Wright clearly states natural selection is only interested in survival not morality, he also realizes that if we understand the reason we do what we do, the more we can use this information for our own betterment. I personally think EP is too much in its infant stage to accept wholeheartedly but I must say I'm impressed with this excellent introduction to EP. Certainly this healthy examination of morals and mankind is a better choice than blindly accepting "God-dictated" edicts that have justified persecution and suffering through the ages.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tara B

    Evolutionary psychology has been used far too much to excuse men for raping women and fucking up our society with wars and patriarchy. I refuse to respect it; I think it's working to excuse us for the things we should be able to rise above. Wright does fight the absolutists and say this science is not an excuse for how much we hurt each other, but if he is so enlightened, can't he see that he is at the same time validating a science that is increasingly and more aggresively being used as fuel fo Evolutionary psychology has been used far too much to excuse men for raping women and fucking up our society with wars and patriarchy. I refuse to respect it; I think it's working to excuse us for the things we should be able to rise above. Wright does fight the absolutists and say this science is not an excuse for how much we hurt each other, but if he is so enlightened, can't he see that he is at the same time validating a science that is increasingly and more aggresively being used as fuel for the anti-anti-rape movement? He is saying, "I like this science and think it explains us," first and foremost. His fails to remember that simply calling it "science" attaches a term to it that, as history shows, leads people to use any of its findings for their own benefit, treating them inescapable laws. His one- and two-sentence scoldings about how we should rise above his "science's" findings fall short of undoing the damage for readers who will use this book for evil.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    First and foremost: an uncritical read of this book will leave you feeling cynical and a bit cheated. It ranks up there with E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology and Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene (though I'll admit that I know those two primarily by reputation, having read excerpts and not their entireties). It would be very easy to find yourself getting defensive about the material presented in here; especially if you believe humans to be some special exception among animals. Meanwhile, with a more cr First and foremost: an uncritical read of this book will leave you feeling cynical and a bit cheated. It ranks up there with E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology and Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene (though I'll admit that I know those two primarily by reputation, having read excerpts and not their entireties). It would be very easy to find yourself getting defensive about the material presented in here; especially if you believe humans to be some special exception among animals. Meanwhile, with a more critical approach, you'll find that you cannot get Robert Wright's text out of your head: it is insightful, intellectually rigorous, even-handed, and at times palpably funny. Plus, you will find that it informs a great many (all?) of the human discourse (verbal or otherwise) that you encounter daily -- how certain traits and behaviors came to be and the functions they serve. Don't ask about their intentions though; we need to remember that evolution is goal-less, after all. Put most succinctly: We are built to be effective animals, not happy ones. What Robert Wright sets out to do with The Moral Animal is to take Darwin's life and oeuvre (primarily The Origin of Species), frame them with two other important contemporary writings (John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism and Samuel Smiles' Self-Help), and use that lens to execute a thorough analysis and discussion of Darwinism and evolution, how human civilizations evolved as a consequence of "reciprocal altruism", and capsulize all of this as the basis for what Wright calls evolutionary psychology. Wright's choice of style is an interesting one and reminds me vaguely of Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: meticulous and technical scientific discussions of biology, genetics, and evolution are interspersed with nearly whimsical narratives that detail the life and times of Charles Darwin. For every page that cites Robert Trivers or Richard Dawkins, there is another that quotes Darwin's personal correspondence or illustrates the backdrop of Victorian society. Wright's is an interesting and compelling approach that makes that text very engaging and approachable. Which is not to suggest that the material is easy to follow; Wright does not shy away from getting denser and heavier as the work progresses -- there were many instances were I found that I needed to double-back over certain passages to "get it". Again, for as dense and technical as much of Wright's writing is, he throws himself whole-heartedly into the text and makes the material come to life. There is something strangely erotic about his in-depth scientific analysis of mate competition, cuckoldry, and evolutionary strategizing. There is something perversely amusing about his apples-to-oranges comparisons of Darwin and Freud. There is something appropriately voyeuristic about reading letters from Darwin to friends and seeing how they reflect elements of his own theories. In many ways, Wright's eloquent prose is currency for getting us through some very challenging material. As I've already discussed, there is the implicit challenge of reading technical literature (especially as a layperson). More so however, is the explicit challenge that Wright lays out early in the text: that we all carry a great deal of cultural baggage that sets us up to reject the logical conclusions posited by Darwinism and evolutionary psychology. Wright spends the first half of the text building up to the discussions that give the book its title. By the time we get to Part Three: Social Strife, it is no small wonder why Wright keeps circling back on the example of bluegill sunfish and the equilibrium between "nest builders" and "mate poachers". The animal kingdom seems to contain not a more succinct microcosm of industry versus opportunism, of cost/benefit economies and stability through constant adjustments in strategy. The cornerstone of the second half of The Moral Animal is reciprocal altruism, a theory introduced in the early 1970s by Robert Trivers. Wright gives reciprocal altruism the thorough treatment: he describes how it may (must?) have evolved, the benefits it bestows on an organism (or, more accurately, its genes), how reciprocal altruism gave rise to human societies and civilizations, and the feedback loop between society and biology (i.e., meme and gene) as mediated through the extremely complex manifestation of reciprocal altruism in human beings. At first glance, Wright's exposition may appear cynical and determinist: even "on our best behavior", we are just a product of our genes -- even agape presumes a pay-off in the form of a more "loving" and stable society for our offspring. Swing such a cynical evaluation around to the other end and you are using these postulates for justification of extramarital affairs, for rape and for genocide, or for whatever other Twinkie Defense you might conjecture. Wright is very conscious of this and tries to be very delicate and deliberate in his treatment of all this; he even goes so far as to label it "postmodern morality" and he summarily eviscerates these conclusions as damaging and naïve. (Perhaps he is so explicit about this because he wishes to avoid being damned in the same way as E.O. Wilson when he published Sociobiology.) Wright suggests that if anything "separates" humans from animals, it is self-reflection, the capacity that we have to evaluate our actions (and the actions of others) and consequently judge those actions. Wright asserts that even if the content of our judgments (and our abilities to make those judgments) are evolved tendencies, that we can on some level make choices about the "rightness" of a given action; that our memes (though he eschews that word) and genes interact and we express agency in our evolution. Of course, he also appears to caution us that there is a great deal of cultural transmission going on in human evolution right now and that meme transmission is fragile and tenuous even under the best conditions. Hyperbolic though it may sound, Wright appears to suggest that we are one catastrophic event away from being free agents in the game of evolution. Underlying all of this is the assertion that reciprocal altruism is a non-zero-sum game where each player (i.e., the genes that are making efforts through the organism to reproduce) functions as a kind of accountant of favors. Each organism is playing life and evolution as a game where sometimes the best move is to take a short-term loss, where sometimes the best move is to take a little more than what you're owed but not as much as you could exploit. In a way, this is a hopelessly romantic view of evolution -- that even despite the ubiquitously short half-life of any pleasure, that an organism might still "choose" a small short-term sacrifice for a greater long-term gain. In reading the entirety of Wright's argument however, it is certainly reasonable to assume that this is a pragmatic trait, that it's a complexly evolved response system for economies of scarcity -- that there is in fact nothing romantic about charity or sacrifice or romance or the outlaw exploiter. Mechanistically, we are all cogs in the perpetual motion machine of evolution's equilibrium. And as such, our morals (or lack thereof) are the motions of that machine balancing itself. I could see how some, perhaps many might find this thought is unsettling. With his re-telling of Darwin's tale, Wright illustrates a Copernicanian re-centering of humankind, its origins, and even its humanity. As mentioned above, it can be easy to carve out portions of this hypothesis and serve them in cynical isolation. Taken as a whole, it is a strong composite view of humankind's genetic and cultural make-up, the forces that drove us to where we are, and the agency we may express over our destiny.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Dear Evolutionary Psychology, You are bullshit. Most sciences evolve from get-your-hands-dirty research-discovery-more-research cycles, but evo-psych evolved to meet the need of the media to have a constant influx of stories justifying sexism through "science." So suck it. You are rejected. Dear Evolutionary Psychology, You are bullshit. Most sciences evolve from get-your-hands-dirty research-discovery-more-research cycles, but evo-psych evolved to meet the need of the media to have a constant influx of stories justifying sexism through "science." So suck it. You are rejected.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jen Catembung

    When Christopher Ryan (author of Sex at Dawn), suggested another compelling book to read: The Moral Animal by Robert Wright, I was adamant enough that almost all my nagging personal questions about morality and discernment will be widely explained from an evolutionary and biological point of view. True as what most book reviews say, Robert explores the most fascinating, sometimes-controversial concepts that affects the way we make decisions in our lives. This is the reason why books like this is When Christopher Ryan (author of Sex at Dawn), suggested another compelling book to read: The Moral Animal by Robert Wright, I was adamant enough that almost all my nagging personal questions about morality and discernment will be widely explained from an evolutionary and biological point of view. True as what most book reviews say, Robert explores the most fascinating, sometimes-controversial concepts that affects the way we make decisions in our lives. This is the reason why books like this is such a winner! Be open to dive deep into a rabbit hole discussion about religion, relationships, friendship, sex, love, status, self-esteem and our social networks. What people consider good and beneficial for them may merely be based from the principle of social conditioning. I personally feel that because of Wright’s clear and lucid way of explaining crucial matters, his writing has deeply changed my perspectives in some aspects of my life. This book is packed with immense knowledge about Evolutionary Psychology. The obvious premise, of course, that I agree with is when Wright presents that if anything separates animals from humans, it is self-reflection (the ability to evaluate our actions and the actions of others) and consequently judge those actions and morally act upon it. I need to listen to it again to pinpoint its flaws. A must read...but a must read with extra care! #themoralanimal #robertwright

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    This book is about 1/3 decent application of evolutionary theory, 1/3 stretching theory to cover subjects/behaviors that it might fit but there is no real evidence for (just logical reasoning), and 1/3 arm-waiving of barely thought-out evolutionary explanations. It also seems to be based largely on a few papers written in the '70s, constantly bringing up the same papers. Note the number of times the author mentions Trivers' papers. Additionally, the tone of the book (or train of thought of the w This book is about 1/3 decent application of evolutionary theory, 1/3 stretching theory to cover subjects/behaviors that it might fit but there is no real evidence for (just logical reasoning), and 1/3 arm-waiving of barely thought-out evolutionary explanations. It also seems to be based largely on a few papers written in the '70s, constantly bringing up the same papers. Note the number of times the author mentions Trivers' papers. Additionally, the tone of the book (or train of thought of the writer) seemed to change a lot, which made for kind of awkward transitions when reading multiple sections in one sitting. On a side note, I did find the anecdotes about Darwin's life and relationships pretty interesting, and a funny choice for use as examples of evolution in social behavior. Even though I didn't particularly like much of this book, I hope people that do read this can read it with a grain of salt and a little thought: it can make for some good discussions if you read it with someone else.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    I'm less than half way through this and I still can't find out what the author's focus is. He started out with a description of some of the different ideas about evolutionary psychology. Then he shifted to the biography of Darwin. Then to early childhood development. Now he is drawing conclusions, loosely based on Darwin's personal history and some of his letters, that I seriously question. I hope that this book gets better and a little more focused. -Joe- I'm 3/4 of the way through and the author I'm less than half way through this and I still can't find out what the author's focus is. He started out with a description of some of the different ideas about evolutionary psychology. Then he shifted to the biography of Darwin. Then to early childhood development. Now he is drawing conclusions, loosely based on Darwin's personal history and some of his letters, that I seriously question. I hope that this book gets better and a little more focused. -Joe- I'm 3/4 of the way through and the author does not have a focus. This is just a bunch of notes (some totally unrelated). I'll not finish this book. The title and description are very misleading. -Joe-

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I loved this one. As soon as I was done, I picked up all of the author's other books. It was thought-provoking, well-written, and even applicable to life. Though I was uncomfortable with some of the broad generalizations on gender and sex and his flippant dismissal of feminist claims about the social fluidity of gender. Seems to me that more recent research (i.e. Cordelia Fine et al) have debunked some of the studies he relies on (like the famous fruit fly reproduction study). I would love to se I loved this one. As soon as I was done, I picked up all of the author's other books. It was thought-provoking, well-written, and even applicable to life. Though I was uncomfortable with some of the broad generalizations on gender and sex and his flippant dismissal of feminist claims about the social fluidity of gender. Seems to me that more recent research (i.e. Cordelia Fine et al) have debunked some of the studies he relies on (like the famous fruit fly reproduction study). I would love to see Wright respond to those criticisms. I suspect that neither side is totally right on this. That yes, men and women are wired differently, but no, not as different as Wright believes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Omar

    This is a really cynical take on human nature so you must read carefully. There are many insights that are thought provoking, but he tends to stretch the truth to have it neatly fit into a Darwinian framework. The conclusion reached by Darwin is that human beings have the capacity to be moral animals, but Wright's misanthropy is always in the shadows reminding the reader how we inherently are immoral. He writes: “In this sense, yes, we are moral; we have, at least, the technical capacity for lead This is a really cynical take on human nature so you must read carefully. There are many insights that are thought provoking, but he tends to stretch the truth to have it neatly fit into a Darwinian framework. The conclusion reached by Darwin is that human beings have the capacity to be moral animals, but Wright's misanthropy is always in the shadows reminding the reader how we inherently are immoral. He writes: “In this sense, yes, we are moral; we have, at least, the technical capacity for leading a truly examined life; we have self-awareness, memory, foresight, and judgment. But the last several decades of evolutionary thought lead one to emphasize the word technical. Chronically subjecting ourselves to a true and bracing moral scrutiny, and adjusting our behavior accordingly, is not something we are designed for. We are potentially moral animals — which is more than any other animal can say — but we aren't naturally moral animals. To be moral animals, we must realize how thoroughly we aren't” The book then explores topics ranging from marriage to friendship to social status to altruism and how all behaviour is ultimately rooted in self-interest and passing our genes on to the next generation. It's a very reductive and deterministic take on things. It's a little too neat and chauvinistic as well. I really enjoyed Wright's book "Why Buddhism is True" so I was let down with this one as it just came off as morally bankrupt. To be fair, this book was written in the early 90's so perhaps his disdain towards humanity has cooled off some. Criticisms aside, the book itself is impressive and is a seminal work in the controversial field. There may very well be some hard truths here, but not enough attention was given on how we can evolve to be better than this. Ultimately, a healthy balance of science, philosophy, spirituality and the arts will encapsulate ‘why we are the way we are’ much better than evolutionary psychology and can provide an ethical path forward while reconciling the realities of what we are and what we potentially can be. 3/5

  16. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    "...bear in mind that the feeling of moral 'rightness' is something natural selection created so that people would employ it selfishly. Morality, you could almost say, was designed to be misused by its own definition." -- p. 344, The Moral Animal Now if them ain't fightin' words, I don't know what is. This book started slow for me but after the first chapter or so it starts to rock. Wright does a clever bit here, using Darwin himself as a subject for explicating the processes of natural selection "...bear in mind that the feeling of moral 'rightness' is something natural selection created so that people would employ it selfishly. Morality, you could almost say, was designed to be misused by its own definition." -- p. 344, The Moral Animal Now if them ain't fightin' words, I don't know what is. This book started slow for me but after the first chapter or so it starts to rock. Wright does a clever bit here, using Darwin himself as a subject for explicating the processes of natural selection and evolutionary psychology. So like two books in one, the biography being a freebie. Plus Wright's an engaging and witty writer; there are deep considerations throughout the book and a genuine laugh every few pages. Wright really wins, though, when he's at his most thoughtfully provocative. In a freak example of truth in advertising, the back cover declares: "...this book compels us to rethink our most basic moral assumptions, with lasting implications for our public policy as well as for our intimate daily actions." That's no hyperbole. Pretty much wherever you stand on the atheist-agnostic-believer spectrum, the rug's yanked out from under you. (This goes for you too, nihilists.) One of Wright's main assertions, boiled way down, is that everything we believe in our deepest heart of hearts, the moral code we claim to live by and whatever we're dead certain is our Core Truth, is just a trick of natural selection; a device to further evolution's aims. And he's really damned convincing. Whether you buy Wright's arguments or not, I submit it's a worthy exercise to try standing outside our own biases; to submit our beliefs to the skeptical scrutiny we apply to others' opposing beliefs; to question our behaviors and motives as witheringly as we would our most outrageous opponent's. It's brutal. Damn near impossible. Like trying to park your brain outside your skull and leave it there, watching. Reading The Moral Animal, I felt as though a gauntlet had been thrown. The challenge inherent here -- as I'm choosing to take it -- is to strip away all I take as self-evident, plus all the rationalization and corner-cutting and anything even remotely conveniently self-serving, and see what I can make of what's left. If you like this kind of angel-wrasslin', this book's for you. (4.5 stars)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    a man's justification for bad behaviour a man's justification for bad behaviour

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Here's the problem with evolutionary psychology: its style of reasoning is all what I believe the brainy types call ex post facto. That is, practitioners take a look at features or patterns of human behavior today, then ponder about why that kind of activity might have been advantageous in "the evolutionary environment," back when we were out there gathering and scavenging and occasionally trying to take down one of our fellow large mammals. Explanations tend to be extremely tidy, and awfully di Here's the problem with evolutionary psychology: its style of reasoning is all what I believe the brainy types call ex post facto. That is, practitioners take a look at features or patterns of human behavior today, then ponder about why that kind of activity might have been advantageous in "the evolutionary environment," back when we were out there gathering and scavenging and occasionally trying to take down one of our fellow large mammals. Explanations tend to be extremely tidy, and awfully difficult to test. For all that, many of the ideas of evolutionary psychology seem to have a startling degree of explanatory power. Probably the best-known example regards the widely cross-cultural sexual behavior of men and women. Men's brains, or bodies, or genes, "want" them to sleep with essentially any woman who moves, we are told, because this is in the best interest of pushing his genetic material forward. Women's brains, on the other hand, "want" them to snag and secure a mate who is likely to stick around and help gather food, run off predators, and do the dishes. Since these were successful reproductive strategies back in the day, the logic goes, more humans who embodied these characteristics survived to spawn the next generation. Suspiciously neat and tidy? You bet! Able to explain a nearly universal observation about human behavior in a logical and intuitively attractive fashion? Absolutely! A tricky business, this evolutionary psychology. The Human Condition Robert Wright's 1994 synopsis of what was at the time still a relatively new academic discipline is beautifully written, balancing provocative arguments with careful reasoning and considerable erudition. He covers, for instance, the pros and cons of polygamy, and polygamy emerges seeming like a pretty reasonable option. The human drive to seek status, our frequent tendency to discount and reject strangers, and our peculiar habit of developing friendships are all traced to the possible genetic advantage that they would confer in the long eons of prehistory. Some readers might be disconcerted by evolutionary psychology's apparent reduction of all human motivation and morality to pure biological self-interest. But this is hardly a new concept. Hobbes blew my mind all the way back in college, after all, with a vigorous argument that whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calleth good; and the object of his hate and aversion, evil; and of his contempt, vile and inconsiderable. Oh, and he wrote that in 1651. I bet he wasn't the first cynic to come down the path, either. But Wright's look at the human condition is less of a bummer than it could be, anyway. What saves us -- or could save us -- is the mechanism of "love," a genetic tic that confers a reproductive advantage by aiding the survival of the offspring and close relatives of those who possess it. Because kin groups united by love in the evolutionary environment tended to succeed at the expense of every-primate-for-itself kin groups, we have inherited the capacity to feel fond and protective of each other. Now, living in (basically) the post-evolutionary environment, we can more or less choose to extend our capacity of love to people who don't share our genetic material -- friends, a community, a nation, even a stranger on the other side of the world. Ultimately, Wright's prescription for the human condition is much the same of that in Ozzie in his epic rock anthem Crazy Train: "Maybe it's not too late to learn how to love and forget how to hate." There is also some business about whether we possess free will or are just the expressions of a mechanistic brain chemistry. The answer, if I read it right, is that we are probably mechanistic, but it's important not to act like you think so. The Darwinian Condition The Moral Animal applies each of its... findings? insights? speculations? ...to the case study of a single human being. That human: Charles Darwin. So, a chapter about the evolutionary psychology of courtship will be followed by a chapter about Darwin's courtship, and how it did or didn't seem to embody evolutionary psychological principles. This structure is pretty weird, to say the least, but in practice it is not nearly as clunky as you might expect. The case-study aspect is actually kind of interesting, and Darwin left a massive-enough paper trail that there's plenty of documentary evidence of his thinking. Plus, the continuous weaving of the modern perspective with Darwin's own development of his ideas points out areas where he anticipated ideas that wouldn't be fully developed for more than a century, where he went off on tangents that have since been discredited, and where he seems to have been afraid to tread. My only complaint about this book is that it is seventeen years old. It is written very much as a dispatch from a new and exciting area of science, and I am sure that much has happened in the interim. Are Wright's ideas now passé? Have they been bolstered and supplemented by lots of exciting new research? I dunno. Meanwhile, a few details he cites in support of his arguments, in particular relating to modern hunter-gather societies and to neurochemistry, are so out of date that even a casual reader dude like myself can flag them. I imagine that someone has written a newer synthesis of the field. I just hope that they wrote it half as gracefully and entertainingly as Wright wrote The Moral Animal.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

    Probably my favorite quote from this book comes from the chapter in which the author discusses whether or not we are truly moral animals. He concludes that we are almost: We are potentially moral animals -- which is more than any other animal can say -- but we aren't naturally moral animals. To be moral animals, we must realize how thoroughly we aren't. The Moral Animal is a very thought-provoking and interesting book. It answers, but mostly it just attempts to answer, so many questions about why Probably my favorite quote from this book comes from the chapter in which the author discusses whether or not we are truly moral animals. He concludes that we are almost: We are potentially moral animals -- which is more than any other animal can say -- but we aren't naturally moral animals. To be moral animals, we must realize how thoroughly we aren't. The Moral Animal is a very thought-provoking and interesting book. It answers, but mostly it just attempts to answer, so many questions about why humans are the way we are, mostly from an evolutionary or genetic standpoint. It outlines the entire life of Charles Darwin in the process and compares events and examples from his life story that illustrate the points made by the author. I enjoyed everything about this book. I feel much enlightened and educated about the psychology of the human animal and I have a deeper respect and appreciation for "the reluctant Mr. Darwin."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Shore

    This book would have been a 5-star work if Wright hadn’t insisted on incorporating the half-Darwin-biography model. It might sound cute on paper to analyze Darwin’s life through the lens of evolutionary psychology, but in practice it’s distracting, cumbersome and time consuming. The book could have been half as long and many times better if the reader wasn’t forced to learn about the color of Darwin’s socks. Still, the good parts of the text are fantastic.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    Because of its technical nature, at times it was hard getting through it all, but anyone with an interest in psychology would absolutely be fascinated by this book. I actually believe that EVERYONE should read this book, only because it gives you incredible insights as to who we are, why we act the way we do, and how we can make better decisions for our actions in the future.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rozzer

    Morality is fine. I think. Evolutionary psychology is fine. I think. In fact, I think all kinds of moral philosophy and psychology are fine. I have no bones to pick with any of the foregoing. My problem is with Mr. Wright and his style and his manner of thinking and his manner of research. There are science journalists, like Mr. Wright, who are satisfied and contented with presenting the results of their research and not going beyond the confines of the conclusions reached by the scientists for Morality is fine. I think. Evolutionary psychology is fine. I think. In fact, I think all kinds of moral philosophy and psychology are fine. I have no bones to pick with any of the foregoing. My problem is with Mr. Wright and his style and his manner of thinking and his manner of research. There are science journalists, like Mr. Wright, who are satisfied and contented with presenting the results of their research and not going beyond the confines of the conclusions reached by the scientists for whom they speak. Writers who understand the dangers and difficulties of stretching what has been found to be true. There is, however, for many writers, a great temptation to try to please the greatest possible number of readers and thereby increase whatever their success might otherwise have been. And then, in a rather different vein, there are writers who themselves are only comfortable if they are able to present a message in tune with their own personal values and aspirations, regardless of whether those values or aspirations are consistent with what is actually the case. Mr. Wright appears to me to be one of the latter. A writer who personally needs to be the presenter of what he believes to be appropriately positive thoughts and opinions. Which is a shame. Mr. Wright is obviously an intelligent and perceptive person. He has no real need to cast himself as one of the more inanely optimistic science journalists of today. To an extent he does create the impression of wanting to be a nineteenth century Pollyanna, someone always able to draw sunshine conclusions from November data. In other words, Mr. Wright appears to go beyond his facts, and thereby loses substantially. Of course, there are many readers willing quite happily to pay for such interpretations. Probably more than are only satisfied with restrained and obviously sensible conclusions. But whether the problem is that of Mr. Wright alone, or of he and his editor, the final result in this book is to create and sustain the impression that Mr. Wright is willing to trim his sails to the wind whatever the weather may be. For those who wish no more from their science journalism than they receive Sunday morning in the pews of a happiness church, this is an appropriate work. For any wanting more, or for those having distinct standards to which they wish their science reading to comply, this book will be disappointing. The subject of the book is fascinating and always appropriate. That subject will have to wait for a different expositor for readers who want a soberly accurate treatment.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eduardo Santiago

    I can see how this was groundbreaking for its time. But reading it in 2013, after Sperm Wars and Sex at Dawn and Mothers and Others and epigenetics and everything by Sapolsky, it's hard not to feel frustrated by everything that’s missing or incomplete or even wrong — but such is Science. We’ve learned much in the last 20 years, and Wright is directly responsible for much of that... so I offer a sincere and humble thank-you. With reservations. If you’ve been paying attention you already know most I can see how this was groundbreaking for its time. But reading it in 2013, after Sperm Wars and Sex at Dawn and Mothers and Others and epigenetics and everything by Sapolsky, it's hard not to feel frustrated by everything that’s missing or incomplete or even wrong — but such is Science. We’ve learned much in the last 20 years, and Wright is directly responsible for much of that... so I offer a sincere and humble thank-you. With reservations. If you’ve been paying attention you already know most of what's in here, and more. So read it as you would The Origin of Species: for historical perspective, for the pleasure of flashing back to a time when this knowledge was new. If you’re new to this material, proceed with caution. Wright fails to draw a clear distinction between pre- and post-agricultural societies, forgetting that the latter is a recent but drastic aberration from our evolutionary roots. This taints some of his assumptions and arguments about family life and morality. Understandably so, but still, there is much newer knowledge out there: you might want to start with newer material such as the ones in the first paragraph.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lolakay

    this was not as good as i expected. i didn't finish it. after Sperm Wars, I think I am over my infatuation with evolutionary psychology. this was not as good as i expected. i didn't finish it. after Sperm Wars, I think I am over my infatuation with evolutionary psychology.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    Is our morality, our sense of right and wrong, and also the choices we make, our predilections, tendencies and capacities for self-deception (believing fake news, voting for idiots during elections), and all other things which seemingly set us apart from other animals, are they all also the product of our evolutionary history? The author here would often sound as if he’s saying the affirmative but then again would go on as if he’s taking back what he had proposed. This is probably because evolut Is our morality, our sense of right and wrong, and also the choices we make, our predilections, tendencies and capacities for self-deception (believing fake news, voting for idiots during elections), and all other things which seemingly set us apart from other animals, are they all also the product of our evolutionary history? The author here would often sound as if he’s saying the affirmative but then again would go on as if he’s taking back what he had proposed. This is probably because evolutionary psychology is, as the title of the book suggests, a NEW science so there are still a lot we don’t really know. Moreover, the human mind is still mostly an unsolved enigma. Typical of how the book goes is this passage on its page 348: “Of course, you can argue with the proposition that all we are is knobs and tunings, genes and environment. You can insist that there’s something… something MORE. But if you try to visualize the form of this something would take, or articulate it clearly, you’ll find the task impossible, for any force that is not in the genes or the environment is outside of physical reality as we perceive it. It’s beyond scientific discourse.” Which is then immediately followed out by: “This doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, of course. Science may not tell the whole story…” Imbedded in this book is also the life of Charles Darwin which was used as some sort of a template for how evolution in psychology goes. I learned here that if not for some clever tinkering on a potentially problematic situation Darwin and his friends did, this theory of evolution through natural selection would have been attributed not to Darwin but to another British naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, who had prepared an essay on it ahead of him. Had it happened differently, then, we would not be speaking of “Darwinism” today but of “Wallaceism” when referring to evolution through natural selection. When Darwin had already achieved fame and had gone back to England, he was still a bachelor and, most likely, a virgin. He then wrestled with the problem of whether he should marry or remain a bachelor to concentrate with his work. To help him decide, he prepared a “deliberative memorandum” with two columns, one labeled “MARRY” and the other one “NOT MARRY.” Under the “MARRY” column he jotted down: “Children —(if it please God)…Constant companion, ( & friend in old age) who will feel interested in one,—object to be beloved & played with…better than a dog anyhow…Home, and someone to take care of house…Charms of music & female chit-chat—these things good for one’s health—but terrible loss of time.” Then in the “NOT MARRY” column he wrote: “Freedom to go where one like…choice of Society and little of it—Conversation of clever men at clubs—not forced to visit relatives & to bend in every trifle—not to have the expense & anxiety of children—Perhaps quarrelling—Loss of time—cannot read in the evenings—fatness & idleness—anxiety & responsibility—less money for books etc—if many children forced to gain one’s bread.” “MARRY” won in the end, with Darwin justifying his decision by writing down: “My God, it is intolerable to think of spending one’s whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working & nothing after all—No, no won’t do—Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House.—Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps.” Funny that this evolutionist didn’t factor sex at all, when it was most likely sex. He had ten children and therefore proved himself to be a true evolutionary success.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gordon

    Robert Wright was one of the earlier popularizers of evolutionary psychology, with this book Moral Animal published in 1994. It didn't achieve the fame of the earlier work published in the 1970's, The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, but then it didn't have nearly as good a title. Nor did it achieve the notoriety of the still earlier book from the 1970's, Sociobiology, by the great scientist and author, E.O. Wilson (who happens to be one of my heroes for his work in spreading the word about the Robert Wright was one of the earlier popularizers of evolutionary psychology, with this book Moral Animal published in 1994. It didn't achieve the fame of the earlier work published in the 1970's, The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, but then it didn't have nearly as good a title. Nor did it achieve the notoriety of the still earlier book from the 1970's, Sociobiology, by the great scientist and author, E.O. Wilson (who happens to be one of my heroes for his work in spreading the word about the critical importance of biodiversity). Wilson was so pilloried for the supposed genetic determinism of his theory that those who followed in his footsteps decided "sociobiology" was a tainted term and opted the "evolutionary psychology" instead, which is the term that has stuck. At my university campus, the University of Toronto, activists showed up in such numbers to disrupt a lecture delivered by Wilson that the whole thing had to called off. I doubt his persecutors had ever read his book. In the end, it has been Wilson who was vindicated, paving the way for others to follow in his path, even if under a re-branded banner. The thesis of Robert Wright, and of the other writers in the field, is that evolution has shaped our behavior just as much as evolution shaped our bodies. Charles Darwin himself may have believed as much, but was wise enough to stay away from human beings almost entirely in presenting the evidence underlying his theory, as presented in the Origin of Species. The theory was controversial enough as it was without asking for additional added headaches. The thrust of The Moral Animal is well captured by the following paragraph: "Altruism, compassion, empathy, love, conscience, the sense of justice -- all of these things, the things that hold society together, the things that allow our species to think so highly of itself, can now confidently be said to have a firm genetic basis. That the good news. The bad news is that, although these things are in some ways blessings for humanity as a whole, they didn't evolve for the "good of the the species" and aren't reliably employed to that end. Quite the contrary: it is now clearer than ever how (and precisely why) the moral sentiments are used with brutal flexibility, switched on and off in keeping with self interest; and how naturally oblivious we often are to this switching. In the new view, human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse. The title of this book is not wholly without irony." (p 12-13) An important point made by Wright, and others, is that our behavior has been shaped so that our mental machinery has been tuned to be adaptive not to our present environment, but to the "ancestral environment" in which our species spend almost the entirely of our 300,000 years of evolution. Things began to change radically starting about 10,000 years ago with the agricultural revolution, but even today there are a few remnant groups that have not entirely transitioned from the old hunting and gathering way of life. For all of us, regardless of the technological phase of the culture in which we live, the mental machinery is the same, however maladapted in may be in some cases to the current environment. Physically, we may be knowledge workers living a city of multiple millions of residents in the 21st century United States; emotionally, we are still hunter-gatherers living in clans of a few dozen members on the savannah of East Africa or the steppes of Asia. Quite a bit of Wright's book is devoted to the relationship between the sexes, in particular the divergent behavior of men and women. It all comes down to the simple asymmetry of male and female "investment" in gestating and raising children. Women can successfully raise only a very finite number of children; men can have a theoretically virtually limitless number of children. There have been men in history with vast power and wealth who did indeed have several hundred children, and who had the resources to see that a high proportion of them survived. For humans of more average resources, both sexes are very careful in choosing the mate with whom they will conceive and raise children, since both have an equal genetic stake in the successful outcome -- not just of those children being born, but of their successfully being raised to adulthood. Men, however, have the added incentive of pursuing a hybrid mating strategy, where they also opportunistically seek to have sex with (and, in the ancestral environment, impregnate) other women whose children they will NOT invest in helping to raise. The survival rate of those offspring will be lower than those raised with the primary mate, but such fathers may still succeed in have more children in total who make it to adulthood and successfully pass on that those males' genes. Needless to say, this is not a strategy that is considered morally acceptable any more, but it is nonetheless a behavioral tendency that is embedded in the genes, even if the link between sex and pregnancy has long since been made much weaker. Despite now being over a quarter-century old, this book has held up well in surviving the test of time and of the evolution of the science in the field. And, it's a pretty good read to boot.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Manu

    The last book I read in 2016 was "This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works" where leading thinkers share their favourite deep and elegant theory. An overwhelming number of them cited Darwin's theory of natural selection, and though I have not been asked, I'd say rightly so. As someone rightly pointed out, the beauty and elegance is when one theory explains a lot of diverse phenomena, and is almost a gift that keeps on giving. Robert Wright uses Darwin The last book I read in 2016 was "This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works" where leading thinkers share their favourite deep and elegant theory. An overwhelming number of them cited Darwin's theory of natural selection, and though I have not been asked, I'd say rightly so. As someone rightly pointed out, the beauty and elegance is when one theory explains a lot of diverse phenomena, and is almost a gift that keeps on giving. Robert Wright uses Darwin's theory to explain exactly what the book's title says - why we are the way we are, using Darwin's own life to illustrate several facets of classic human behaviour. I have thus far viewed the brain as a product of evolution, and feelings and emotions as a vague result of biochemistry triggered by the environment and the brain. My views have been shaped by some excellent and diverse books - Sapiens, Scarcity, Finite and Infinite Games - to name a significant few. This book, in many ways, is an amalgamation of the best insights that those have to offer. But the brilliance of the book is in how it goes beyond, and draws the connection between mental organs and behaviour in the modern world. The book throws light on the various behaviours we exhibit in our day to day life, many of which have their origins in the hunter-gatherer stage of our species and before. In fact, we even share some traits with our nearest relatives- chimpanzees and bonobos. Almost all facets of our life are addressed - relationship with parents, siblings, spouse, and society in general, politics, sex, friendship, religion etc. There are some fascinating insights. How (and why) males are concerned with sexual infidelity while females focus on emotional infidelity, how natural selection works behind the scenes by shaping feelings and not making us conscious of the logic, on how happiness is not really the topmost agenda in the gene's scheme of things, (that explains the friction!) the nature and cause of our biases, how we balance the two forces - reciprocal altruism and status hierarchy - that seem like opposites, the self being an organ of impression management (quoting Jerome Barkow) and so on. But of all this, my favourite is the nuanced and fantastically lucid discussion on free will and determinism. I have, for years, been absolutely convinced about the former, but this book has given me some excellent perspectives on how determinism need not have anything to do with divinity, but everything to do with biological aspects - a combination of genes and environment. That "delusion of free will" could be an adaptation hidden from us by design. And finally, on how because of of all this, we aren't really moral animals, but only potentially moral. Indeed, I now feel that the purpose of our species, and each of us individually, is to rise above evolution. And this book helps you do just that- it works like a mirror, and then some, by making us reflect on the real reason behind why behave the way we do. The answers are not always kind.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    The book is a Darwinian slant on Darwin the man and its new paradigm (evolutionary psychology). I only started to fully appreciate this book after I realized it was not a science book for non-scientist, but rather a philosophy book for non-philosophers. The author coherently ties together through an overriding narrative on our human psychology and moral development. While I've listened to most of the more recent books on the same topic from various authors (Dawkins, Diamond, Pinker, Gazzaniga, Wi The book is a Darwinian slant on Darwin the man and its new paradigm (evolutionary psychology). I only started to fully appreciate this book after I realized it was not a science book for non-scientist, but rather a philosophy book for non-philosophers. The author coherently ties together through an overriding narrative on our human psychology and moral development. While I've listened to most of the more recent books on the same topic from various authors (Dawkins, Diamond, Pinker, Gazzaniga, Wilson,Kahneman, and Ridley) available on Audible, none of them tied together the story as well as this book and make you feel the philosophical implications of the theory of evolutionary psychology. The book is dated (copyright 1994) but not out of date. Most of the stories told in the book I've heard versions of them in the more recent books. That's not a fault of the book. It's just that I read this book (in 2012) after having read the other books. I enjoyed this book so much that after listening I started listening to his other book, "Nonzero". Warning: this book has the ability to make you reassess you place in the universe and become more interested in philosophy. Enjoy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Evangelina Allen

    ~A PERFECT EXCUSE~ There are many things a human being should already raise above, thinking of how we pride ourselves on our many achievements. I guess, I am not too kin of evolutionary psychology, which has a perfect excuse for just about any amoral behavior, as well as a vaguely noble explanation for all the positive traits. The spiritual being in me inclines to believe, that we have moral standards because a part of us, that tiny, yet undiscovered by the science particle of the SOUL, is connec ~A PERFECT EXCUSE~ There are many things a human being should already raise above, thinking of how we pride ourselves on our many achievements. I guess, I am not too kin of evolutionary psychology, which has a perfect excuse for just about any amoral behavior, as well as a vaguely noble explanation for all the positive traits. The spiritual being in me inclines to believe, that we have moral standards because a part of us, that tiny, yet undiscovered by the science particle of the SOUL, is connected by the source of knowledge and infinity far greater than we can ever imagine? while being caught in the physical realm. May be I should try to listen to the audio-book once again, because, honestly, I skipped a few chapters, finding them somewhat boring and repeating what had already been explained. But then, I was never good in science. Victoria Evangelina

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul Barnes

    Notwithstanding the ground I'd already covered on evolutionary psychology, this book was hugely insightful. But I found it very depressing. It hit me right between the eyes with the reality that we are convincing to others only because we lie to ourselves. My faith in the honourability of my motives has never been the same since. I'd still recommend you read it. But pair with Wright's "Why Buddism is True", which is uplifting, to repair the psychic trauma. Notwithstanding the ground I'd already covered on evolutionary psychology, this book was hugely insightful. But I found it very depressing. It hit me right between the eyes with the reality that we are convincing to others only because we lie to ourselves. My faith in the honourability of my motives has never been the same since. I'd still recommend you read it. But pair with Wright's "Why Buddism is True", which is uplifting, to repair the psychic trauma.

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