( Kindle ) ♗ The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology ⚑ MOBI eBook or Kindle ePUB free
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 than one man maybe the first man was infertile, for example there comes a time when having 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 genes into the next generation a much 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. 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. 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 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. 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. ( Kindle ) ♀ The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology ☪ 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.
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. 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 evolvefor the better in my opinionPerhaps 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 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. 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 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 G del, 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 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, 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 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 na ve 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 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. 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 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. 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.