Books by David P. Barash

David Barash is currently a professor of psychology at the University of Washington and the author of two dozen books, including The Myth of Monogamy, written with his wife, psychiatrist Judith Lipton.

Released: Sept. 1, 2007

"A journey to the center of human nature, where the view is not always agreeable."
The most literate popularizer of Darwinism since Thomas Huxley visits evolution's Dark Side, the front-lines where biological realities clash with cultural idealism, and returns with news both depressing and cheering. Read full book review >
Released: May 3, 2005

"An amusing, learned and literate look at the naked apes who populate the pages of our most celebrated fiction."
Great works of literature are great, aver the authors, in part because they accurately display human nature in all its Darwinian gore, glory and vainglory. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 3, 1999

A clear, thorough, and challenging bioliteracy primer from David Barash (Making Sense of Sex, 1997, etc.) and his daughter Ilona. Of course, one person's biology primer is another's quagmire, calling up every manner of high school science anxiety. And while the Barashes are on a mission to educate the masses in the workings of the body as lucidly as possible, they can't avoid descriptions of "harnessing the power of an electrochemical gradient of hydrogen ions across the mitochondrion's inner membrane." To their credit, by the time readers get to that sentence, they will easily grasp its import—if they have been paying attention. For as the authors make their way from the nuts and bolts of cell structure to the DNA strands that become chips off the old block, through reproduction and brain chemistry and the greater ecological web of life, our understanding of biology is explicated by stages and presented as gratifying instances of detective work. Nor are they afraid to say contemporary science hasn't all the answers, or even all that many. What led to multicellular bodies? To consciousness? To concealed ovulation? Dunno. The material is presented not selectively but processionally, and it can be a beautiful thing to watch as the writers follow the daily routine of a fat cell or the act of a neural transmitter jumping a synaptic cleft, or debunk prejudices crippling valuable aspects of sociobiology. It can also be daunting. It isn't easy to grab and juggle all the ATPs, HIVs, DNAs, ADHs, and CCKs that get tossed the reader's way, despite the claim that "you don't have to be a rocket scientist or even a biological scientist to enjoy a basic familiarity with today's biology." For those who can match them step for step, the Barashes are good Sherpas, elegantly and expertly guiding readers up the gnarly, precipitous slopes of human biological science. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1997

One is tempted to say this book tells you everything you wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask—except that no one is afraid to ask these days, and we are all but surfeited by the amount of public telling. Indeed, sex scandals aside, the transit from scholarly journal to newsprint is such that hardly any nuance of sexual behavior of beast or human goes unnoticed. So the review that this husband-wife team provides (he is an evolutionary biologist, she a psychiatrist) is less a report on what's new than it is their perspective on the state of sex science today. As such, they are emphatic in stating that just because a behavior is common (e.g., male philandering) does not mean that it is to be condoned: What ``is'' is not to be construed as inevitable or as what ought to be. Having said that, the authors provide a comprehensive summary of the biological, neurological, and developmental differences between males and females, with due regard for the effects of hormones, genes, and culture. Barash provides many examples of animal and anthropological studies relating to courtship, male-male aggression, male violence against another male's offspring, and so on. Lipton draws upon her practice with numerous case studies, such as women who are conflicted or depressed about handling careers and motherhood. Indeed, part of the rationale for the joint authorship was to contrast the styles of the (female) therapist communicating one-on-one with patients with the more distancing perspective of the (male) evolutionary biologist theorizing about bluebirds. Nor are they above using their own marriage to exemplify problems they discuss. Overall, this complementary and not overly technical approach works to their advantage and, along with the temperate point of view, makes this a useful addition to the popular literature. It should be especially good for young people. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 21, 1992

A spirited defense of American liberalism that proves every bit as engaging and cantankerous (and wordy) as its subtitle. Appalled by the sudden emergence of the word ``liberal'' as slanderous invective during the 1988 presidential campaign, Barash (Psychology/Univ. of Washington; The Great Outdoors, 1989, etc.) contends that the ``L word'' represents not only ``the best political philosophy ever developed'' but the defining ``American political principle.'' Part history, part analysis, but overwhelmingly and proudly ``a manifesto,'' this quirky yet unfailingly energetic call-to-arms manages to be alternately adroit and heavy-handed. Particularly deft is Barash's argument that the very triumph of 18th-century liberalism, combining new democratic and capitalist ideals to counter authoritarian monarchies, led to the adherents of capitalism (whom he sees as precursors of modern conservatives) embracing an ``antagonistic'' anti-government ideal, dedicating themselves to ``a humanization of capitalism.'' Today, Barash says, conservatives, ``uncomfortable with democracy,'' mix ``complacency and cruelty'' in upholding the ``values of greed, selfishness and shortsightedness.'' As for liberals...well, they're a bit too ``nice,'' he says, prone to guilt because of their extreme sensitivity, and such dedicated relativists that they can sound a bit fuzzy. Seeking to break through this ``naively optimistic'' haze, Barash can sound annoyingly absolutist (attacking his targets as fatally muddled in such diverse areas as international affairs, economics, and civil liberties), but he can also be refreshing, bold, and winningly fervent—as in his suggestion that liberalism need not be repackaged to make its case, that liberals ``don't need neo so much as brio.'' A well-timed clarion call that ultimately mirrors its own picture of the philosophy it celebrates—messy, vital, infuriating, and invigorating. Read full book review >
Released: April 28, 1989

The manifold joys and occasional jolts of nine outdoor pursuits, as perceived with generous insight and sentiment by the author of Aging (1983), The Hare and the Tortoise (1986), and several others. "This is a book of nonmusical lovesongs," writes Barash (Psychology/U. of Washington), and indeed his odes sing of a soul made rapturous by nature. Occasionally, the song is ecologically strident (on gardening: "[I] would sooner give up my garden altogether than build it on a rotten foundation of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or other poisons"). More often, though, Barash warbles right in tune, conjuring up the very experience of: gardening, beachcombing, stargazing, birdwatching, chopping wood, cross-country skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing, and horseback riding ("Horses are immensely powerful creatures, and when cantering, this power surges up from the animal's muscular hind end, passing in a forceful wave through the seat of the rider"). Each essay combines memoir, opinion, humor, and anecdotal and textbookish information to offer an inspiring introduction to an outdoor pursuit; the essay on "Chopping Wood," for example, ranges from meditation on wood as primal substance to the best way to split wood (with a poem by Robert Frost for accent) to the ethics of chopping wood to a castigation of chain saws. And while most of this is sunny and bursting with life, Barash's songs do hit some minor chords, particularly in the later essays on backpacking and mountain climbing, when he tells of the death of friends and others in the suddenly indifferent outdoors. A bit precious—Barash's garden, for instance, is a world of "distraught" pea pods—but the author's enthusiasm is infectious: despite the grip of his prose, it's a rare reader who won't be tempted to put down the book in favor of exploring the great outdoors. Read full book review >