Books by Robert Jay Russell

Released: May 31, 1993

A brief for a new discipline known as ``evolutionary psychology''—as well as a pessimistic assessment of the human condition, based on the alleged biological sources of social customs in lemurs and other primates. Russell (an independent scientific researcher specializing in lemurs) traces human mating and aggressive behavior from their roots in the earliest primates. In lemurs, he sees the origin of the mother-daughter bond and a pattern of stable female groups and bands of roving males; the beginning of the consort bond—which is, he says, the source of human romantic love; and the often observed conflict between male and female reproductive strategies: Males perpetuate their genes best by spreading them furthest, females by establishing monogamous bonds. In chimpanzees, Russell notes male bonding in the act of making war, and he asserts that war's primary function in humans is to displace aggression. In humans, he sees language mostly as a means of deception, a way to trick ourselves into belief in love and loyalty. Child abuse and abandonment, incest and infanticide—all are long-established and widespread evolutionary traits, unlikely to be abolished. Fatherhood is a recent development, with which we're still uncomfortable; equality for women causes impotence in men; feeding the starving worsens our population problems; and we can say goodbye to free will. While evolutionary psychology may be a valid concept, Russell's particular assertions seem no more conclusive than those of, say, Desmond Morris or Havelock Ellis. Brain candy, then, and none too convincing. Read full book review >