WHY THE RECKLESS SURVIVE And Other Secrets of Human Nature by

WHY THE RECKLESS SURVIVE And Other Secrets of Human Nature

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Here, Konner--The Tangled Wing, 1982; Becomings Doctor, 1987, not reviewed--offers a fresh set of stimulating reveries on the relationship between man's biological and cultural selves. If the diets of the !Kung San bushmen are so much better than ours, why do they die so young? Could Hamlet's indecision--to be or not to be--hinge on the presence of a single molecule in the brain? Why are some people willing to pay large sums of money to reduce the risk of a nuclear accident but unwilling to give up smoking? And what makes people smile so often? These are some of the questions that arise as Konner roams the corridors of sociobiological thought, stopping here and there to examine recent findings regarding man's evolution and its often quirky effects on human culture. Many of the issues presented are topical: the dangers of practicing gender selection; the wisdom of allowing insanity pleas in court; whether machines will ever replace or surpass human beings. Others evoke interest on the strength of Konner's own enthusiasm. These include ""In the Sisterhood of Seduction,"" his discussion of the Japanese geisha tradition and the relationship between sex and power; the title essay, which evokes astonishment over the illogical ways in which we estimate risk; and ""False Idylls,"" which reveals Westerners' typically idyllic depictions of the apparently not-so-idyllic lives of the !Kung San--whom Konner studied first as a young anthropologist and again as a medical doctor--as merely one example of our elusive dream of the noble savage. In all cases, Konner's ideas are original and entertaining. An exceptionally diverting collection.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking