NATURAL SELECTIONS by David P. Barash

NATURAL SELECTIONS

Selfish Altruists, Honest Liars, and Other Realities of Evolution

KIRKUS REVIEW

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.

The latest from Barash (Psychology/Univ. of Washington, Seattle; (Madam Bovary’s Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature, 2005, etc.) bristles with evidence of his wide reading in the Western canon. Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Poe, Twain, Hardy, both George and T. S. Eliot, Stephen Crane, Thomas Pynchon, Ian McEwan, Barbara Kingsolver, SpongeBob SquarePants and others make appearances to animate his breezy intellectual tour. Here, too, are Barash’s customary cool critters from elsewhere in the animal kingdom (worms that reprogram the brains of ants, gang-raping male mallards) and sensible explanations of common conundrums (why dogs are easier to toilet-train than humans, why males of all species do most of the murdering). He takes some sly shots at creationists and delivers some heavier body blows to the Bush administration, but he is less interested in piling up the bodies of his adversaries than in exploring the most fundamental questions of human experience. Is it hopeless, he wonders, to attempt to combat our biology? Aren’t our selfish genes always going to trump our social consciences, our stewardship of our families, our communities, our planet? Unfortunately, the case for hopelessness is a compelling one: Humans didn’t spread across and dominate the planet by saying please and thank you. “We are all time-travelers,” Barash writes, “with one foot thrust into the cultural present and the other stuck in the biological past.” However, he notes, we are probably the only species capable of rising above our biology—and we’d better get on with it.

A journey to the center of human nature, where the view is not always agreeable.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-934137-05-5
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2007




MORE BY DAVID P. BARASH

NonfictionMADAME BOVARY’S OVARIES by David P. Barash
by David P. Barash
NonfictionTHE MAMMAL IN THE MIRROR by David P. Barash
by David P. Barash
NonfictionMAKING SENSE OF SEX by David P. Barash
by David P. Barash

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieTHE THIRD SYNTHESIS OF BIOLOGY by Winpen Hann
by Winpen Hann