THE MORAL ANIMAL by Robert Wright

THE MORAL ANIMAL

Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life

KIRKUS REVIEW

A provocative book by a senior editor of the New Republic, author of Three Scientists and Their Gods (1988), examining the vibrant new science of evolutionary psychology.

Even though, according to this science, natural selection has molded human nature into a deterministic pattern of selfish behavior, says Wright, there is still hope for developing a common moral outlook as long as we accept the ramifications of our evolutionary legacy. Natural selection insures that individuals are subconsciously preoccupied with the propagation of their genes. Although the cold, underlying logic of natural selection doesn't care about our happiness, it fools us into thinking that by pursuing goals that make us happy, we will maximize our genetic legacy. Lost in this pursuit is any genuine concern about community welfare. This volume covers much of the same ground as William Allman's superb overview The Stone Age Present. Wright extends Allman's arguments in much richer detail and a more authoritative tone, although he explains the science in a more roundabout manner. He weaves a complex and fascinating treatise in explaining the paradox of how society can engender moral and responsible actions when a strict Darwinian interpretation implies that human behavior is deterministic. Wright resolves this paradox by arguing that once people understand the Darwinian paradigm, they will understand their own subconscious motives, which is the first step towards addressing the bias toward self that natural selection instills in our minds.

Many readers will feel uneasy reading Wright's dark and cynical portrayal of human nature, but he does a superb job of anticipating questions and objections. He points to a growing body of evidence that says this is the way we are whether we like it or not, and he argues we're better off if we accept this fact.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-40773-1
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1994




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