I am a bilingual high school teacher. I mostly read non-fiction, especially history, but I am also a sucker for science-fiction and fantasy novels.
This book was somewhat interesting, but certainly nothing new if you know much about human sexuality. I went into reading this book agreeing with their general premise that early human culture probably involved multiple sex partners, not monogamy. That makes logical sense to me and I was looking forward to learning more about it.
However, I found the book majorly bogged down with taking things that disagree with the authors way too personally. Having actually read a lot of the scientific literature they reference in the book, I was quite unimpressed by how egregiously they deliberately misinterpreted it so that they could argue against their misinterpretation. For example, The Selfish Gene says many times that it absolutely does not imply that people or animals are selfish, just that genes are. People (and animals) can absolutely behave non-selfishly, and we do so because that kind of behaviour is better for our genes than selfishness. This book uses the fact that "people" (without ever pointing to an example of such a person) could interpret the title of the book to mean that people must be selfish and so they need to spend ages proving it wrong. It was ridiculous. The things they included in the "standard narrative" were mostly things no scientist would really argue for because they are obviously not true and scientists have known that for decades. Because of that, I doubted a lot of their other details that I'm not as familiar with as well. It seems as though the thing they were trying to disprove - their so-called "standard narrative" - is a combination of outdated, pre-1970s anthropology and misinterpretations of real scientific data.
Honestly, I only finished this book so I could review it. The first half was so full of strawman arguments and flimsy, emotional attempts at persuasion that I nearly stopped listening to it. The second half was somewhat better, but the evidence was nothing new (the sweaty t-shirt test, the difference in which men women are attracted to during ovulation and not during ovulation) and the big points were often "duh" moments. It was clear that the authors felt persecuted somehow by both the scientific community and society at large for their point of view and felt the need to make personal attacks on other scientists and to completely denounce monogamy as an option in order to make their point. It came across as bitter and angry, which really turned me off. If you're a scientist, part of that is criticism. It's how science works - you come up with an idea, you're criticized, you prove it, you're criticized, you refine it, you're disagreed with, and with time the best theory wins out. If you wanted to not face negative reactions to your theory - which is in fact a good one - then make it a religion. If you want it to be generally accepted science, it has to be challenged, tested, and proven before that will happen. Get over it.
I agree with other reviewers that the narration was strange. They should have stuck with one narrator for all of the text or else split it chapter by chapter or something more logical like that.
Overall, I was very disappointed with this book. Even though I agreed with their premise, the arguments were so poorly executed that I lost respect for them. This is a topic more people should know about, but from someone with more ability to be objective and who won't rely less on ad hominem and strawman arguments to make their point.
I knew nothing more about evolution, evolutionary psychology, and anthropology than what I learned in high school. I was hoping this book would introduce me to some of the key issues in these fields. It didn't. The authors have what appears to be a counter-establishment theory about early human society. To the extent that they explained and supported it, it seems perfectly plausible. However, without exaggerating, they spend less than 20% of the book articulating their theory. The remainder is them bashing all sort of other theories. Their critiques seem reasonable enough, but listening to academics criticize each other over study methodologies is simply not interesting to someone outside the field. They also adopt a snarky tone about the theories they criticize that makes the whole book seem far more petulant than necessary.
There are two readers. The female reader is great. However, she is periodically interrupted by a male reader reading short passages. On paper, this is a nice idea. There are two authors (male & female) and Audible wants to reflect that by having two readers. But, it just doesn't work in practice. You kinda buy into the idea that this woman is telling you a story. You get into it. Then some disembodied male voice interrupts for a short while. It's really distracting.
This book had some good things going for it, but I couldn't bring myself to give it 5 stars. This was a more polemical work than I would have liked. It was very much written in a style to convince the reader/listener of the author's ideas. I honestly got the feeling that they were only giving me the information that supported their thesis rather than a balanced look at facts, or giving honest alternate explanations/ideas. It also made use of "straw man" items where the authors would give an opposing opinion in its worst light and then rather than explain that idea went on to ridicule it.
Lots of facts
Unconventional take on human prehistory
Good job of "thinking outside the box" and giving lots of facts/data to back up their ideas
Entertaining, not "dry"
Some mentioned above.
Odd use of 2 narrators where 1 narrator read quotes to open each "section/chapter" and maybe a stray sentence here and there. It was really odd to periodically get a different voice for just a few seconds and then back to the usual reader
Too many tongue-in-cheek comments and adolescent humor.
Overly romanticized subsistence hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
Is it worth listening to/reading: Yes...I would recommend it.
Is it a work that contributes to understanding prehistory: Maybe
Is it entertaining? Yes
There is a lot of interesting information in this book, and it is pretty good to listen to. I have two problems with it. One is how the authors constantly summarize and rephrase scientific information in a very glib and slang way, in fact rather mis-stating what they are trying to explain. I guess this is for common appeal? It comes off as disingenuous and often as judgmental. Second, this is one of those books in which the authors say that common beliefs on their subject are wrong and they are going to prove them wrong by presenting and supporting their new thesis on the subject. But they spend a ton of time saying how their new idea that they're going to share disproves the common idea, and very little time actually sharing, explaining and supporting their new idea. They continually say how they disagree with "the standard narrative", that it is wrong. And then spend hours of the book explaining and supporting the standard narrative--much more time than they explain what their new and different idea is. I kept thinking, OK, here's the part where they are going to say why this is wrong and tell me what is right... But you kind of keep waiting. If you are not paying close attention you end up taking in the standard narrative as the information the authors are trying to get across, and not as what they are trying to disprove. They sort of shoot themselves in the foot on that. Even when they present their differing idea its not very well supported.
The book contains some interesting information and is well written, but it is primarily just another response to cultural trends. The authors are unendingly critical of earlier scientists, participants in the "standard model", because they were so dominated by their Victorian culture. They then proceed to reinterpret everything through the dark glass of their own culture. Obviously, the book is far more supportive of open sexual relations, women's sexuality and a host of currently popular notions. I am not critical of their opinions, but the thin guise of scientific credibility is disappointing. As with all anthrepological work, it is riddled with unverifiable supposition and assumptions, presented without caveats. There is a fair amount of work cited, but no consideration for the credibility or motivation behind the cited work and no contrary studies are considered. A great deal of time is spent on the genetic and biological driving forces behind sex, but the issues they are contending with are equally, if not more, driven by culture, which is just as real and just as valid. If you are looking for a justification for a choice of lifestyle, this book will offer you any excuse you need, but if you are looking for objective science and understanding, keep looking. It is not to be found here.
Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc.
The controversy in the reviews of this book speaks to its importance. As a committed Darwinian, who has been having a tryst with Lamarck-ism since the advent of epi-genetics, this book was a delight. It takes apart the accepted dogma on a variety of post Darwin science by examining the religious and cultural bias that is built into many of these theories.
I have read all of Dawkin's & E.O. Wilson's books, the modern scholar series on evolutionary psychology, and about 10 other popular texts from this emerging field.
This book stands out, not because of the excellence of its scholarship, but because of the depth of its skepticism and the author's willingness to challenge existing dogma.
At regular intervals, despite my habitual eschewing of scientific mirth, this book had me in aesthetic. I highly recommend this book, and I offer my personal thanks to the authors and the narrator.
I went into this with high expectations, based on reader and critic reviews, and was sorely disappointed. The central premise is intriguing, but the authors to little more than pick apart older models of human sexuality, with little hard scientific evidence. I may be biased since I'm a laboratory scientist, and am skeptical of sweeping conclusions drawn from scant unambiguous data.
If you're an academic studying social sciences or human sexuality, you may find this interesting, otherwise don't bother. The writing is dry and jargon filled, the narration is downright awful, and the attempts to make it accessible to the general reader amount to petty and flat sarcasm.
The quality of the writing was just exceptionally poor. Every paragraph was finished with a pseudo-witty tag line ("Way to go boys." "Now we're talking.") that sounded like the authors really wished the book could have been a snappy Cosmo article instead. It made for tedious listening.
The authors seemed exceptionally pleased with their own wit.
Annoyance. The authors' claim (that lifelong monogamy is NOT genetically encoded in al humans for millions of years) is utterly non-controversial in both science and culture today. Nonetheless, the authors pretend that pretty much everyone believes the opposite. They proceed to restate the opposite case in the most extreme and laughable terms (drawing on sources back to the 19th century for evidence of current thought). Having stated the other side in laughable terms, they never actually bother to prove their own case; they simply mock the other side and then list any evidence available for their own perspective without delving into any of the complexities of teasing out something as subtle as sexuality from the archeological and anthropological record.
Looking back, I suspect I bought this book because it had sex in the title. Having read it, I now feel a little dirty and ashamed for taking part in such a shallow enterprise.
My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.
I am a christian male who has been happily married for over 33 years. My wife still turns men's heads at 53. Throughout our marriage I have wondered why I have been attracted to other females, when I am so happy at home. Why do so many men married to super star women cheat on their wives (Brad Pitt, Tiger Woods, etc.)
This puts out the argument that we were not meant to be monogamous. Monogamy is unhealthy.
They also show evidence that moving from hunter gathers to an agricultural society is the cause of many of our ill's today. We were not kick out of The Garden of Eden, we were kicked into it.
I am not a bible scholar, but think about this: God wanted us to trust him fully. Perhaps the tree of knowledge was the knowledge on how to grow apples. We started growing crops and not depending upon God. To be healthy we need to eat a variety of foods. Cultivation has lead us to stay in one place and eat the same foods. This leads to vitamin deficiency. A book offered by this club that I have not read yet is called Wheat Belly, which is supposed to be about how wheat makes us fat. Was Cain's sacrifice to God not appreciated because it was grain? Cain and the apple tree are not mentioned in the book, they are what I thought of because this book makes you think, but you have to be open minded.
The book is very entertaining and reminded me several times of Jean Auel's series. She has taken grief sometimes because of her randy cave men. This shows that she may not have showed them as randy enough.
The book is very one sided and it has not convinced me to cheat on my wife or join a commune, but it is a different way to think about our society past and present and I always enjoy writings that challenge the norm. If you can not be open minded about your religion our belief system then you will hate this book. If you like to challenge your beliefs then this is food for thought.
One of those books that will change the way you think about yourself and others. Well read and performed. Intensive research. A science book that reads like a thriller. Amazing.