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David Adams


  • The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Matt Ridley
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Referring to Lewis Carroll's Red Queen from Through the Looking-Glass, a character who has to keep running to stay in the same place, Matt Ridley demonstrates why sex is humanity's best strategy for outwitting its constantly mutating internal predators.

    Scott says: "Great book!"
    "Great narrator, good history, poor conclusions"

    First of all, this book offers a good history of the thinking about certain aspects of sexual selection from an evolutionary perspective. The narration is excellent, as one should expect from Simon Prebble. The book is generally well-written if less than perfectly edited.

    However, I find that the author often falls into a reactionary trap of dismissing too much of the substance of arguments that differ in assumptions or details from his own point of view. Further, the author is often inconsistent about his own apparent principles regarding the appropriate weight that ought to be given to certain scientific studies. In one paragraph he can dismiss the entire premise of the fields of anthropology, sociology, and psychology while embracing without criticism results of studies in those fields which do happen to match up to his thesis.

    And on numerous occasions the author is more than willing to make sweeping assumptions about potential sociological results because "everyone knows" what the answer would be--even while admitting there is no evidence on the subject either way. And in so doing he falls into the exact same traps he criticizes practitioners of those other disciplines for doing so. On one page, he rejects assumptions of anthropologists that lack evidence, and on the next he lambasts them for demanding strong evidence before changing how they do their research.

    Finally, besides these numerous logical errors, cherry-picking, and conclusion-jumping, the author demonstrates an unfortunately sloppiness in style when he is willing to constantly assert "boys are X" and "women are Y" and "is it any surprise that boys do X better than girls" and vice versa. Yes, he's right that there are gender differences in psychology and average skill, but he's so interested in proving wrong the social scientists--who, prior to strong evidence becoming available otherwise, preferred to assume both genders thought in the same way--that he raises slight differences in averages into sweeping generalizations that are foundational to his arguments... at least when it suits him. Other times he takes great pains to point out that individuals vary when that helps his argument more.

    Overall, not worth the listen. The reactionary tone leads to poor conclusions, and at this point the data is so outdated it's not worth cluttering your mind.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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