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Publisher's Summary

Human beings have been battling one another since time immemorial. But why war and terrorism? Why are men almost always the killers, and why are war and sex so inextricably linked? Why do we kill members of our own species intentionally, when few other animals do so?

Sex and War traces the cultural and biological evolution of warfare from its prehuman origins through to our own times. In the spirit of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Potts and Hayden pull together insights from history, archaeology, psychology and biology to produce a clarifying new understanding of human history and current events.

Combining exhaustive research and rich personal experience, Sex and War shows that war, terrorism, slavery, and the subjugation of women have common roots deep in our biological history. Evolution is not destiny, however, and the authors, with the crucial contributions of Martha Campbell, show how relatively simple strategies can help the biology of peace win out over the biology of war. In doing so, they lay out a rational roadmap to make war less likely in the future, and less brutal when it does occur.

©2008 Malcom Potts and Thomas Hayden (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Craig C.
  • austin, TX United States
  • 08-26-11

New Perspective

It was a new perspective for me to link sex and war to evolution. It provides another avenue for hope about peace since it is no longer an evolutionary positive trait. How we overcome our caveman responses to events seems like the next step.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Examining the demons

I came to this book with many searing questions of my own, particularly concerning the evil men perpetrate on women. Malcolm Potts & Thomas Hayden make a clear case for the existence of such unnecessary brutality in our day, neither excusing it nor making men out to be devils. When such acts are aired out in the clarity of evolution and genetics, as well as the human psyche, the male gender gets a second chance at being understood while not being let off such behavior. The authors also make a commendable effort to picture the world led by a feminine hand, and the stability and hope that lies therein. An engaging read recommended for all, including school-age discussion.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Stefan
  • Lexington, KY, United States
  • 09-12-11

very convincing and thought-provoking hypothesis

The main hypothesis of the book is that humans evolved by selecting males that killed most successfully non-related humans from other groups ("outgroups"), while at the same time were most supportive and emphatic towards members of their own group ("ingroup"), which gave them a reproductive advantage.

This theory is well documented by hard data from biology, archeology, sociology and gives a concise picture of human behavior, which is applied to recent political events, such as the response to 9/11.

The authors promote the idea that empowering woman by allowing them to control the number of their children through access of contraceptives is the most effective way of war prevention.
Although their theory cannot be fully proven like models in physics or molecular biology, it is worth considering, as it explains so many aspects of human behavior.
One aspect that could have been investigated in more detail is "paternity fraud", where a woman gives a man the false impression that he is the father of her child. Several studies estimate this number to be around 10% (but there are studies with a higher and lower rate). This suggests that woman developed a strategy to escape strict male dominance and genetic traits underpinning this 'cheating' strategy will be in our current gene pool. Thus even if contraception reduces the number of humans on earth and their fight for resources, this world might not be as peaceful as the authors hope.

This book was very well written and narrated, enjoyed listening/reading to it and fully recommend it.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Not worth the time

Authors jump to conclusions without deep scientific grounds. Simplistic approach to human organized violence. Anecdotic account without solid theory. Some concepts are probably true, but you could read them from short articles on your sunday newspaper.
Not enough to publish a book.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and well researched

A really convincing look at the evolutionary aspects of warfare and how mankind developed as one of the only species on Earth that kills others of our own species, particularly how sex and biological stimuli play into it. The book seemed well researched, and makes a lot of sense. It looked at primate, particularly chimpanzee, society, as our nearest genetic relative, and also applied it's findings to humans from early hominids to modern day warfare. There was in depth analysis of the roles sex plays in the development of war as a species, and how sex continues to play a role in current events and current wars, which applies not only to wars in third world countries where subjugation of women is a blatant affair, but to the US Iraq war and modern US events. It was really fascinating, and I appreciated that the authors, while making this case, make sure to point out that even if war is an evolutionary trait, that does not mean it is predestined or even preferential for continued species existence. Their argument is not to be used to excuse war, it is a case of understanding the root of an issue so people can determine the best way fix it. Really fascinating!

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Important and fascinating

The biological science explained here provides important insights into human behavior and offers hope that a species for whom to be combative offered an evolutionary advantage may nevertheless succeed in overcoming those innate characteristics and achieving peace.

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This should be one everyone s reading list

Where does Sex and War rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

By far the most clarifying non fiction book I have ever read

Who was your favorite character and why?

Due to the non fiction nature of this book there is no true character- humans, chimps yes.

What does Dennis Holland bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Focus and emphasis

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There is in depth explanations of oppression of women is directly related to aggression, territory and violence.

Any additional comments?

Oh what we have done to our DNA. Reproducing with the strongest, most aggressive male of the species as led us to a place in time that we have to chose not to war. I am unable to atriculate the profound experience and meaning this book has brought to me, potentially our nation and the world.

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Insightful and thought provoking

The way to Peace is right in front of us, if we would only think. At the crux is women's ability to choose when and how many children she should have. This should be on every Congressman, Politician, Religious Leader's list. Actually everyone would benefit by this thoughtful presentation.

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The violent primal drive in us all

In this book the author argues that our primal instincts of violence, dominance, spirituality, and propensity to gather into in groups with hatred for all others leads killing of our own species and the drive for war. It is in our genes but the author points our how we can evolve beyond those base impulses to strive for peace.

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  • Michelle
  • Cleveland, MS, United States
  • 10-27-13

an explanation of human behavior and desire

If you could sum up Sex and War in three words, what would they be?

Darwinian, enlightening, horrifying

What other book might you compare Sex and War to and why?

Origin of Species because if read and understood it could change the world in a positive way.

Which character – as performed by Dennis Holland – was your favorite?

The bonobos. Although characters were not performed in this book, Dennis Holland does a wonderful job of narrating.

If you could give Sex and War a new subtitle, what would it be?

An Evolutionary Interpretation of History

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  • Claire Potts
  • 05-10-18

Evolutionary psychology

Great book, well written, moves at a good pace and is clear on what is referenced from peer reviewed papers and what the author supports with his own research or observations. A must read for anyone remotely interested in evolutionary psychology.