Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology

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9780609605134: Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology
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In recent years, the claims of genetics and evolutionary psychology to explain and indeed legislate on the human condition have been loudly trumpeted in a host of popular books. Genes are said to account for almost every aspect of our lives. Evolution is supposed to explain alleged human universals, from male philandering and female coyness to children's dislike of spinach. There are even claimed to be genes that account for differences between people -- from sexual orientation to drug addiction, aggression, religiosity, and job satisfaction. It appears that Darwin, at least in the hands of his popularizers, has replaced Marx and Freud as the great interpreter of human existence.

Biologists, social scientists, and philosophers have begun to rebel against this undisciplined approach to their different understandings of the world, demonstrating that the claims of evolutionary psychology rest on shaky empirical evidence, flawed premises, and unexamined political presuppositions. In this groundbreaking book, Hilary Rose and Steven Rose have gathered the leading and outspoken critics of this fashionable ideology in a shared and uniquely cross-disciplinary project. Contributors range from biologists Stephen Jay Gould, Gabriel Dover, Patrick Bateson, and Anne Fausto-Sterling; to anthropologists and sociologists Dorothy Nelkin, Tim Ingold, Tom Shakespeare, and Ted Benton; to philosopher Mary Midgley and cultural critics Barbara Herrnstein Smith and Charles Jencks.

The result of this joint work, Alas Poor Darwin, is a sharply engaged, accessible, and highly entertaining critique of evolutionary psychology's tenets. What emerges is a new perspective that challenges the reductionism of evolutionary psychology and offers a richer understanding of the biosocial nature of the human condition.

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Turf battles are always interesting and occasionally enlightening. Social scientists have been fairly slow in responding to the encroachment of biologically oriented evolutionary psychology, but they have come to mount a vigorous defense against what they perceive to be an oversimplified and dehumanizing theoretical scheme. Alas, Poor Darwin, edited by sociologist Hilary Rose and neuroscientist Steven P.R. Rose, collects essays from scientists and social critics united in their disdain for the extremes of such EP proponents as Richard Dawkins and Edward O. Wilson. Though many writers rely on arguments based on our seemingly innate revulsion for determinism, often enough they rise up out of their easy rhetoric to score more legitimate points. Evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould, for example, reprises his spandrel metaphor to show that not all biological features were forged in the fires of natural selection. Unfortunately, the reader has to wait until the book's end for the only critique of evolutionary psychology that is both thorough and scientific; Steven Rose's piece is engaging and challenging, pursuing the invaders back to their own territory using the only arguments they're likely to take seriously. Alas, Poor Darwin won't fully satisfy any reader, but it will provoke thought, discussion, and probably more argument among all who are interested in the nature of human nature. --Rob Lightner

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"At last! With humor and expertise, this diverse group of critical thinkers -- social and natural scientists and philosophers -- take on sociobiology, reincarnated as evolutionary psychology. In the current haze and maze of genes, it is a relief to read these earnest, funny, and always intelligent essays."
-- Ruth Hubbard, Harvard University professor emereta of biology and author of Exploding the Gene Myth and The Politics of Women's Biology

" 'Evolutionary psychology' is the latest episode in the misuse of biology. Hilary and Steven Rose have been leaders in the struggle against this kind of pseudo-science and in Alas Poor Darwin they bring together a superb collection of essays debunking this latest attempt to hijack Darwin. Anyone who has been seduced by the claims of 'evolutionary psychology' should read this book."
-- Richard Lewontin, Harvard University professor of zoology and biology, and author of The Triple Helix

"Darwin clearly loved his distinctive theory of natural selection -- the powerful ideas that he often identified in letters as his dear 'child.' But, like any good parent, he understood limits and imposed discipline. He knew that the complex and comprehensive phenomena of evolution could not be fully rendered by any single cause, even one so ubiquitous and powerful as his own brainchild."
-- From "More Things in Heaven and Earth" by Stephen Jay Gould, in Alas, Poor Darwin.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780099283195: Alas, Poor Darwin : Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology

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ISBN 10:  0099283190 ISBN 13:  9780099283195
Publisher: Vintage, 2001
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9780224060301: Alas, poor Darwin: arguments against evolutionary psychology

Jonath..., 2000
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