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

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Description

Sex is as fascinating to scientists as it is to the rest of us. A vast pool of knowledge, therefore, has been gleaned from research into the nature of sex, from the contentious problem of why the wasteful reproductive process exists at all, to how individuals choose their mates and what traits they find attractive. This fascinating book explores those findings, and their implications for the sexual behavior of our own species. It uses the Red Queen from 'Alice in Wonderland' - who has to run at full speed to stay where she is - as a metaphor for a whole range of sexual behaviors. The book was shortlisted for the 1994 Rhone-Poulenc Prize for Science Books. 'Animals and plants evolved sex to fend off parasitic infection. Now look where it has got us. Men want BMWs, power and money in order to pair-bond with women who are blonde, youthful and narrow-waisted...a brilliant examination of the scientific debates on the hows and whys of sex and evolution' - "Independent".

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Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 114 x 196 x 24mm | 281.23g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • illustrations, notes, bibliography, index
  • 0140167722
  • 9780140167726
  • 58,735

About Matt Ridley

MATT RIDLEY is a research fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs and a Trustee of the International Centre for Life, living in Northumberland. His last book, The Red Queen, was short-listed for the Rhone-Poulenc Prize for science books and the Writers' Guild Award for non-fiction.

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Review Text

A former editor of The Economist asks how sexual selection has molded human nature. The title here alludes to a scene in Lewis Carroll in which Alice and the Red Queen run as fast as possible to remain in the same place. Ridley looks first at current thinking on why sexual reproduction exists at all, when many organisms manage quite well without it. The answer has to do with disease: a species must rebuild its defenses from one generation to the next merely to keep from falling behind in the race against opportunistic viruses. Sex, by allowing a new shuffle of the genetic material with each generation, improves the chance of survival. But the predators also improve with each generation, so the race (vide Lewis Carroll) is never over. Turning to animals, Ridley describes mating patterns with an eye as to whether mates are selected for health and vigor, or for esthetics. He concludes that both play a role: neither sickly fashion-plates nor healthy wallflowers will pass on their genes as often as those who combine both beauty and health. Given the contrast between a brief sexual act and long years of childrearing, aggressive males will tend to have more children, while nurturing women will have healthier ones. Those who select mates with these qualities will transmit them to ensuing generations, along with other qualities affecting offspring survival. Ridley contends - not a popular thesis in recent decades - that such genetic programming is far more central to human nature than social conditioning. Extensively researched, clearly written: one of the best introductions to its fascinating and controversial subject. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Table of contents

Human nature; the enigma; the power of parasites; genetic mutiny and gender; the peacock's tale; polygamy and the nature of men; monogamy and the nature of women; sexing the mind; the uses of beauty; the intellectual chess game; the self-domesticated ape.

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