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Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food: Taming Our Primal Instincts (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. September 2001

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  • Taschenbuch: 272 Seiten
  • Verlag: Penguin Books (1. September 2001)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0142000078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142000076
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,2 x 1,6 x 19,8 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.7 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (3 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 127.066 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
  • Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen

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"Don't trust your instincts." Hardly the standard self-help fare, to be sure. Arguing that Darwin has a lot more to tell us about ourselves than Freud, Mean Genes is high on evolution and low on inner child. Deemed "brilliant" by E.O. Wilson himself, the book is the work of two young Wilson disciples: Terry Burnham, an economics professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and Jay Phelan, a professor of biology at UCLA.

Burnham and Phelan divide life issues into 10 categories (debt, fat, drugs, risk, greed, gender, beauty, infidelity, family, and friends and foes), and then offer a two-step guide to better living. "Step 1 is to understand our animal nature, particularly those desires that get us into trouble and can lead to unhappiness. Step 2 is to harness this knowledge so that we can tame our primal instincts."

Needless to say, Nancy Reagan-esque bromides don't fit into the Mean Genes scheme of things:

"Just say no" to drugs is the simplest way to kick a habit. Unfortunately, this obvious and low-cost approach is also the route most likely to fail. For example, only one person quits smoking for every twenty who attempt to just say no. Raw willpower seems like a great solution right up until weakness strikes and we light up a cigarette or mix a margarita.

Instead of slogans, the Mean Genes approach to overcoming drug addiction is to first recognize that "every person has strong, instinctual cravings for destructive substances." This, coupled with a thorough scientific understanding of a given drug's pleasurable effects on the brain, offers a more realistic course of action, such as finding a less harmful substitute for achieving a similar buzz.

Be it talk of weight loss, saving for retirement, or resisting the neighbor's wife, such practical, tough-love suggestions for subduing the beast within are provided throughout the book. Phelan describes how he instantly smears mayonnaise all over tempting sweets served with airline meals to keep from eating them during long flights, and Burnham writes of giving away his Internet access cable in order to free himself of a serious day-trading fixation.

The authors also rely heavily on findings from the animal world in stating their case, which makes for fascinating reading, if not always for readily transferable lessons to daily life. Consider, for example, certain frog species that "continue individual bouts of mating for several months. If people mated for a similar percentage of our lives, a single round of intercourse would last almost ten years." And then there's the famed black widow spider. "Shunning the more traditional chastity belt, the male breaks off his sexual organ inside the female, preventing her from ever mating again. When the act is completed, the female kills and eats the male."

Put off by all the sex and violence? Don't worry. There's also a nod to family values in the form of the Australian social spider. "Soon after giving birth to about a hundred hungry spiderlings, Mom's body literally liquefies into a pile of mushy flesh. The babies then munch on the flesh so they can start their lives with full bellies." Mean genes, indeed. --Patrick Jennings


"The Mean Genes message is optimistic...a self-help book for the merely average human being." The Washington Post Book World

"An unusual cross between a social Darwinist monograph and a self-help manual." The New Yorker

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3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von JoJo am 19. September 2000
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The instances in the book actually relate to real life--the other day 2 of my teachers mentioned things that had been discussed in Mean Genes. This book really helps you figure out why some things are the way they are, and how to deal w/ or fix them.
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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von M D Schwarz am 19. September 2000
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This book was such an eye opener for me. As such I can now see more clearly an overall picture of human instinctive behavior. It's so easy to get lost in a whirlwind of emotion and not see an overall pattern to happiness and success. Also, gender related issues provided me with a handy guide to the power of success and the understanding of attractive forces from both a physical standpoint and a psychological one. The most powerful tool, however, was probably acquiring the knowledge that we can affect our desires and tame them by a constant awareness of them.
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Format: Taschenbuch
Although there are many fine books about evolutionary biology (such as The Selfish Gene), Mean Genes exceeds them in one element. It takes those observations, and crafts potential solutions for overcoming our genetic predilections. The book has a smart, sassy style that makes what would otherwise be heavy material feel light as a feather. I found that the scientific references were accurate based on my reading of more extensive books that consider aspects of what is covered here. The suggestions for self-improvement in many cases were new to me, and potentially very helpful. I suspect that whether you would like to have some fun reading about science or would actually like new insights for overcoming key limitations you will find this book to be a rewarding, fun read.

The book starts from the perspective of what it took for humans to flourish in the past when food was scarce and life was very dangerous. Under those trying conditions, certain genetic tendencies would have aided survival. The authors argue that much of our behavior is still driven to reflect that environment, rather than this modern one. They cite scientific studies about humans and animals to support these points. My only complaint about the book is that they write as though genes have brains and "plot" their survival. As I understand evolutionary biology, actually genes survive automatically that happen to best fit the person for the environment that exists.

The picture that is presented is of people who were normally operating close to starvation, but occasionally had huge windfalls of food that they could not preserve. What was reasonable behavior? Eat all you could, and share the rest hoping that someone would do the same for you in the future.
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72 von 79 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Profound and Fundamental 18. August 2000
Von John K. Fetterman - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I had the good fortune of being exposed to the Mean Genes argument over two years ago after having Dr. Burnham as a professor. With E.O. Wilson already weighing in on Mean Genes, I have no illusions what my opinion will mean to any still-skeptical customers considering a purchase.
However, all I can say is that Mean Genes is a deeply important book and philosophy. If you compile all of the tacky self-improvement infomercials and combine them with every book on diets, relationships or money, they still don't address the basal forces that create the dysfunction in the first place. With Mean Genes, one is empowered to drop down below the self-help cacophony and begin to view and frame daily struggles in a beautifully logic, yet straightforward, humorous manner.
The book has radically enriched the quality of my life. I simply can't recommend Mean Genes highly enough.
30 von 32 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Fun Smart Book With Insights To Our Weaknesses 20. September 2000
Von Scodhu - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Do you ever wonder why you do self destructive or illogical things? Why it is so hard to resist fatty foods, drugs or running up credit card debt? Mean Genes shows that behavior that is bad for humans in today's society of plenty, is the same behavior, refined through tens of thousands of years of evolution, which allowed our ancestors to survive and flourish as hunter-gatherers.
This book is filled with interesting and amusing studies done with animals, primitive cultures and modern humans that demonstrate that people haven't evolved much in the past 5000 years. But all is not lost. Burnham and Phelan point out that humans, unlike other species, have a capacity for self-control, and more importantly the intelligence to combat our destructive instincts and biology. And while they don't place much hope in an individual's will power, the authors offer creative ways to restrain our genetic desires.
Mean Genes is an intelligent, fast reading and totally enjoyable book that makes us look at ourselves as the product of the 'survival of the fittest', and helps us deal with that in today's world.
20 von 20 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Fiction writers take note! 22. Oktober 2000
Von David M. Scott - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
If you're struggling to make your characters real, Mean Genes helps you understand their primal motivations! Mean Genes wasn't intended to be how-to book for fiction writers, but it accomplishes that goal better than anything else out there. Addiction, violence, sexual attraction, greed-its all in here-and more. Make your characters real-give them mean gene motivations.
18 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Hilarious and Enriching! 25. September 2000
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Mean Genes does three things very well: it teaches you to control yourself, it educates you about evolutionary biology, and it makes you laugh.
For the uninitiated, the basic premise of evolutionary biology is that all human behavior is driven by genetic traits, traits that are incredibly well-adapted -- for the desert humans evolved in 250,000 years ago.
Burnham and Phelan take the human-as-cavemen-unadapted-to-the-modern-world view and illustrate why many of our common weaknesses are actually based on behaviors that were quite useful a quarter of a million years ago.
When you view human nature this way, a few things will happen. First, you'll understand the persistence and prevalence of many seemingly self-destructive human idiosyncrasies (for example, adultery and gluttony). Second, you won't feel as bad about yourself! And third, and most useful, by understanding the roots of these common behaviors and by following Burnham and Phelan's recommendations, you'll have the tools to effect genuine self-improvement.
Finally, the book is quick and entertaining, so it's a fabulous investment.
19 von 20 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A perfect book for a brand new century 28. September 2000
Von "malibuonline" - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I am 34-year old attorney and have probably read over 2000 books in my life. Hands down, Mean Genes tops the list. This book is written for me, you, virtually everyone. The most remarkable aspect of this book is that it gives you rock solid, meticulously researched data on a range of topics that will help you become a more knowledgeable member of our fascinating world. For instance, I was in Hollywood the other day and read the "homosexuality" section; I was on an LA freeway and read "road rage" when I got home; I was craving a hot Indian curry dish and I read "jalapeno peppers" in the thrill-seeking chapter. Each reading was a revelation--and goddam is it well-written, with massive dollops of humor and sassiness. At its heart, Mean Genes is a deeply responsible book. The more we understand and control our own behavior, the better we understand and can predict others' behavior. The revolutionary ideas and advice in Mean Genes will make the world a better, healthier, happier place. The authors, Jay and Terry, are perfectly qualified to write such a landmark book--dedicated, highly educated, endlessly curious, and enormously likeable. May they live long and well. Make it a point to catch them at a media event--the Mean Genes website has details.
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