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5.0 von 5 Sternen A classic worth a second look and an update
Although first published in 1994, a long time ago in the rapidly developing science of evolutionary psychology, Robert Wright's seminal book remains an excellent introduction to the subject. The text crackles with an incisive wit that says, yes we're animals, but we can live with that. The discussion is thorough, ranging from a rather intense focus on Charles Darwin...
Veröffentlicht am 21. Mai 2000 von Dennis Littrell

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2.0 von 5 Sternen Profoundly Unscientific, Poorly Reasoned
I am a student of evolutionary psychology and evolution, and I found this book a poor representation of both. This book fails to provide anything more than carefully selected biological jargon to support the author's desire for a world based on Victorian principles of sexual restraint and life-long monogamy. Wright is under several delusions. First, that pretty women...
Veröffentlicht am 30. Dezember 1999 von Sonya Trejo


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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Big Broom, 20. November 1997
Having a real weakness for broad inter-disciplinary sweeps that leave a lot of conventional thinking whimpering in the dust (as one finds in the work of Camille Paglia and John Ralston Saul), I enjoyed this book thoroughly. I must admit that my ignorance of a lot of the scientific material dealt with in this book leaves me vulnerable to an ornate argument. Still, Wright's pitch is aimed at the non-expert and I never felt in over my head. His back and forth between thesis and Darwin's life functions both to iluminate his argument and provide a breather between bouts of research and speculation. Stylistically, Wright is diligent and at times wry. I was initially attracted to the book by a blurb by Steven Pinker author of The Language Instinct. Philosophically, one can see their attraction but stylistically, Wright lacks Pinker's glee. A bit of term-paper drudgery seeps through the prose. As for the argument itself, Wright is General Grant, winning by dogged force and determination. At times, he squeezes a lot of juice from simple primate studies, but he has the wisdom to label specualtion as such. The seemingly circular logic of evolutionary psychology in which everything is interpreted through that paradigm and what doesn't fit awaits future clarification smells a bit of dogma and faith, but, again, Wright senses the objection and makes a good faith effort to explain it away, appealing to the difficulties inherent in asking for an evolutionary hypothesis capable of interpreting every bit of anthropoligical, archeological and genetic evidence. In any case, much of his argument seems quite availbale for disproof.

Finally, Wright should be congratulated for going the whole route. Clearly, this new paradigm has profound political and philosophical implications which are not shied away from. Wright is not a philosopher but he lives up to the obligations of his argument and provides a utilitarian framework for us to ponder ethics for the newly self-aware species.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Extremely thought provoking, 2. September 1997
Von 
Daniel Harper (Madison, Alabama USA) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
(REAL NAME)   
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (Vintage) (Taschenbuch)
"Once truly grasped . . . it can entirely
alter one's perception of social reality."
Robert Wright makes this amazing claim about
evolutionary psychology in the introduction
of his book _The Moral Animal: Why we are
the way we are: The new science of
Evolutionary Psychology_. It is a
particularly bold claim, but one that proved
true for me. Because of the bad reputation
of evolutionary psychology's predecessors, I
read this book with a healthy skepticism.
E. O. Wilson's _Sociobiology_ was one of
these much maligned predecessors. Another
even more maligned predecessor of sorts, and
rightly so, was social Darwinism. Of course,
social Darwinism is the worst sort of misuse
of science. So I think you can see why I did
not intend to give this book a free ride.
No, I read it very critically and found it
to be undeserving of the reputation of its
predecessors. It is one of the most
thought-provoking books that I have ever
read.

So what is this book about; just what is
evolutionary psychology? Simply put, it is
the science of evolution applied to the mind
of man. This would seem to be a logical
extension of Darwin's work; however, this
application has been met with heavy
resistance. As Wright put it, "The new
Darwinian social scientists are fighting a
doctrine that has dominated their fields for
much of this century: the idea that biology
doesn't much matter--that the uniquely
malleable human mind, together with the
unique force of culture, has severed our
behavior from its evolutionary roots; that
there is no inherent human nature driving
human events, but that, rather, our essential
nature is to be driven." Evolutionary
psychologists seek to overturn this
prevailing wisdom because of what
anthropologists have seen in their studies
of people from all around the world.
"Beneath the global crazy quilt of rituals
and customs, they see recurring patterns in
the structure of family, friendship,
politics, courtship, morality." For example,
people in all cultures gossip, worry about
social status, feel guilt, and have a sense
of justice. Wright calls these universals
"the knobs of human nature." Seeking social
approval and having a capacity for guilt are
genetic traits inherent to man. Nature has
provided these "knobs" and the mechanisms by
which these knobs are tuned by the
environment. The tuning of these knobs
differs from culture to culture and from
person to person within a culture.

It is to evolutionary psychology's credit
that this emerging science has avoided the
sins of the past. When evolutionary
psychologists look at the differences
between people, they are reluctant to explain
these differences as genetic. To be sure,
genetics has something to say about these
differences, but mostly it says that we all
share the underlying mechanisms that allow
our environment to produce these differences.
These new Darwinists very much believe that
the early social environment is a powerful
force in determining the mind of an adult.
Evolution has made the mind of man
"adjustable." However, understanding why
natural selection made many of the
adjustable knobs of human behavior is
important to understanding the mind of man.
A better understanding of our minds can aid
us in choosing and reaching our goals in
life. Evolution has produced certain basic
moral impulses in man that should be
explored if we are to better understand
ourselves and our societies.

These basic moral impulses of man are so
fundamental and accepted that we tend to
take them for granted. Things like love,
honor, pride, shame, gratitude, etc. seem so
basic to our lives that we rarely pause to
consider that no physical laws of nature
ordain them. However, there is abundant
evidence that these impulses are in large
part the result of our evolutionary legacy.
This is not to say that Wright and others
have committed the naturalistic fallacy. On
the contrary, Wright makes his position clear
when he writes, ". . . nature isn't a moral
authority, and we needn't adopt any 'values'
that seem implicit in its workings . . . ."
However, he goes on to say, "Still, a true
understanding of human nature will inevitably
affect moral thought deeply and, as I will
try to show, legitimately." In my opinion,
Wright successfully makes his case. However,
do not take my word for it; read this
provocative book for yourself and discover
why man is indeed the moral animal.
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1.0 von 5 Sternen The snake makes us do it., 30. September 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (Vintage) (Taschenbuch)
I'd like to propose a simple exercise for readers of this book. Ask yourselves whether or not it contains a decent account of the evolution of brains.
One way to do this is to reflect critically on Wright's explicit and implicit reliance on the rather extreme "modularity of mind" thesis implicit in the "triune brain" (reptilian, mammalian and human) model advanced near the beginning (p. 39) and the end of the book (p. 321, hardback edition) and underlying almost all its argumentation.
Wright writes as if the reptilian module (the snake inside us) were hermetically sealed off ("contained") by the rest of the brain. Rather worse, he writes as if our "natures" were fundamentally reptilian, as if we were not highly social primates, with natures that enable groups to monitor the style of play we bring to our various "prisoner's dilemmas", and to alter the "payoffs" in those games to deter deviant behavior.
Wright never discusses the coevolution of language and brain and, as a result, never comes close to illuminating the basic issue of the interaction of culture and biology in human evolution.
I think the book's principle value is its utility in teaching students how to recognize very bad science writing. Let those who think this a "soft minded" attitude, demonstrate some mastery of the neuroanatomy in Terry Deacon's <The Symbolic Species: coevolution of language and brain>, particularly Deacon's discussion of the evolution of the hominid prefrontal cortex.
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2.0 von 5 Sternen an interesting approach, but flawed by faulty reasoning, 16. Juni 1998
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (Vintage) (Taschenbuch)
I came to this book with an affinity for the natural selection approach to human psychology, but I was disappointed with the book's overall approach and its affronts to the logical and scientific processes. The tone of the book implies that evolutionary psychology may be used to explain anything and everything about human behavior. This is never directly stated, but the tone is unmistakeable. I would rather have seen a disclaimer at the beginning of the book saying what evolutionary psychology actually is -- a useful means of analyzing human behavior, but not the ONLY means, and certainly not the only correct means.
The book also makes wild leaps in connecting together various pieces of evidence which simply would not hold for a real logician. William of Ockham stated that we should not multiply uncertainties needlessly. Aristotelean logic, furthermore, gives us explicit restrictions on how we may use particular propositions in a chain of reasoning. Wright has violated such rules of basic reasoning in this book, stringing together arguments which are at best tenuous. And I recall another philosopher, Leslie Stephenson, who, criticizing the work of Konrad Lorenz, asked if it is legitimate to draw inferences on HUMAN behavior from ANIMAL behavior. (A human being is, after all, a little more complex than a rhesus monkey.)
All in all, although I think evolutionary psychology can make some positive contributions to our understanding of humanity, the field, as it is depicted in this book, needs more development and good old fashioned scientific skepticism.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen So good that it will gratifyingly enrage its opponents, 23. Juli 1999
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (Vintage) (Taschenbuch)
I read some of the earlier reviews before starting this one, and was hugely amused by the standard and tone of the negative ones. Personally I find the book most impressive and most enjoyable. The unfavourable critics seemed to think that it claimed to be flawless, ex cathedra dogmatism, whereas it actually is light in touch, relaxed and balanced. Some very sacred cows seem to be getting gored among the fundamentalistically politically correct anti-sociobiolists.
Pardon my sniggers.
On the other hand the book must have taken a vast amount of work to research and write. It covers a great deal of ground and integrates it very well. It does not make great demands of the reader's erudition, but requires a bit of basic intelligence, common sense if you like, in balancing all the varied threads of evidence and argument. There is a great deal of substance, you see, and not all the arguments deal with hard fact as opposed to intelligent handling of qualitative observations of complex systems, namely humans. Also, there are wide ranges of opinions to balance and discuss, and, juggle the themes as he will, Wright cannot spoon-feed every reader who wants to see his own pet opinions emerge as confirmed and predigested pabulum.
You needn't be a biologist to enjoy it, but if you are not prepared to contribute your own thinking, do not read this book; otherwise I give it high marks for entertainment, substance and interest. An undoubted classic.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen great, but problematic, 5. Juni 1999
Von 
Adam Piontek "made to order" (New York, NY USA) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
(REAL NAME)   
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (Vintage) (Taschenbuch)
This book is a throrough introduction to a very interesting and relatively new field of social science. However, it is not, repeat NOT, as good as some people are saying. It is true that it is full of stretches of logic and combinations of wild theories and speculations. It is also true that it scares me to think that people are taking this book literally, like some sort of bible. It is an introduction to the ideas of a new field, it is not a compendium of knowledge.
There is little, if anything, even close to "proven" in this book, if such a things ever can be proven. However, it is incredibly thought-provoking, and I do think these ideas have a strong place in any social scientist's intellectual toolkit. No one should see this as the one and only, final theory that "finally gets it," especially if they find themselves feeling that it validates ideas they have already had for some time. Emotions shouldn't get much involved in these sorts of things, and I don't think I need to say why ("Nazi" has already been mentioned here).
My view is simply that this book and the theoretical approaches it represents are an important milestone in our never-ending attempts to learn about ourselves and "why we are the way we are." I advise everyone to read this book, with an open mind, and with the intention of gaining an addition, rather than a replacement, to older theories.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Have our morals been shaped by evolution?, 13. Januar 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Among believers in evolution, there is little doubt that -say- the shape of our thumbs has been determined by selection pressure: the best grasper, climber or spear-thrower survived, procreated, and passed on his or her dextrous advantage. There has been little examination of how selection pressure might have affected our moral sense, although it is difficult to find any explanation of how it could NOT have done so.
Robert Wright considers just that question, although it can be posed in hundreds of ways: is there a biological (or genetic) basis for the male/female "double standard;" why do we exhibit altruism; whoever made up that whole "whore/madonna" thing (hint - it goes further than just a Victorian-era convention); why do we bitterly remember a double-cross, while silently vowing revenge?
Wright uses Charles Darwin's passage through life, from ambitious young scientist to respected patriarch, as a framework for his study. It is well-written and engaging, and at least for me, rang very true to life. Several times I found myself reading descriptions of the primitive basis for male adolescent behaviour, and was sure that Mr Wright had observed (and interviewed) my college buddies. The book is thought provoking and insightful, while providing a view inside a new science.
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2.0 von 5 Sternen A good place for creationist to attack, 21. April 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (Vintage) (Taschenbuch)
The so called science of evolutionary psychology has dismayed many psychologists like myself. I find the work to be poor scientific reasoning and often just helps to prove old sterotypes. When my father, who has a 2nd grade education, told me that evrything that he ever thought about women was correct and validated by science, I became sick. My father thinks that beating his daughters into submission is the way to react to them and telling his girls not to think is the way to get them a man. (By the way he is also a Nazi sympathizer). He even was validated by using the term "whore" for his three daughters. Evolutionary psychology reinforces his need to be powerfull or seem powerfull. He does not believe in evolution itself but this book is something he loves,covets and points out to his male buddies. Evolutionary psychology needs to own up to it's responsibility and say that this is all speculation instead of fact. I found old reviews of E.O. Wilson's book Sociobiology that were very harsh. Wilson said that his feelings were hurt but today their are no harsh reviews for Wrights work and nobody who will point out that their is a parallel with social darwinism and this work. Don't think that evrything you read is correct. Be a skeptic. This is a great place for creationist to attack and win.
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1.0 von 5 Sternen and the data show?, 29. Oktober 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (Vintage) (Taschenbuch)
This is a strange forum in which to ask scientific questions, but here goes. Science writer Robert Wright's central theses about evolutionary psychology rely heavily on the work of psychologist David Buss. As a psychologist, Buss has published a cross-cultural analysis of human mate preferences, dealing with around 9000 respondents in 33 countries on six continents and five islands.
And the data show? "In general, the effects of sex on mate preferences were small compared with those of culture. Across the 31 mate characteristics (surveyed), sex accounted for an average of only 2.4% of the variance in preferences." Culture accounted for an average of 14% of the variance. Mate preferences in men and women show very little variance in the top five traits: mutuality of attraction, dependable character, emotional stability and maturity, pleasing disposition. <Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology>," 21 (1990), 5-47.
Just how hard do we have to massage this data to discover the snakes within which drive women to seek mates with access to material resources, and men to seek mates with salient cues of fertility?
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Thought provoking and entertaining reading, 14. Oktober 1999
Von Ein Kunde
I'm mostly amazed at the wide range of opinions displayed in the reader reviews here. This is a GOOD book, not a great one, and it clearly makes the reader think about some issues that are close to home. I claim that's its greatest attribute: it's approachable, understandable, and most readers seem to "get it." I don't mean they believe it, but they understand what's being discussed, and are aware of the deeper implications re: traditional (i.e. religious) explanations of human behavior.
EP is a new science, and as one can tell from these reviews, some people refuse to catagorize it as science at all. I can understand their reluctance - there's very little if any empirical evidence for any of this stuff. The same can be said for traditional explanations, can't it?
Face it: we humans DO share behavioral patterns, both among ourselves and with other primates. Wright's book, and others like it, is a great introduction to a possible explanation for those patterns, one that doesn't rely on a divine design.
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