am 13. September 2015
... und unterhaltsam geschrieben. Ein gutes Buch, indem die Rolle der eigenen Genetik in Hinblick auf die heutige Zeit kritisch beleuchtet wird. Von zwischenmenschlichem Verhalten hin über Ernährung, Sex, Liebe und Beziehung wird alles besprochen.
am 19. September 2000
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.
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. The authors see this as the basis of much of our overeating, and our tendency to do reciprocal favors for one another.
The book looks at sexual attraction, mating, and marriage from the perspective of ways that the next generation will have the most genes reproduced from one parent with the least effort.
Abuse of substances is related to the pleasure centers in the brain that we cannot apparently stimulate enough to satisfy ourselves.
Problems with gambling are related to poor calculation skills and the desire for a hit from the brain's pleasure center.
Those who like to see us as reasoning, ethical, social beings will probably find the arguments skewed . . . as they are. That does not mean, however, that they are irrelevant. It just means that they are incomplete.
The basic advice is to create circumstances that will make it difficult to work against your own best interests. For example, control your spending by keeping a stack of green cash for what you can afford to spend each month for each purpose. Cut up the credit cards, and forget borrowing for most purposes. Pay yourself first, and make it hard to get access to those savings. Lots of finance books offer this advice, but Mean Genes will give you a better sense of why it often works.
For overeating, the book basically suggests being sure that you never enter a situation where you could overeat without being somewhat full. On the way to the big feast, the authors suggest eating three bagels. Or if desserts get you, spread something awful on them at the beginning of the meal (mayonnaise is suggested for airline desserts).
For drugs (whether nicotine or heroin), the only alternative seems to be never to try them or to use a less harmful substitute (a nicotine patch or methadone).
A lot of overwork comes from insatiable greed. That can be overcome by finding other activities (other than work and making money) that make you feel constantly more successful. Perhaps writing book reviews here could be one such substitute.
By now, I suspect you get the idea. The book investigates debt, fat, drugs, risk, greed, gender differences, beauty, infidelity, family, and friends/enemies in very revealing ways. Personally, I found the chapter on risk to be the most interesting. I didn't realize that a lot of my behavior in this area is part of a common genetic pattern.
One of the great barriers to human progress is our tendency to act in ways counter to our own best interests through unconscious habits. I think this is one of the best books I have read for helping to surface those unconscious habits, explaining why they occur, and providing useful suggests to bust those stalls. Well done!
After you read this book, I suggest sitting down immediately to write down those areas where the book applies to you, and what strategies make sense for you to adopt to overcome the behavioral weaknesses you have. In my case, I will be riding a lot more roller coasters.
Decide what's best, rather than reaching automatically for what feels good.