The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
Referring to Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen from Through the Looking-Glass, a character who has to keep running to stay in the same place, Matt Ridley demonstrates why sex is humanity’s best strategy for outwitting its constantly mutating internal predators. The Red Queen answers dozens of other riddles of human nature and culture — including why men propose marriage, the method behind our maddening notions of beauty, and the disquieting fact that a woman is more likely to conceive a child by an adulterous lover than by her husband. Brilliantly written, The Red Queen offers an extraordinary new way of interpreting the human condition and how it has evolved.
About the Author(s)
Matt Ridley’s books have been shortlisted for six literary awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (for Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters). His most recent book, The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture, won the award for the best science book published in 2003 from the National Academies of Science. He has been a scientist, a journalist, and a national newspaper columnist, and is the chairman of the International Centre for Life, in Newcastle, England. Matt Ridley is also a visiting professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.
Dramatic and surprising, September 30, 2000
"Men and women have different minds – says Matt Ridley in one of the central chapters of his book-. The differences are the direct result of evolution. Womens minds (and bodies, as he states in a previous pharagraph) evolved to suit the demands of beraring and rearing children and of gathering plant and food. Mens minds (and bodies) evolved to suit the demands of rising in a male hierarchy, fighting over women and providing meat to a family".
To arrive to this and other conclusions, Ridley goes a long and difficult way through biology, genetics and continents, starting with a basic question: why is there sex at all? After all, many species reproduce without it. The first three or four chapters of "The Red Queen" may be a little onerous, but apparently they are necessary to support the last ones.
This is a book about evolution with a focus on human sexuality and the human mind. Everything on humans – our bodies, our behavior towards the opposite sex, even our minds and social rules – is a direct result of a process called sexual selection that allows the reproduction of the fittest, therefore transmiting their genes to the next generations.
When answering why there is sex at all and how men and womens bodies and minds evolved in the last million years, we come to many uncomfortable truths about adultery, rape, incest and life. Why do more rich men marry beautiful women and not the other way around? Why have the attempts to sell pornogrphy to women and romantic novels to men failed? And above all this: why did evolution produce different minds in men a women?
Take all of the above and pack it with a red cover, and you have one of the most amazing readings of the year.