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You can click to view my favorites for anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

Evolution

There is a lot of overlap of this category with all the others -- as is only fitting. And the backlog of books not entered yet is particularly glaring.

As I was attempting to explain to John Maynard Smith (author of The Evolution of Sex, etc.) the Cerebral Code's analogies of corticocortical convergence to gamete dimorphism and the resulting numerical disproportion, his eyes began to glaze over and he said, "You know, Calvin, the real reason why it takes so many sperm to fertilize a single egg? It's because none of the sperm will ask for directions."
National Academy of Sciences report on the Teaching of Evolution is available on the web as well as in print from the National Academy Press. amazon.com

cover Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, A Pattern Language : Towns, Buildings, Construction (Oxford University Press 1977).
The architectural book on what works, debugged over the centuries, in terms of living space and towns. And what gets copied -- evolution on a cultural scale.
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Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (Basic Books 1984). amazon.com
Jerome H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby (eds.), The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture (Oxford University Press, 1992).
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Derek Bickerton, Language and Species (University of Chicago Press, 1990).
        "[We] can understand neither ourselves nor our world until we have fully understood what language is and what it has done for our species. For although language made our species and made the world we inhabit, the powers it unleashed drove us to understand and control our environment, rather than explore the mainspring of our own being. We have followed that path of control and domination until even the most daring among us have begun to fear where it may lead. Now the engine of our quest for power and knowledge should itself become the object that we seek to know."
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Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn (Viking Penguin USA, 1994).
Like Alexander et al, another good book on how culture evolves via copying.
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All those other books by Stewart Brand.

Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: Voyaging (Knopf, 1995; Princeton UP pb 1996).
The best of the Darwin biographies (volume 1).
amazon.com paperback
cover   Charles Darwin: The Power of Place
 (volume 2),

 

anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

You can click on the topics to see a collection of favorite books on the subject.

Richard Byrne, The Thinking Ape: Evolutionary Origins of Intelligence (Oxford Univ Press 1995).
Among other things, it has one of the best short summaries of the many attempts to teach animals the rudiments of language.
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William H. Calvin, The Cerebral Code: Thinking a Thought in the Mosaics of the Mind (MIT Press, 1996).HBT
Unlike my other books, it’s more for scientists than general readers — but then I have worked harder (glossary, tutorials, cartoons) to help out fans of science. Chapter titles are: The Representation Problem and the Copying Solution, Cloning in Cerebral Cortex, A Compressed Code Emerges, Managing the Cerebral Commons, Resonating with your Chaotic Memories, Partitioning the Playfield, Intermission Notes, The Brownian Notion, Convergence Zones with a Hint of Sex, Chimes on the Quarter Hour, The Making of Metaphor, Thinking a Thought in the Mosaics of the Mind.
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William H. Calvin, How Brains Think: Evolving Intelligence, Then and Now (Science Masters, BasicBooks, 1996).HBT
A dozen translations are pending. It expands on my October 1994 Scientific American article to address the evolution of consciousness, intelligence, and language.The chapter titles are What to Do Next, Evolving a Good Guess, The Janitor’s Dream, Evolving Intelligent Animals, Syntax as a Foundation of Intelligence, Evolution On-The-Fly, Shaping Up an Intelligent Act from Humble Origins, and Prospects for a Superhuman Intelligence. It is suitable for biology and cognitive neuroscience supplementary reading lists.
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William H. Calvin, The Ascent of Mind: Ice Age Climates and the Evolution of Intelligence (Bantam 1990)
This is my book on the ice ages and how human intelligence evolved; the “throwing theory” is one aspect. It is suitable for high-school and undergraduate projects in neurobiology and anthropology. My Scientific American article, “The emergence of intelligence,” (October 1994) also discusses ice-age evolution of intelligence.
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William H. Calvin, The River That Flows Uphill: A Journey from the Big Bang to the Big Brain (Sierra Club Books 1987)
It's my river diary of a two-week whitewater trip through the bottom of the Grand Canyon, discussing everything from cosmology to anthropology to brain mechanisms. It became a bestseller in German translation in 1995 but is out of print in English. For Grand Canyon photographs and sound files to match, see Leonard Thurman’s Grand Canyon River Running web pages.
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William H. Calvin, The Throwing Madonna: Essays on the Brain (McGraw-Hill 1983, Bantam 1991).
17 essays: The Throwing Madonna. The Lovable Cat: Mimicry Strikes Again. Woman the Toolmaker? Did Throwing Stones Lead to Bigger Brains? The Ratchets of Social Evolution. The Computer as Metaphor in Neurobiology. Last Year in Jerusalem. Computing Without Nerve Impulses. Aplysia, the Hare of the Ocean. Left Brain, Right Brain: Science or the New Phrenology? What to Do About Tic Douloureux. The Woodrow Wilson Story. Thinking Clearly About Schizophrenia. Of Cancer Pain, Magic Bullets, and Humor. Linguistics and the Brain’s Buffer. Probing Language Cortex: The Second Wave, and The Creation Myth, Updated: A Scenario for Humankind.
amazon.com Powell's

anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

You can click on the topics to see a collection of favorite books on the subject.

Paul Colinvaux, Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare (Princeton University Press 1982).
        "An annual plant spends all its coin on making seeds. A perennial spends some coin on its own food reserves as well and we suspect that it spends some more coin on holding off the competition. An equilibrium species plans for babies in the future rather than babies now."
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Helena Cronin, The Ant and the Peacock (Cambridge University Press 1992).
"Imagine a world without Darwin. Imagine a world in which Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace had not transformed our understanding of living things. What... would become baffling and puzzling..., in urgent need of explanation? The answer is: practically everything about living things...."
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Gary Cziko, Without Miracles: Universal Selection Theory and the Second Darwinian Revolution (MIT Press, 1995).
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Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (London 1859).
"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."
amazon.com -- try to get the Penguin or the Harvard University Press facsimile of the first edition (the others tend to be the sixth, which is cluttered with replies to contemporary critics).
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (London 1871).
"Man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system- with all these exalted powers- Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."
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anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

You can click on the topics to see a collection of favorite books on the subject.

Richard Dawkins, Climbing Mount Improbable (Norton, 1996).
        "Darwinism is not a theory of random chance. It is a theory of random mutation plus non-random cumulative natural selection. Why, I wonder, is it so hard for even sophisticated scientists to grasp this simple point?" [p.75]
        "Evolution is an enchanted loom of shuttling DNA codes, whose evanescent patterns, as they dance their partners through geological deep time, weave a massive database of ancestral wisdom, a digitally coded description of ancestral worlds and what it took to survive in them." [p.326]
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Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (Science Masters, BasicBooks, 1995).
        "Never say, and never take seriously anybody who says, `I cannot believe that so-and-so could have evolved by gradual selection.' I have dubbed this kind of fallacy `the Argument from Personal Incredulity.' Time and again, it has proved the prelude to an intellectual banana-skin experience."
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Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (Norton, 1986).
        "I want to inspire the reader with a vision of our own existence as, on the face of it, a spine-chilling mystery; and simultaneously to convey the full excitement of the fact that it is a mystery with an elegant solution which is within our grasp... A good case can be made that Darwinism is true, not just on this planet but all over the universe wherever life may be found."
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Richard Dawkins, The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Oxford UP, 1982).
        "Any suggestion that the child's mathematical ineptitude might have a genetic origin is likely to be greeted with something approaching despair: if it is in the genes "it is written", it is "determined" and nothing can be done about it; you might as well give up attempting to teach the child mathematics. This is pernicious rubbish on an almost astrological scale. Genetic causes and environmental causes are in principle no different from each other. Some influences of both types may be hard to reverse, others may be easy."
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Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford UP, 1976).
        "Our genes may be immortal but the collection of genes which is any one of us is bound to crumble away. Elizabeth II is a direct descendant of William the Conqueror. Yet it is quite probable that she bears not a single one of the old king's genes. We should not seek immortality in reproduction. But if you contribute to the world's culture, if you have a good idea, compose a tune, invent a sparking plug, write a poem, it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today... but who cares? The [cultural contributions] of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus, and Marconi are still going strong."
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anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

You can click on the topics to see a collection of favorite books on the subject.

Deacon book Terrence Deacon, The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain (W. W. Norton, August 1997).
As I said in The New York Times Book Review (10 August 1997):
        In our evolutionary ascent from an ape-like ancestor, we gained our most prized possession, the mental abilities that underlie language. We're still trying to figure out what language is (from monkey cries to structured syntax), how it works (the short-term processes in the brain that construct and deconstruct utterances), and why it evolved (the Darwinian processes that bootstrapped it over the long run).
        That's what Terrence W. Deacon's book, "The Symbolic Species," is about. His first section is on symbols and language, the next tackles the brain's language specializations, and the last addresses the coevolution of language and the human brain, ending up with Darwinian views of consciousness. It's a work of enormous breadth, likely to pleasantly surprise both general readers and experts. Continued....
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Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Simon & Schuster 1995).
        "Let me lay my cards on the table. If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I'd give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning, and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law. But it is not just a wonderful scientific idea. It is a dangerous idea."
    Danny Yee, in his review of DDI, said:
Dennett begins by explaining why he thinks Darwin deserves the prize for the "single best idea anyone has ever had" and why his idea was (and is) so revolutionary, so dangerous. He illustrates this with a brief account of pre-Darwinian ideas -- with Locke as an exponent of the traditional viewpoint and Hume as someone who came very close to Darwin's insight. The key elements of Darwin's "dangerous idea" are a denial of essentialism and an understanding of natural selection as a substrate neutral, algorithmic process, applicable to an extremely wide range of phenomena and capable of achieving immense feats by slow accumulation over large extents of time and space.
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anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

You can click on the topics to see a collection of favorite books on the subject.

Adrian Desmond, Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest (Addison-Wesley, 1997).
James R. Kincaid, in the New York Times Book Review, said: "One thing will probably strike American readers, even in the midst of their delight: Desmond will seem vastly to overstate the fullness of Huxley's victory, the triumph of secular agnosticism and scientific rationalism. Is our modern world Huxley's? I don't know how it is in Desmond's England, but the contemporary United States seems to me about as skeptical, scientific and agnostic as a 10th-century tribe of frog-worshipers. We need Huxley back again, debating Pat Robertson, the head of the Promise Keepers and a worthy representative of the Church of Scientology, say John Travolta."
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Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: Fates of Human Societies (W. W. Norton, 1997).
The Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction. The author of The Third Chimpanzee writes here about the cultural evolution of the last 13,000 years:
    "Until we have some convincing, detailed, agreed-upon explanation for the broad pattern of history [why Eurasians did so much better than Africans, Americans, and Australians], most people will continue to suspect that the racist biological explanation is correct after all. That seems to me the strongest argument for writing this book."
    "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences in peoples' environments, not cause of biological differences among the peoples themselves."
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Jared Diamond, Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (BasicBooks -- Science Masters Series, 1997).
One thing you have to realize about Jared Diamond is that, like me, he is a Ph.D. physiologist who not only thinks about how things work on the short time scale of physiology but has ventured into pondering how things came into being on a longer evolutionary time scale. His chapters are:
  • The Animal with the Weirdest Sex Life
  • The Battle of the Sexes
  • Why Don't Men Breast-feed Their Babies? The Non-Evolution of Male Lactation
  • Wrong Time for Love: The Evolution of Recreational Sex
  • What Are Men Good For? The Evolution of Men's Roles
  • Making More by Making Less: The Evolution of Female Menopause
  • Truth in Advertising: The Evolution of Body Signals
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Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee (HarperCollins, 1992).
        "Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny. Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. In contrast, we’re still struggling with the mess which agriculture has tumbled us, and it’s unclear whether we can solve it."
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anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

You can click on the topics to see a collection of favorite books on the subject.

George Dyson, Darwin Among the Machines (Addison-Wesley, 1997).
An amazing intellectual history of evolution and machines; I kept discovering ideas, that I thought were recent, had forerunners three centuries earlier.A quote from the final page of George Dyson's book:
We have mapped, tamed, and dismembered the physical wilderness of our earth. But, at the same time, we have created a digital wilderness whose evolution may embody a collective wisdom greater than our own. No digital universe can ever be completely mapped. We have traded one jungle for another, and in this direction lies not fear but hope. For our destiny and our sanity as human beings depend on our ability to serve a nature whose intelligence we can glimpse all around us, but never quite comprehend.
      Not in wilderness, but "in Wildness," wrote an often misquoted Henry David Thoreau, "is the preservation of the world."
I like what Oliver Sacks said about the book: "To bring Hobbes and Samuel Butler and Olaf Stapledon together, and John Wilkins and von Neumann and Lewis Thomas and Erasmus Darwin, would seem almost beyond the bounds of possibility; but they all, and fifty others, come together with a sort of miraculous naturalness in this book, which is as remarkable an intellectual history as any I have read."
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Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower (1976).
        "Curious, I took a pencil from my pocket and touched a strand of the [spider] web. Immediately there was a response. The web, plucked by its menacing occupant, began to vibrate until it was a blur. Anything that had brushed claw or wing against that amazing snare would be thoroughly entrapped. As the vibrations slowed, I could see the owner fingering her guidelines for signs of struggle. A pencil point was an intrusion into this universe for which no precedent existed. Spider was circumscribed by spider ideas; its universe was spider universe. All outside was irrational, extraneous, at best raw material for spider. As I proceeded on my way along the gully, like a vast impossible shadow, I realized that in the world of spider I did not exist."
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All those other books by Loren Eiseley.

Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Harvard University Press, 1977).
       A very influential book on the role played by juvenilization and neoteny in evolving new species.
amazon.com Powell's

All those other books by Steve Gould.

anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

You can click on the topics to see a collection of favorite books on the subject.

Kevin Kelly, Out of Control: The Rise of Neobiological Civilization (Addison-Wesley 1994).
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Melvin Konner, The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit (Holt 1990 softcover).
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All those other books by Mel Konner.

John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary The Major Transitions in Evolution (Freeman 1995).
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All those other books by John Maynard Smith.

Ernst Mayr, This is Biology: The Science of the Living World (Harvard University Press, March 1997).
From p.189:
    "From the Greeks to the nineteenth century there was a great controversy over the question whether changes in the world are due to chance or necessity. It was Darwin who found a brilliant solution to this old conundrum: they are due to both. In the production of variation chance dominates, while selection itself operates largely by necessity. Yet Darwin's choice of the term "selection" was unfortunate, because it suggests that there is some agent in nature who deliberately selects. Actually the "selected" individuals are simply those who remain alive after all the less well adapted or less fortunate individuals have been removed from the population."
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Ernst Mayr, One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought (Harvard University Press, 1992).
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Ernst Mayr, Toward a New Philosophy of Biology (Harvard University Press, 1988).
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Ernst Mayr, William B. Provine (editors), The Evolutionary Synthesis : Perspectives on the Unification of Biology (Harvard University Press, 1998).
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All those other books by Ernst Mayr.

Jonathan Miller, Darwin for Beginners (Pantheon Books 1983).
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All those other books by Jonathan Miller.

Elliott Sober, David Sloan Wilson, Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (Harvard University Press, 1998).
"Their book provides a panoramic view of altruism throughout the animal kingdom - from self-sacrificing parasites to insects that subsume themselves in the superorganism of a colony to the human capacity for selflessness - even as it explains the evolutionary sense of such behavior. Sober and Wilson offer a detailed case study of scientific change as well as an indisputable argument for group selection as a legitimate theory in evolutionary biology." See Richard Lewontin's review in the New York Review of Books.
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Steven M. Stanley, Children of the Ice Age: How a Global Catashrophe Allowed Humans to Evolve (Crown 1996; Freeman pb 1998).
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Frans de Waal, Frans Lanting, Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (University of California Press 1997).
As The Atlantic Monthly said:
        What Professor de Waal describes is a society of mamma's boys, permanently subject to female control. It is also an erotic society, with sexual contacts conducted steadily, ingeniously, and with no discernible concern for sex or age. One of Mr. Lanting's many photographs sums up these apes rather well. It is of a male bonobo, standing straight as a palace sentry, well prepared for sexual action, and offering handfuls of sugarcane. Bonobo may lie at the root of civilized behavior.
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Frans de Waal, Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong (Harvard UP 1996).
        "If carnivory was indeed the catalyst for the evolution of sharing, it is hard to escape the conclusion that human morality is steeped in animal blood. When we give money to begging strangers, ship food to starving people, or vote for measures that benefit the poor, we follow impulses shaped since the time our ancestors began to cluster around meat possessors. At the center of the original circle, we find a prize hard to get but desired by many... this small, sympathetic circle grew steadily to encompass all of humanity — if not in practice then at least in principle.... Given the circle's proposed origin, it is profoundly ironic that its expansion should culminate in a plea for vegetarianism."
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Frans de Waal, Peacemaking Among Primates (Harvard UP 1989).
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Frans de Waal, Chimpanzee Politics: Sex and Power Among the Apes (Harper and Row 1982).
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Jonathan Weiner, The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time (Knopf, 1994).
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Michael White, John R. Gribbin, Darwin: A Life in Science (E P Dutton, 1995).
An intellectual history of evolutionary thought, and a fine short version of Darwin's life and times; a different viewpoint than the other fine bio's of Darwin, such as Janet Browne's.
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Richard Wrangham, Dale Peterson, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (Houghton Mifflin, 1996).
From Kirkus Reviews , 08/15/96:
        "Forget Rousseau. Forget Konrad Lorenz. Wrangham and Peterson say that after 40 years of gorilla and chimpanzee watching, it is hard not to conclude that human males are but evolutionary heirs of male ape aggression. Our primate male cousins gang up to murder and rape, expand their territory (and genes), and fight to get to the top. But at the same time that MacArthur fellow Wrangham (Biological Anthropology/Harvard) and Peterson (Jane Goodall's coauthor on Visions of Caliban) present overwhelming (and depressing) evidence of male mayhem from observations in the wild, from history, from ethnography and politics, they are not die-hard biological determinists...."
amazon.com

Other books about evolution in the Amazon.com database.

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