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The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today

By: H Cronin

504 pages, B/w photos, figs, 2 tabs

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Oct 1993 | #27021 | ISBN: 0521457653
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £51.99 $68/€59 approx
Hardback | Feb 1992 | #11230 | ISBN: 052132937X
Out of Print Details

About this book

The theory of natural selection is one of the foremost achievements of science, yet until recently two major issues remained unresolved. How can natural selection favour those, like the ant, that renounce tooth and claw in favour of the public spirited ways of the commune? How can the theory explain the peacock's tail, a flamboyant burden to its bearer: surely selection would act against ornamentation with no obvious value? The author blends history, science and philosophy into a scholarly and entertaining account.

'Part detective story and part philosophical enquiry, The Ant and the Peacock offers a paradox in every paragraph.' J. G. Ballard, Weekend Telegraph 'Nobody with an interest in how the human mind has come to work the way it does can fail to be gripped by it.' The Economist 'In her racy and provocative way, Dr Cronin tells a story that sums up the essence of neo-Darwinism ... Part detective story and part philosophical enquiry, The Ant and the Peacock offers a paradox in every paragraph ...' Weekend Telegraph 'The finest study of the evolution of Darwinian thought that we have to date ... Cronin's special understanding of the sexual force in evolution's drive adds a most important dynamic to this work.' The New England Review of Books


Foreword; Preface; Part I. Darwinism, Its Rivals and Its Renegades: 1. Walking archives; 2. A world without Darwin; 3. Darwinism old and new; Part II. The Peacock: 4. The sting in the peacock's tail; 5. Nothing but natural selection?; 6. Can females shape males?; 7. Do sensible females prefer sexy males?; 8. 'Until careful experiments are made ...'; 9. Ghosts of Darwinism surpassed; Part III. The Ant: 10. Altruism now; 11. Altruism then; 12. The social insects: kind kin; 13. Make dove, not war: conventional forces; 14. Human altruism: a natural kind?; 15. Breeding between the lines; Epilogue; Notes on the letters of Darwin and Wallace; Bibliography; Index.

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