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Why Sex Matters: A Darwinian Look at Human Behaviour

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Why Sex Matters

Why are men, like other primate males, usually the aggressors and...

NHBS Price: £29.99 $40/€34 approx

By: Bobbi S Low(Author)

412 pages, b/w photos, illustrations, tables

Princeton University Press

Paperback | Dec 2000 | Edition: 1 | #121436 | ISBN: 0691089752
Out of Print Details
Hardback | Dec 2000 | Edition: 1 | #101090 | ISBN: 0691028958
Out of Print Details

About this book

Reviews the fundamental arguments and assumptions of behavioral ecology: selfish genes, conflicts of interest, and the tendency for sexes to reproduce through different behaviours.

"Low marshals a compelling array of Darwinian arguments to bolster the importance of biological sex in everyday human interaction [...] The breadth of materials which Low musters to support her argument plumbs every nook and cranny of human and animal existence [...] Her analysis remains readable and provocative to the end [...] "
Kirkus Reviews

"A useful survey of what is known about behavioral sex differences in animals and humans, covering biology, anthropology, sociology and history. It is clear and informative."
– Colin McGinn, The New York Times Book Review

"An excellent [...] analysis of the most fundamental aspects of human life – sex, violence, power – through an evolutionary lens."
– Cathy Young, Detroit News

"A comprehensive survey of behavioral and evolutionary ecology [...] Why Sex Matters should interest a broad range of readers because it attempts to explain human nature."

"An excellent example of how evolutionary theory can be applied to human behavior without hyperbole."
– Ian Penton-Voak, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Deftly written [...] A very thorough review of the current state of the art of human behavioral biology."
– Craig B. Stanford, American Scientist

"A broad-ranging and well-researched look at the way biology continues to affect men and women."
– Sally Squires, Washington Post Book World

"Low makes clear why sex matters. Indeed, her book makes clear why a human sociobiology matters. Why Sex Matters matters."
– Jeffrey A. Kurland, American Journal of Human Biology

"A compelling and comprehensive synthesis of what is known (and not known) about the evolutionary basis for complex behaviors in humans and other species. Low clearly and convincingly explains [...] why sex matters."
– Robert Costanza, BioScience


Preface xiii
Acknowledgments xvii

1. INTRODUCTION 3 Vampire Stories and Beyond 4 Explaining Behavior without Folklore 6 Kinds of "Why" Questions 9 Simple Rules, Complex Outcomes 11 Humans as Critters 12

2. RACING THE RED QUEEN: SELFISH GENES AND THEIR STRATEGIES 19 Whose Genes Count, and Why? Kin Selection 23 Summing Up the Basics: Assumptions and Objections 27 Novel Evolutionary Environments: Can the Principles Still Hold? 31 More than Ants or Peacocks: Lifetimes, Culture, Ecology and Variation 33

3. THE ECOLOGY OF SEX DIFFERENCES 35 Sex and Strategies 37 The Ecology of Being Male and Female 44 Mating Effort 47 Parental Effort 52 Variance in Reproductive Success: Mating versus Parental Strategists 53

4. SEX, STATUS, AND REPRODUCTION AMONG THE APES 57 The Ecology of Dominance and RS in Primates 58 Ecological Aspects of Mating Systems 60 Sex, Resources, and the Ecology of Human Reproduction 62 The Ecology of Human Mating Systems 66 The Ecology of Monogamy and Polyandry 74

5. SEX, RESOURCES, APPEARANCE, AND MATE CHOICE 77 What Men and Women Want 78 Beauty, Resources, and Mate Choice 83 Signals of Desirability and Their Manipulation 84 Who Can Choose? 88

6. SEX, RESOURCES, AND HUMAN LIFETIMES 92 Starting Out: Resource Striving in the Womb 95 What's a Mother to Do? Optimizing Maternal Effort among Offspring 96 Conflicts of Interest: Abortion, Infanticide, Abandonment Neglect 98 Sex Differences in Reproductive Lifetimes 102 Sex Differences in Senescence 110

7. SEX AND RESOURCE ECOLOGY IN TRADITIONAL AND HISTORICAL CULTURES 113 Sexual Divisions of Labor 113 Sex and Control of Resources 115 Men, Women, and Resources in Traditional and Historical Cultures 116

8. SEX, RESOURCES, AND FERTILITY IN TRANSITION 127 Nineteenth-Century Sweden 130 Sex, Resources, and Life Histories 135 Female Life Paths 139 Male Life Paths 140 Sex, Resources, and Fertility 142 Fertility Transitions: What, If Anything, Do They Mean? 144

9. NICE GUYS CAN WIN -IN SOCIAL SPECIES, ANYWAY 146 Are We Lemmings? A Cautionary Tale 147 When and Why Do We Cooperate? 147 Simple Strategies in Winning Games 150 From Family to Dyads to Groups to Cultures 154 The Group Selection Muddle 155 Altruists or Good Neighbors? 160 Cooperation and Free-Riders 161

10. CONFLICTS, CULTURE, AND NATURAL SELECTION 163 Cooperation, Competition, and Groups 164 Working Out Our Conflicts: Moral Systems and Group Life 165 Intertwining Cultural and Natural Selection 168 Logically Inept, Socially Adept: The Social Contexts of Intelligence 176

11. SEX AND COMPLEX COALITIONS 181 Coalitions, Resources, and Reproduction 183 Sex and Human Coalitions 193

12. POLITICS AND REPRODUCTIVE COMPETITION 198 Men, Women, and Politics Cross-Culturally 200 Women in Politics: When Did It Pay? 209

13. SEX, RESOURCES, AND EARLY WARFARE 213 Resources and Conflict 214 Why Women Warriors Are Rare 216 War: Runaway Sexual Selection? 217 Other Biological Approaches to Understanding War 218 Intergroup Conflict in Other Species 221 Conflict in Preindustrial Societies 223

14. SOCIETAL COMPLEXITY AND THE ECOLOGY OF WAR 230 Greek Hoplites: Early "Western" Warriors? 233 The Ecology of Renaissance War 234 The Behavioral Ecology of Modern War 236 Disadvantaged Men in War 240 War and Reproductive Success Today 241 Proximate and Ultimate Causes of War: Evolutionary Novelty 241

15. WEALTH, FERTILITY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT IN FUTURE TENSE 245 Fertility, Consumption, and Sustainability: Weaving the Strands 247 Wealth, Fertility, and Consumption Today: Empirical Data 248 Wealth, Women's Age-Specific Fertility, and Women's Life Paths Today 250 An Evolutionary Perspective: Reducing Both Fertility and Consumption Is Novel 252 What's Missing in Current Strategies 253 Can New Strategies and Tactics Help 257 An Evolutionary Bottom Line 258

Notes 259
Glossary 323
References 333
Author Index 391
Subject Index 401
Taxonomic Index 409
Society/Social Group Index 411

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At the University of Michigan, Bobbi S. Low is Professor of Resource Ecology at the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Associate Director of the Population Environment Dynamics Program, and Faculty Associate at several centers within the Institute for Social Research. She is an associate editor for Politics and the Life Sciences and for Population and Environment. She is coauthor of Family Patterns in Nineteenth-Century Sweden.

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