The Red Queen: Sex & the Evolution of Human Nature

Image of The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
Author: Matt Ridley
Publisher: Harper Perennial (2003)
Binding: Paperback, 416 pages
5

"It is impossible to understand human nature without understanding how it evolved..."

THIS BOOK looks at all sorts of behavior – both human and animal – with the objective of explaining what's going on by referring to the processes of sex and evolution.

   And it's a beauty...the sort of rare book which leaves you quite sure that a whole realm of things which you didn't previously understand are suddenly explicable.

   Why sex? Why intelligence? Why monogamy? These types of fundamental questions are addressed with firm logic, and with a wealth of evidence presented concisely (and often humorously) from all over the animal kingdom. Perhaps even more importantly the answers are mostly surprising, and yet easily capable of replacing the conventional scientific explanation which you – like your reviewer – did not think in need of an update.

   Here's an example:

   You might well think that human beings evolved intelligence because of the increased survival rates of competent toolmakers. What comes as a surprise is the persuasive case that we grew intelligence in an evolutionary arms race with the opposite sex. We needed intelligence not to survive as individuals, but to survive as pro-created genes.

   The Red Queen offers nothing to do with the nonsense of creationism, or bookish debates between opinionated professors. It's respectable up-to-date science, superbly presented, with fascinating twists and turns. Read it for fun, and peel back another layer of the onion of natural existence.

   So, what is this review doing here, on a site which is apparently about books on money? It's here because there's something about the science which is genuinely universal. The central theme running through the book is competition, embedded in human nature by genes, and how it appears in the most surprising aspects of our behavior. If you are serious about competing with other humans in the surprisingly subtle art of accumulating wealth, then The Red Queen has a logic about it which will let you see patterns previously hidden from you.

   By the way – the Red Queen is an Alice in Wonderland metaphor. As I recall in that chapter, everyone was running as fast as they can just to stand still.

   See what I mean about its application to wealth?

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Paul Tustain is the founder and CEO of BullionVault.

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