Common Knowledge 16 (3):559-559 (2010)

Barry Allen
McMaster University
Darwin had a hypothesis about descent with modification, and a Spencerian view of the evolution as selfish conflict. Biology remains marked by the dualism today. Many, inside the discipline and out, suppose that taking an evolutionary perspective just is to seek the secret selfishness that “explains” a successful form of life. Nowhere is this view of evolution more entrenched than in the theory specialists call Sexual Selection, a theory on the evolution of everything that differentiates the sexes. Darwin thought the conspicuous sexual differences among animals are adaptations to female choice. Down to our day the biology of sexual selection confirms his melodramatic cliches: Males are passionate, armed, and ornamented, females coy and drab, conflict inevitable and ubiquitous. Roughgarden, a professor of biology at Stanford, dismisses sexual selection as “pure ideology.” “A huge body of scientific theory is incorrect.” All the parts that overlook the evolution of real cooperation, meaning not the coincidence of selfish interests, but coordinated collaboration. The evidence of such cooperation between the sexes is diverse, cumulative, and much underappreciated. Roughgarden also takes friendship and pleasure seriously. Intimate contact keeps animals coordinated, and mutual pleasure makes cooperation self-policing, without the punishing algorithms postulated by Evolutionary Psychology. Her book is a serious work of science. She argues that “sexual selection can never be demonstrated once studies are sufficiently thorough,” and shows that this whole area of evolutionary biology “is not settled science, is in considerable flux, and is not ready for export.” If you research any field affected by the claims of Sexual Selection, Evolutionary Psychology, or the Selfish Gene, you may want to study this book.
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DOI 10.1215/0961754X-2010-020
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Collected Essays. [REVIEW][author unknown] - 1908 - The Classical Review 22 (7):227-228.

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