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9780609605134 / 0609605135

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About the book:

Alas, Poor Darwin is a multidisciplinary collection of essays from Stephen Jay Gould, Patrick Bateson, Mary Midgely, Charles Jencks, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Gabriel Dover and editors Hilary and Steven Rose, which aims to challenge what they see as the flawed premises and shaky empirical evidence supporting the claims of evolutionary psychology.

The main argument of the book is that "the claims of EP in the fields of biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and philosophy are for the most part not merely mistaken, but culturally pernicious". What really upsets the contributors is the claim that the view of human nature held by evolutionary psychologists ought to inform the making of social and public policy.

As a whole the arguments against evolutionary psychology have real critical bite which is balanced by alternative views which appear to have a much closer tie to empirical reality. It is this which justifies the editorial claims of the book's importance. The weakness of the book--and particularly the introduction--is that it often fails to make any distinctions between the political views of the writers under discussion and the political meaning of their arguments. Thus evolutionary psychology--and all who are associated with it--is smeared by association with Nazi eugenics, religious fundamentalism, social Darwinism and, last but not least, sociobiology. The recent historical emergence of gene-centred views and even the emergence of the Darwin seminars based at the LSE is given a sinister, politically-motivated character which seems to be based on nothing more than innuendo. Yet despite the questionable cultural analysis this book is a must-read, of interest to specialists and interested lay-folk alike.--Larry Brown

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