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Homo mysterious : evolutionary puzzles of human nature
David P. Barash
Adult Nonfiction GN281 .B36 2012

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Evolutionary questions about the human condition abound, and Barash, a University of Washington professor of psychology and biology, (Madame Bovary's Ovaries), addresses some of the most provocative in this thoughtful, witty book. Barash focuses on interesting conundrums: why do women have orgasms; why does menopause exist; why do men have shorter average life spans than women; what's the evolutionary reason for homosexuality, the arts, and religion. Yet the book's success lies not in the answers to these questions-as Barash explains, we don't (yet) have answers. What he does so well is to demonstrate, first, how evolutionary theory helps shape our thinking on these questions, while guiding us to differentiate between the possible and the implausible. Second, by considering and discarding numerous possible answers to each question (is female orgasm merely the by-product of another evolutionary adaptation? Or did it evolve to induce women to have numerous sexual partners to guarantee reproduction?), he shows how tentative scientific explanations are and the critical role hypothesis testing plays in our understanding of the world. As he has done before, Barash makes the case for the power of science while demonstrating the intellectual joy that can accompany the journey of discovery. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

What is the function of art? religion? menopause? Through the lens of human evolutionary biology, Barash (biology & psychology, Univ. of Washington; co-author, Payback: Why We Retaliate, Redirect Aggression, and Take Revenge) investigates these and other "mysteries"-behaviors and biological functions that cannot easily be explained as advantageous or necessary for human survival. After summarizing current scientific research on these topics, Barash discusses supporting or contradictory theories, acknowledging that, while much is speculation, it is only through discussion and examination that explanations may eventually be found. A prolific writer, Barash has discussed issues of sexuality and sociobiology in previous books, e.g., How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories and The Gender Gap: The Biology of Male-Female Differences. VERDICT A fascinating, well-researched introduction to the conundrums of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology written for the general reader.-Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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