Today, genes are called upon to explain almost every aspect of our lives, from social inequalities to health, sexual preference and criminality. Based on Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection, Evolutionary Psychology with its claim that 'it's all in our genes' has become the most popular scientific theory of the late 20th century. Books such as Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene, Edward O.Wilson's Consilience and Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct have become bestsellers and frame the public debate on human life and development: we can see their influence as soon as we open a Sunday newspaper. In recent years, however, many biologists and social scientists have begun to contest this new biological determinism and shown that Evolutionary Psychology rests on shaky empirical evidence, flawed premises and unexamined political presuppositions. In this provocative and ground-breaking book, Hilary and Steven Rose have gathered together the most eminent and outspoken critics of this fashionable ideology, ranging from Stephen Jay Gould and Patrick Bateson to Mary Midgley, Tim Ingold and Annette Karmiloff-Smith.
What emerges is a new perspective on human development which acknowledges the complexity of life by placing at its centre the living organism rather than the gene.
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(198mm x 129mm x 18mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
Evolutionary Psychology is all the rage at the moment, partly because it attempts to explain all human phenomena, like rage itself, by resorting to genes and evolutionary theory. This book is a much needed antidote. Pinker, one of Evolutionary Psychology's gurus, claims that a human group's preference for rural landscapes is due to our ancestral home in the African savannah. This book is important because it is only really here that you will find the vital counterarguments to evolutionary psychology which receives so much uncritical favour in the media at the moment. One central problem with evolutionary psychology is its emphasis on our behaviour having evolved to make sense for the life we led hundreds of thousands of years ago, but is not adapted to modern society. In other words we are basically 'stone-age' people struggling to cope with a world changing too fast for our genes. Yet this is all based on speculation about exactly what human society was like from an era we know very little about. This book is certainly important because it represents one of the few attempts to counter the tidal wave threatening to swamp popular psychology of evolutionary and genetic explanations. But the edited collection is weakened by the general theme running through the essays of a relative lack of use of experimental data to argue against genetic theses, and a preference for polemic and philosophy instead. Also there is an absence of effort to demonstrate the limits of evolutionary thinking, rather than just rejecting it altogether. It seems the authors have partially adopted the rabbi's injunction, when presented with two extremes, opt for a third one instead. A trite but nonetheless inescapable conclusion is that human behaviour is probably the result of a mixture of genes, culture and free will, so the central issue is desentangling different situations where and how they interact, at contrasting levels of force. This book is too busy rejecting evolution to remember it must play a role to some extent; the issue is not just how much evolution is involved in our psychology, but how to escape it. Having liberated us from the prison of evolution, the authors fail to provide a route map of where we are now free to go. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Hilary Rose
Steven Rose is Professor of Biology and Neurobiology at the Open University and University of London. From 1999 to 2002 he was joint Professor of Physiology at Gresham College, London with his wife, the sociologist Hilary Rose. She is currently Visiting Research Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, Professor Emeritus of Social Policy at the University of Bradford and Professor Emeritus of Physick, Gresham College, London, UK.