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Why Sex Matters:
A Darwinian Look at Human Behavior
Bobbi S. Low

Paperback | 2000 | This edition is out of print | ISBN: 9780691089751
Hardcover | 2000 | This edition is out of print | ISBN: 9780691028958


Why are men, like other primate males, usually the aggressors and risk takers? Why do women typically have fewer sexual partners? Why is killing infants routine in some cultures, but forbidden in others? Why is incest everywhere taboo? Bobbi Low ranges from ancient Rome to modern America, from the Amazon to the Arctic, and from single-celled organisms to international politics to show that these and many other questions about human behavior largely come down to evolution and sex. More precisely, as she shows in this uniquely comprehensive and accessible survey of behavioral and evolutionary ecology, they come down to the basic principle that all organisms evolved to maximize their reproductive success and seek resources to do so.

Low begins by reviewing the fundamental arguments and assumptions of behavioral ecology: selfish genes, conflicts of interest, and the tendency for sexes to reproduce through different behaviors. She explains why in primate species--from chimpanzees and apes to humans--males seek to spread their genes by devoting extraordinary efforts to finding mates, while females find it profitable to expend more effort on parenting. Low illustrates these sexual differences among humans by showing that in places as diverse as the parishes of nineteenth-century Sweden, the villages of seventeenth-century China, and the forests of twentieth-century Brazil, men have tended to seek power and resources, from cattle to money, to attract mates, while women have sought a secure environment for raising children. She makes it clear, however, they have not done so simply through individual efforts or in a vacuum, but that men and women act in complex ways that involve cooperation and coalition building and that are shaped by culture, technology, tradition, and the availability of resources. Low also considers how the evolutionary drive to acquire resources leads to environmental degradation and warfare and asks whether our behavior could be channeled in more constructive ways.


"Low marshals a compelling array of Darwinian arguments to bolster the importance of biological sex in everyday human interaction. . . .The breadth of materials which Low musters to support her argument plumbs every nook and cranny of human and animal existence. . . .Her analysis remains readable and provocative to the end."--Kirkus Reviews

"A useful survey of what is known about behavioral sex differences in animals and humans, covering biology, anthropology, sociology and history. It is clear and informative."--Colin McGinn, The New York Times Book Review

"An excellent . . . analysis of the most fundamental aspects of human life--sex, violence, power--through an evolutionary lens."--Cathy Young, Detroit News

"A comprehensive survey of behavioral and evolutionary ecology. . . .Why Sex Matters should interest a broad range of readers because it attempts to explain human nature."--Choice

"A very thorough review of the current state of the art human behavioral biology."--Craig B. Stanford, American Scientist

"An excellent example of how evolutionary theory can be applied to human behavior without hyperbole."--Ian Penton-Voak, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Deftly written. . . A very thorough review of the current state of the art of human behavioral biology."--Craig B. Stanford, American Scientist

"A broad-ranging and well-researched look at the way biology continues to affect men and women."--Sally Squires, Washington Post Book World

"Low makes clear why sex matters. Indeed, her book makes clear why a human sociobiology matters. Why Sex Matters matters."--Jeffrey A. Kurland, American Journal of Human Biology

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File created: 7/31/2015

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