Recommended Reading: Level Two Books

Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love.
By Dr. Helen Fisher

Henry Holt and Company, 2004

Review by William A. Spriggs, June 14, 2009

The Sex Contract: The Evolution of Human Behavior
By Helen E. Fisher
William Morrow & Company, Inc., New York, 1982
Review by William A. Spriggs, April 24, 2008

The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War
by David Livingstone Smith
Review by William A. Spriggs, Dec. 27, 2007

Charles Darwin: The Power of Place
By Janet Browne. Want to know what Darwin's stand on birth control was? find out.
Review by William A. Spriggs, Feb. 1, 2004

Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why.
By Richard Nisbett
Review by William A. Spriggs, June 4, 2003

Social Dominance : An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression
by Jim Sidanius (Author), Felicia Pratto (Author)
Review by William  A.  Spriggs, November 25, 2002

The Mating Mind : How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature
by Geoffrey F. Miller
Review by William  A.  Spriggs, May 11, 2002
Tree of Origin : What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us About Human Social Evolution
by Frans de Waal
Review by William  A.  Spriggs,  August 20,  2001
Evolutionary Psychology : The New Science of the Mind
by David M. Buss
Hardcover - 416 pages (January 1999)
Allyn & Bacon; ISBN: 0205193587 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.05 x 9.57 x 7.35
Editorial Reviews
Review by William A. Spriggs

A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation
by Peter Singer

Hardcover - 64 pages (April 2000)
Yale Univ Pr; ISBN: 0300083238 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.44 x 7.24 x 4.6

Review by William A. Spriggs
Consilience : The Unity of Knowledge
by Edward O. Wilson
Knopf; ISBN: 0679450777 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.22 x 9.61 x 6.68
Other Editions: Paperback, Audio Cassette, Large Print.
Review by William A. Spriggs
 Genome : The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
by Matt Ridley

Editorial Reviews
Review by William  A.  Spriggs

It Ain't Necessarily So : The Dream of the Human Genome Project and Other Illusions
By Richard C. Lewontin

New York Review of Books; ISBN: 0940322102

Editorial Reviews
Review by William A. Spriggs

Introducing Evolutionary Psychology
by Dylan Evans, Oscar Zarate (Illustrator), Richard Appignanesi (Editor)
Paperback - 176 pages 0 edition (February 15, 2000)
Totem Books; ISBN: 1840460431 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.64 x 8.26 x 5.52

Review by William A. Spriggs
This is pretty neat little book and I strongly recommend it as a starter for High School seniors and above grade levels. For anyone interested in getting a good basic introduction into evolutionary psychology without getting bogged down with non-lucid essays, this is a good bet.

But, be cautioned: this is a self-described study guide. Which means that it is not intended as a self-standing book on the subject. Written by graduate student Dylan Evans, and illustrated by Oscar Zarate, the theme of the book is done in a comic book fashion that attempts to makes the subject less intimidating yet loosing some credibility.

It is a hoot to see characterizations or mention of the following scholars and their theories. In order of their appearance: J.B. Watson, B.F. Skinner, Alan Turning, Sigmund Freud, Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin, William Paley, Carolus Linnaeus, Richard Dawkins, Noam Chomsky, David Marr,Jerry Fodor. Franz Joseph Gall, John Tooby, Leda Cosmides, Joseph Ledoux, Robert Axelrod, William Hamilton, Martin Daly, Margo Wilson, Nick Humphrey, Simon Baron-Cohen, Robin Dunbar, Steve Gangestad, Randy Thornhill, Devendra Singh, David Buss, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, Steven Pinker, George Williams, Issac Newton, Daniel Dennet, David Hume, Frances Galton, Gregor Mendel, Francis Watson, James Click, Herbert Spencer, and Peter Singer.
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Why We Feel: The Science of Human Emotion
by Victor S. Johnston
Paperback - 224 pages (April 1999)
Perseus Books; ISBN: 073820109X ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.97 x 9.53 x 6.31
Review by John G. Martin
Notwithstanding its brevity, reading this book should not be undertaken lightly. Why We Feel is a complex but clearly argued case for the evolutionary basis and utility of emotions.

Johnston’s frankly materialistic view of the rise of consciousness and the role of emotions in ordering that consciousness is based on the idea of "emergent properties." He uses the analogy of cars in the "race of life." The only challenge for the cars in this race is a sharp corner they must make to avoid a brick wall. Those cars that negotiate the corner are used at a "robotic factory" as the basis for future car designs. In this view, the emergent property of the cars is their ability to master the corner successfully; the design changes at the factory merely attempt to maximize that already existing emergent property.

Similarly in living beings, while "nerve cells are certainly the active agents in the nervous system [the factory design changes] . . . their organization depends on the survival value of the emergent properties that arise from that organization." In other words, the continued survival of living things results from the fostering of emergent properties that promote survival in a changing environment.

Johnston delves bravely into artificial intelligence and the structure of DNA (actually, not so bravely; he is a professor of psychobiology in New Mexico), explaining both how learning machines learn through the accumulation of data useful to improve the emergent properties their creators have given them, and, in living things, how genetic changes result in the strengthening of emergent properties with survival value.

In human beings, it has often been pointed out, consciousness is this sort of emergent property. Emotions, Johnston says, are as well. Emotions guide our consciousness toward behavior that is conducive to survival, that is, to reproductive success. In fact, "the real importance of feelings—emotions as well as affects—lies in the role they play in regulating how, what, and when we learn and in determining how we reason about the world around us." Johnston makes a convincing case for this, citing a wide variety of studies and hypothetical situations that show just how large a role emotions play in human decision making.

One quibble. In closing, Johnston voices the standard grumble of the rugged truth-hunting scientist that humans can become fully conscious only when they cast off primitive notions of the supernatural and embrace themselves as moral animals, appreciating the beauty and creativity of their own minds. But just what in his creative and beautifully argued thesis precludes the existence of God? Perhaps not merely a quibble after all.

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Executive Instinct : Managing the Human Animal in the Information Age
by Nigel Nicholson
Hardcover - 352 pages (November 7, 2000)
Crown Pub; ISBN: 0812931971

Editorial Reviews
Review by William  A.  Spriggs, Dec. 15, 2000

As far as I am aware, Executive Instinct is the first book utilizing the groundwork established in evolutionary psychology and is aimed squarely at chief executive officers of corporations. I consider this book an important development because it is these individuals, (mostly males) who run the giant engines we call commerce, and commerce is responsible for advancing the material goods and services that are spreading rapidly around the globe today, and hence, speeding the development of globalization. Globalization has its benefits, we are told, but the process also has its critics; street demonstrations by some extremist groups, protesting in their view, the spread of commercial exploitation of individuals and the environment in third world countries seem to be more numerous than ever. Champions of big business argue that these poor souls, and hence, these third world countries are now better off then they were before big business arrived; time will develop the truth, which I believe will combine both arguments. In any case, the business world needs a new lens in which to view itself and the world around it. Perhaps this book is where that new view begins.

Mr. Nicholson's goal is simple and noble:

"In this book, I want to turn this analytical spotlight [of EP] on what is happening in our workplaces. It can help us understand what makes the difference between the most impressive examples of leadership, organization and achievement and the most ineffective, unhealthy, and destructive...A true understanding of human nature -- what motivates people and shapes their thoughts and instruct us in how to manage one another to bring out the best in everyone." p. 13.


"There are a million and one ways to run a company badly, but a common set of principles underpins excellence. This amounts to a human vision of management that honors the essence of human nature." p. 34

Written in an informal, yet highly lucid manner, you will find this book solely business friendly. With a quick count, I found 42 subject lists reduced to bullet or diamond form where the author breaks down his theories into bite-sized bits of knowledge. Also, Nicholson cites names of companies and chief executive officers like we in the evolutionary community mention theories and their attending evolutionists.

The author gives us a short history of work by, describing, what he calls the four stages of work: the hunter-gatherer societies; the emergence of the agricultural era; the industrial revolution from 1820 to about 1900. Then he goes into detail concerning the fourth age; the information age and the emergence of the internet with its capacities of hidden surveillance. He then tells us of his uneasiness concerning the mapping of individual's DNA. I agree.

Through his years of observation and study, Mr. Nichollson has broken down the problems of big businesses into what he calls:


  1. Suppressed emotion and stress
  2. Disempowerment
  3. Low-trust politics
  4. Discrimination
  5. Ineffective teams
  6. Bad decisions
  7. Management by fear

I'll let you read his book to discover his: "TOWARD SEVEN SOLUTIONS: THE EP [EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY] WAY, p.63-66

To recall his introduction:

"As these themes suggest, evolutionary psychology can supply us with new lenses to view the world. By applying this vision to business and management, we can view afresh what motivates managers, leaders, and employees. We can see more clearly which methods of management and organization go against the grain of human nature. We can find new ways of working." p.12

If I have any complaints about this book is that the author did not speculate more on gender roles and how to best use both sexes in a business setting; he makes keen observations of these differences, but then finalizes with the same old overwhelming view that

"...the rules, practices, and structures of business organizations favor males and their aspirations." p. 92.  Or:

"...women leaders remain extremely scarce. Domination, competition, and patriarchy are biologically encoded as our model of authority. These values are integral to the promotion systems that operate in business and public life. Wherever we create an opportunity for a single leader of a hierarchy, nine times out of ten it will be men who strive for, attain, and hang on to the role." p.94

Perhaps, as each new crop of managerial teams emerge from the seeds planted in the emerging field of evolutionary psychology, they will come up work methods and environments that we would never imagine. But, I believe that the author holds that seed grain in his hand when he observes:

"Evolutionary psychology reminds us of the essence of human psychology and the primacy of human instincts and human relationships in working life. Almost every significant event and development in the business world, and the most of the problems too, originate in the motives and choices of individuals and groups...The best things that happen in organizations happen because of something good some person does for, to, or with someone else. The worst disasters, miseries, and acts of oppression occur for the opposite reason: people treating other people badly. p.250

Keep that seed of knowledge in mind when you focus on anything, and you will hit the bulls eye. It comes down to how we treat people.

As you read this book you must continually remind yourself that this is a professional executive dipping into the evolutionary perspective pool as opposed to an evolutionary psychologist musing about the executive environment. The evolutionary perspective is spreading, and this one of the forms that it will take. You are witnessing transformational history where all the humanities -- economics, mathematics, medicine, politics, and sociology in general will function and flow from this perspective. I, for one, am glad to have Mr. Nicholson aboard. Highly recommended for business executives and middle managers -- or anyone interested in human nature and how it works in the business environment.

Nigel Nicholson is a professor at the London Business School. Dr. Nicholson received his Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Wales.

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Evolution in Mind: An Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology

by Henry Plotkin

Harvard University Press, March 1998
ISBN: 0674271203
Other Editions: Paperback
Review by William A. Spriggs
Professor of Psychobiology and head of the Department of Psychology at University College in London, Henry Plotkin has written a magnificent introduction to evolutionary psychology for professionals not involved in the science directly. This book is well-suited for policy makers, chief executive officers, and the intellectuals élites who exert major influence on cultural matters. It is especially well-suited for psychology professionals and students desiring to be brought up to speed on evolutionary psychology. If, however, you know little of the work of Noam Chomsky, B.F. Skinner, or Jean Piaget, you could be lost in this wonderful book, and I suggest a more introductory work.

Pay particular attention to chapter six, "Culture: One of the Last Great Frontiers of Science," in which Plotkin writes that

our capacity for culture remains an evolved supertrait because without all the component psychological mechanisms, human culture would not exist as we know it. And to assert that none of them are evolved mechanisms strikes this writer as simply ludicrous. To deny that our most unique, complex and characteristic trait is a product of evolution and maintain the view that none of its component processes must have evolved is, in essence, to deny the force of evolution in human history.

Professor Plotkin, it seems, has joined those of us who believe that culture and genes co-evolve. This book is highly recommended.

Harvard University Press, March 1998
ISBN: 0674271203
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Nonzero : The Logic of Human Destiny
by Robert Wright

Hardcover - 544 pages (December 20, 1999)
Pantheon Books; ISBN: 0679442529

Other Editions: Paperback

Review by John G. Martin

Like many but not most scientists and those of a scientific bent, evolutionary theorists tend to espouse a sort of muscular atheism, admonishing their readers to put aside fanciful hopes of a directing intelligence in order to face life squarely and without illusion. This is essential, they say, so the human race can end its traditional bloody rivalries, face the future without illusion, and, especially, find a reason for morality in a universe completely unaware of our presence (or of anything else).

The most surprising thing about NonZero, Robert Wright’s book on the implications of evolution, is that the author avoids this knee-jerk nay-saying, and even speculates wittily on the possibility that we are evolving toward something we can only guess at. This willingness to even consider such a thing is both the book’s strength and its weakness.

Wright begins with cultural evolution, which he says is simply a continuation of biological evolution. Certainly they have this in common: Both result in greater complexity, the organism’s as it responds to a changing physical environment, the human’s in response to a changing social environment. The key in both is non-zero-sumness, an ugly term for which Wright sometimes substitutes the term "reciprocal altruism." Even simple organisms in the primordial soup practiced non-zero-sumness. For example, mitochondria and chloroplasts in plants were once separate and free-living; they combined functions to increase the complexity (and therefore the chances of survival) of each.

In humans, the non-zero-sum game goes much further. Wright argues convincingly that it is, in fact, the basis for the growth of cultural complexity. "You scratch my back . . ." Wright puts it this way:

Instinctively enlightened self-interest is the seed that has grown into modern society. At the heart of every modern capitalist economy—as at the heart of the hunter-gatherer economies from which they evolved—is the principle of exchange. One hand washes the other, and both are better off than they would be alone—the very definition of a well-played non-zero-sum game.

Another key in the growth of complexity and non-zero-sumness is population density and technological innovation, the speed of the latter depending at least in part on the increase in the former. Wright compares the Shoshone Indians ("the wretchedest type of mankind I have seen up to this writing," according to Mark Twain) to the natives of the Northwest Coast of North America, who developed sophisticated hunting and fishing techniques and the attendant specialization of labor.

Cultural anthropologists traditionally attributed the Shoshones’ inability to climb further up the ladder of cultural complexity to the barrenness of their environment, while the richness and technological complexity of the Northwest Indians was attributed to the incredible diversity of theirs. But, Wright says, the Shoshone did indeed employ technology, particularly in their rabbit hunts. They simply lacked the population density that the Northwest Indians had, which made non-zero-sum communication and the resulting exchanges of whale meat, woven shawls and the like possible.

If the Shoshone had been able to increase in numbers as did the Northcoast Indians, Wright says, they would have innovated and specialized--eventually--just as much. This is true of all primitive tribes: Population density leads to ease of communication and exchange and the expansion of non-zero-sumness.

From here, Wright leads us through a gratifyingly lighthearted (?) survey of the growth of non-zero-sumness among peoples, among nations, and, with the growth of globalization, around the world. He touches on the inevitability of agriculture; how war, while it is the ultimate zero-sum game, could lead to the growth of non-zero-sumness through the synergism of alliances and conquest (though, as Wright observes, war has certainly outlived its utility: "Hatred isn’t what it used to be"); and, finally, how the growing complexity of human society is leading us toward possible global unity.

This is where Wright, though more willing than most scientists to speculate on the "arrow of history" and to impute purpose to its upward flight, chickens out. Frequently citing the "mushy" Teilhard de Chardin, who believed that the human species was evolving toward "Point Omega," a global brain, an organism that "would constitute a kind of giant organic brotherly-love blob," Wright somewhat weakly points out that, at the least, discussion of such teleology is "non-crazy"; that is, scientists have not discredited the notion that the universe has a purpose, and that consciousness exists to realize that purpose.

Wright gives good reasons for this, but he needn’t be quite so timid. Some scientists have in fact gone much farther, using the scientific method itself as an exemplar to show how humans pull truth from the unknown, snatch order from seeming chaos, and propel the arrow of history higher toward an unimaginable future.
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The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do
by Judith Rich Harris

Hardcover - 480 pages (September 1998)
Free Press; ISBN: 0684844095 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.07 x 9.57 x 6.42
Other Editions: Paperback
Review by William A. Spriggs
The If your interest is child development, then this is a book you must have to understand the implications of evolutionary psychology in the field. Judith Rich Harris is a grandmother in New Jersey who has spent most of adult years writing on child development. In 1997, she wrote an article for Psychological Review for which she received the George A. Miller Award for "an outstanding recent article in psychology." The award is named after the same Harvard professor who kicked her out of the psychology department 37 years earlier because he didn’t think she would amount to much. In this award-winning article and since, Harris recounted how she found she could no longer write what she had been for years because it dawned on her that it was wrong. What was wrong? The belief that parents have the largest impact on a child's development: The nurture assumption.

The reason for her turnabout was the undeniable fact that her studies were highly influenced by the emergence of the evolutionary perspective in our scientific and everyday culture. She does not confirm this explicitly, but in reading the book one cannot help but see the influence. For example, Harris points out that where groups are composed of children of the same age, as they generally are in our society, those who have the highest status tend to be those who are the most mature. This hearkens back to the mixed-age groups of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, in which the older children were in charge of the younger ones and the younger ones learned how to behave by watching the older ones.

Throughout the book Ms. Harris refers to "group socialization theory" and the norms of the peer group as the largest influences on children's behavior. In the evolutionary community, we call this "group selection." This is an area which needs much more study, one I think guides most human behavior today. And this book raises the hope that more studies will include the enormous influences of group selection.

In one of the concluding chapters, Harris gives us five reasons experts on child development have been wrong in holding the nurture assumption. The fifth mistake is to ignore our evolutionary history and the fact that, for millions of years, our ancestors lived in groups. It was the group that enabled those delicate creatures, unequipped with fangs or claws, to survive in an environment that had fangs and claws in abundance. But animal predators were not their greatest threat: the most dangerous creatures in their world were the members of other groups. (As for the other four mistakes of child development experts, I'll let you read the book to find.)

This book is invaluable because it begins to bridge the gap between child development studies and evolutionary theory. Harris, however, does not go far enough into group selection theories (group socialization theory), but can be excused for this as her primary influence is child development and not evolutionary thought. But, I for one, applaud her courage and insight. Because of the coverage in the popular media, hopefully more work will arrive soon in that direction. This book is highly recommended for those interested in child development and want to be introduced to the evolutionary perspective.

Chapter titles include:

forward by Steven Pinker

    >"Nurture" Is Not the Same as "Environment"
    >The Nature (and Nurture) of the Evidence
    >Nature, Nurture, and None of the Above
    >Separate Worlds
    >Other Times, Other Places
    >Human Nature
    >Us and Them
    >In the Company of Children
    >The Transmission of Culture
    >Gender Rules
    >Schools of Children
    >Growing Up
    >Dysfunctional Families and Problem Kids
    >What Parents Can Do
    >The Nurture Assumption on Trial

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Primate Societies

By  Barbara B. Smuts, Dorothy L. Cheney, Robert M. Seyfarth, Richard Wrangham
Review by William A. Spriggs
We evolved from the primates, right? Well, that means we have to study the primates in order to understand how humans behaved in their primal state. Brilliantly edited by Barbara Smuts, this book combines the field studies of more than 46 primatologists. Major chapters include: Evolution of Social Structure, Kinship, Social Behavior in Evolutionary Perspective, Gender, Aggression and Influence, and Sexual Competition and Mate Choice. For advanced readers, but highly recommended.

University of Chicago Press, May 1987
ISBN: 0226767167
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Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language
by R.I.M Dunbar

Hardcover - 240 pages (March 1997)
Harvard Univ. Pr; ISBN: 0674363345 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.92 x 8.52 x 5.80
Other Editions: Paperback

Why is it that among all the primates, only humans have language? According to Robin Dunbar's new book, Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, humans gossip because we don't groom each other. Dunbar builds his argument in a lively discussion that touches on such varied topics as the behavior of gelada baboons, Darwin's theory of evolution, computer-generated poetry, and the significance of brain size. He begins with the social organization of the great apes. These animals live in small groups and maintain social cohesion through almost constant grooming activities. Grooming is a way to forge alliances, establish hierarchy, offer comfort, or make apology. Once a population expands beyond a certain number, however, it becomes impossible for each member to maintain constant physical contact with every other member of the group. Considering the large groups in which human beings have found it necessary to live, Dunbar posits that we developed language as a substitute for physical intimacy.

Whether or not you accept Dunbar's premise, his book is worth reading, if only for its animated prose and wealth of scientific information. An obvious choice for science buffs, Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language is a wonderful book for anyone with an inquiring mind and an interest in what makes the world go round.

Review by William A. Spriggs
Do you know the cliché "don't judge a book by its cover?"  Well that applies to this little gem of evolutionary wisdom.   Professor  of psychology at the University of Liverpool, Mr. Dunbar gives a convincing argument for the evolution of language through gossip.  Gossip dominates our human culture as does the primates concern for observing and reacting to social movements..  Although, his position is not ironclad when he cites his studies of group conversations by the small samplings, I feel that professor Dunbar has hit the nail on the cliché head.

Chapter titles are as follows:

  1. Talking Heads
  2. Into the Social Whirl
  3. The Importance of Being Earnest
  4. Of Brains and Groups and Evolution
  5. The Ghost in the Machine
  6. Up through the Mists of Time
  7. First Words
  8. Babel's Legacy
  9. The Little Rituals of Life
  10. The Scars of Evolution

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Evolutionary Psychiatry: A new Beginning

by Anthony Stevens
& John Price

Review by William A. Spriggs

This is an important book. It succeeds in giving us a lucid bridge between the analyst's couch and the evolutionary behavioral arena in explaining individual behaviors. The major problem with the book is that it fails to remind its readers that it is speculative as it gives us theory after theory. But, it is a great start to voyage across the bridge with. Recommended.
Other editions: Hardcover

Routledge, Dec. 1996
ISBN: 041513840X
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Why They Kill : The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist
By Richard Rhodes

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Hardcover - 352 pages 1 Ed edition (September 1999)
Knopf; ISBN: 0375402497 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.32 x 9.59 x 6.68
Other editions: Paperback

Review by John G. Martin

This strange book is ultimately a profoundly self-contradictory one as well. Rhodes, who has written on many subjects, traces the life, career and theories of Lonnie Athens, the "maverick criminologist" whose somewhat turgid writings on the genesis of "dangerous violent criminals" apparently need the translation of a popular author like Rhodes. (The seemingly redundant label "dangerous violent criminals" is explained when one learns that by "dangerous," Athens means criminals who commit "heinous" violence, such as rape-killings, rather than garden-variety assaults.) Why They Kill demonstrates once again the difficulty of apportioning blame for violent criminal behavior among the criminal himself, society, culture, economic inequity, and family.

Athens’s ideas about violence grew out of his experience with his own extremely violent, hair-trigger tempered father, who beat him many times and trained Athens, in turn, to beat others—in school, out of school, any time, any place. For the most part Athens overcame this "violentization" (his term for the process by which people learn to use extreme force in response to perceived threats or obstacles), eventually earning a doctorate from Berkeley. Even then, though, Athens was often involved in brawls, and many colleagues disliked his threatening and "explosive" manner. Athens’s eventual triumph over his violent propensities, the acceptance of his theories, and Rhodes’ somewhat creepy hero worship, form a bizarre counterpoint to the explication of those theories.

Athens believes that all violent criminals are formed through violentization. A family member (or, less frequently, an unrelated "significant other") subjects a child to extreme violence, either personally or as a witness. The child learns from this that punches, kicks, knives and guns are legitimate solutions to conflict, and the cycle is repeated, a sort of perpetual motion machine of maiming and death.

Athens, explaining this cycle in such books as The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals and Violent Acts and Actors, was strongly influenced by the writings of George Herbert Mead, the social psychologist who posited within individuals an indwelling "community" that prods people toward societal norms. Athens took this community, which Mead thought of as "the generalized other," another step, to the formation in childhood of "phantom communities" made up primarily of family members, including those who are violent. These communities prod the individual not toward societal norms, but to the acts of violence they, as living family members, once used as a "logical" resolution of problems.

It is here that Rhodes’s earnest touting of Athens as a maverick and groundbreaker seems to lose steam. Rhodes, apparently, underwent at least some violentization himself, which he recounts elsewhere but which may explain this book’s tone of True Belief. But is Athens really so revolutionary? After all, while the terms and viewpoints are different, Athens’s theories differ little from those of Alice Miller, the German psychiatrist who, beginning in the 1950s, wrote continually about the familial cycle of verbal and physical violence that perpetuates violence in society.

Where Athens actually does seem maverick is in his insistence on the validity of his methodology: Intensive interviews with (mostly imprisoned) violent criminals, and intensive thought on the commonalities of their experiences. This in the midst of the early ‘70s attitude at major universities that the quantification of data gathered from huge samples was the only "scientific" way to reach valid sociological conclusions. "Analytic induction," however, does seem to have become more accepted than when Athens struggled with it.

What makes Athens’s theory so self-contradictory is his insistence on complete personal responsibility—those who commit violent acts are making a choice that, in spite of their phantom communities, is entirely their own. His contempt for psychiatric excuses and the "self-esteem" movement is patent. "Violent novices" do have low self-esteem, but should they successfully become violent actors, Athens says, "they will suffer from exactly the reverse problem—unrealistically too high self-esteem to the point of arrogance."

But what is not discussed is the ease with which Athens’s "phantom communities" themselves seem to reduce personal responsibility. If a potentially violent individual has little or no choice in the selection of his phantom community, and that community is yelling (metaphorically of course) that violence is the only valid solution in a situation, where is the freedom to refrain from violence?

Athens and Rhodes’s suggestions for short-circuiting the cycle of violence (schools as "centers for community crime prevention," terminating brutalizing parents’ custodial rights, early intervention, etc.) are all well and good, but to ignore the contradiction of personal responsibility and phantom communities is to ignore part of the problem—and part of the solution as well.
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Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine

by Randolph M. Nesse, Md.
& George C. Williams, Md.

Review by William A. Spriggs
A ground-breaking book as it attempts to convince the general public and the medical profession that approaches to medical maladies as seen through evolutionary perspectives make common sense. This book took courage to write and I applaud the authors for doing so.

Here are a few excellent quotes from the preface:

"Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection as the explanation for the functional design of organisms is the foundation of almost everything in this book.  The discussion centers on the concept of adaptation by natural selection: Adaptations by which we combat pathogens, adaptations of pathogens that counter our adaptations, maladaptive but necessary costs of our adaptations, maladaptative mismatches between our body's design and our current environments, and so on." x.

"In addition to trying to make this book interesting and informative to a wide audience, we have tried to make it a preliminary but scientifically valid guide for physicians and researchers who are asking evolutionary questions in their own areas of expertise." xi.

This book should belong in everyone's library, in particular, all students that have a interest in the medical arts as a future endeavor. Highly recommended.

Vintage Books, Jan. 1996
ISBN: 0679746749

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The Evolution of Desire

by David M. Buss

Paperback - 272 pages (February 1995)
Basic Books; ISBN: 0465021433 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.65 x 7.98 x 5.30

Review by William A. Spriggs
Buss took ten years of research and took three and a half years to write this classic. It will endure as one of the evolutionary greats focusing on gender differences in the mating strategies of the human animal. This book is listed under the keywords: 1.Sex. 2.Sex(Psychology) 3.Sexual attraction, but should have been listed under "evolutionary psychology."

Chapter titles are:

  1. Origins of Mating Behavior
  2. What Women Want
  3. Men Want Something Else
  4. Casual Sex
  5. Attracting a Partner
  6. Staying Together
  7. Sexual Conflict
  8. Breaking Up
  9. Changes Over Time
  10. Harmony Between the Sexes

David Buss is professor of psychology at the University of Texas.  This book should be required reading for all freshmen on every campus on the planet.  It is that good in answering the questions that every generation asks about our sexual mating practices.

Basic Books, 1994
ISBN: 0465021433
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The Mismeasure of Man
by Stephen Jay Gould
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Hardcover Revised edition (June 1996)
W. W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393039722 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.15 x 8.52 x 5.80
Other Editions: Paperback, Audio Cassette

Review by William A. Spriggs
A brilliant book by a brilliant mind. The Harvard paleontologist takes us on a magical mystery tour of all the scientific studies, cranial measurements, IQ tests, and theories that men have developed to enhance their own rank and to belittle selected people as inferior. He three-points them into the toilet where they belong. Destined for greatness. Highly recommended. The new expanded and revised edition contains " The Definitive Refutation to the Argument of the Bell Curve."
Click here to learn more or purchase from is for the hardcover edition. see other edition above)

The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America

Edited by Steven Fraser

Paperback - 216 pages (May 1995)
Basic Books; ISBN: 0465006930 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.53 x 8.00 x 5.30

Review by William A. Spriggs
Twenty essayists gather their thoughts and direct their fury against the book, The Bell Curve.
  The list of contributors and the title of their works are as follows:

"Curveball", by Stephen Jay Gould
"Cracking Open the IQ Box," by Howard Gardner
"Race, IQ, and Scientism," by Richard Nisbett
"The Sources of The Bell Curve," Jeffrey Rosen & Charles Lane
"Paradise Miscalculated," by Dante Ramos
"Ethnicity and IQ," by Thomas Sowell
"Back to the Future with The Bell Curve: Jim Crow, Slavery, and G." by Jacqueline Jones
"Why Now?" by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
 "Caste, Crime, and Precocity," by Andrew Hacker
"Has There Been a Cognitive Revolution in America? The Flawed Sociology of The Bell Curve," by Alan Wolfe.
"Hearts of Darkness," by John B. Judis
"The 'It-Matters-Little' Gambit," by Mickey Kaus
"Scientific Truth and the American Dilemma," by Nathan Glazer
"Equality: An Endangered Faith," by Martin Peretz
"The Lowerers," by Leon Wieseltier
"Devolping the Rage to Win," by Hugh Pearson
"Brave New Right," by Michael Lind
"The Phony War," by Randall Kennedy
"For Whom the Bell Curves,"  by Orlando Patterson

This book is a must read if you are interested in ending prejudice and bigotry in your life..  Highly recommended for all because we must realize that prejudice has also evolved into a higher form and that it now lurks in the highest of places.

Basic Books, 1995
ISBN: 0465006930
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How the Mind Works
By Steven Pinker

Paperback - 660 pages (January 1, 1999)
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393318486 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.26 x 9.23 x 6.13
Other Editions: Audio Cassette (Abridged)

Review by William A. Spriggs
This is a superior work by one of science's premier thinkers.  Nurtured by Tooby and Cosmides, Pinker paints us a brilliant display of the human mind and its relationship in the world around us.  He focuses all things human with evolutionary psychology in a orbit around the human gene.  He writes to us backed by excellence research and spins every tale in a lucid, and with perfect timing, masterful humor.  Destined to be a classic from the old, conservative school of the selfish gene before we enter the new millenium and the new school of bidectional gene + culture school.  Highly recommended.
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(this is for the hardcover edition. see other edition above)

Demonic Males; Apes and the Origins of Human Violence
by Richard Wrangham, Dale Peterson, (Contributor)

Paperback - 350 pages (November 14, 1997)
Houghton Mifflin Co (Pap); ISBN: 0395877431 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.91 x 8.29 x 5.52
Review by William A. Spriggs
Wrangham, the anthropologist from Harvard, gives us a close up look at the Chimpanzee, Gorilla, and Orangutan male aggressive societies. Subjects covered are rape, sexual coercion, and infanticide. Peterson's writing style is eloquent and to the point. They also give us a peek at the violence-free Bonobos, and hint at what to do about male violence. Recommended.
Click here to learn more or purchase from is for the hardcover edition. see other edition above)

The Fossil Trail : How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution
by Ian Tattersall

Hardcover - 276 pages (March 1995)
Oxford Univ. Press; ISBN: 0195061012 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.94 x 9.60 x 6.44
Other Editions: Paperback

Review by William A. Spriggs
A concise and lucid history of paleoanthropology. I would recommend this book for the passion and joy it show alone. Tattersall makes long dead bones come alive. Highly recommended.

Tattersall lives in New York city and is a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, Department of Antropology.
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A Colorful Introduction to the Anatomy of the Human Brain : A Brain and Psychology Coloring Book
byJohn P.J. Pinel, Maggie E. Edwards (Contributor)

Paperback - 240 pages (February 1998)
Allyn & Bacon; ISBN: 0205162991 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.43 x 10.77 x 8.20

Editorial Reviews
From the Back Cover
Key Benefit: Acknowledging the difficulty many readers have when first attempting to learn about the brain's psychological functions, the authors of A Colorful Introduction to the Human Brain have created a book that makes the fascinating world of brain psychology research accessible to readers with little or no background in neuroscience. Key Topics: Readers learn the material in several steps. First they read through the introduction and definitions on the left page; then they color the illustration on the facing page; and finally they use the special cover flap to conceal the illustration labels while checking their knowledge, until they feel they have completely learned the material. Review exercises at the end of each chapter provide an opportunity for self-assessment, with answers provided at the end of the book. Market: The book is ideal for individuals with a desire to pursue an interest in this area. It is also suitable for students taking courses in psychology, biology, or health sciences departments.
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Dealing With Genes: The Language of Heredity

by Paul Berg, & Maxine Singer

From the card catalog description:

Those of us who read a daily newspaper or scan a weekly magazine have grown accustomed to being told that the science of genetics influences countless aspects of our existence, from human development, health, and disease to the ecological balance of our planet. We accept this, and yet most of us have only the faintest idea of what a gene really is or how it functions. This book, then, is a primer on modern genetics, and its aim is to teach any interested general reader all he or she needs to know about how genes work and about how a detailed knowledge of their workings can be applied to some of the most pressing problems of our time. Written by two world-renowned researchers in molecular biology and illustrated with uncommon clarity and precision, Dealing with Genes will satisfy the interest of general readers, including those who have little formal background in biology. It will also serve admirably as an authoritative text for students taking nonmajors courses in biology, genetics, molecular biology, biotechnology, and related disciplines. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. Price: $38.00
University Science Books, Sept. 1992
ISBN: 0935702695
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The Beak of the Finch : A Story of Evolution in Our Time
by Jonathan Weiner

Paperback Reprint edition (June 1995)
Vintage Books; ISBN: 067973337X ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.73 x 7.99 x 5.20

Other editions: Hardcover
Review by William A. Spriggs
This 1995 Pulitzer Prize-winning book details the work of two Princeton University evolutionary biologists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, as they detail the Darwin Finches of the Galapagos Islands. To a believer of evolution, this book reconfirms everything that you believe, and makes all the hard hours of study worth it as the Grant's observe evolution in real time.  As relaxing to read as a pair of old slippers. Highly recommended.
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The Woman That Never Evolved
By Sarah Blaffer Hrdy


Review by William A. Spriggs
A refreshing view of the female sexual evolution from a female point of view.   Written when she was a graduate student at Harvard in 1983, Ms. Hrdy should be required reading for all males who study psychology in any form.  Recommended.
Paperback - 276 pages Reprint edition (November 1999)
Harvard Univ Pr; ISBN: 0674955390
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Copyright, Evolution's Voyage, 1995 - 2009