[LMB] The Red Queen

Harimad harimad2001 at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 24 00:33:25 BST 2007

Herself writes:
> My random read for the weekend was Matt Ridley's _The Red 
> Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature_, bio-
> evolutionary stuff.  Vastly entertaining -- far more of a
> page-turner than the last novel I read -- but, I note, it
> dates from the early 90's, therefore represents thinking
> and information from biology only up through the late 80's
> or so. And biology has been moving pretty fast the past 15
> years.  The basic version of his theory (recounted/
>popularized, not invented; he's more journalist than working
> scientist), that sex in general is a strategy in  an arms
> race between organisms and their pathogens and parasites,
> I find highly convincing.  He seems on shakier ground when
> extending it to modern sexual politics.  Not that he's
> necessarily wrong, but I thought his thinking very guy-
>centric.  The chapter about the nature of men seemed to be
> all about men, very good -- but so did the chapter about
> the nature of women, as though he could not make the conceptual
> leap of thinking himself into the bodies, brains, and dilemmas
> of the other sex, and instead inclined to default to cliches,
> for the most part.  A hazard of such a general discussion, but
> still.
> Any biologists or biology fans on the list read this one, and
> what did you think?  Is there something newer/faster/better to
> be read? 

I read it when it first came out.  I found evolutionary biology
interesting and anyone who was a science writer for The Economist is
a good enough science writer for me.

I liked it.  I liked the thought process, the then-new idea of sex as
a race between critters and pathogens, and how carefully he laid out
analogies between animals and humans.  I haven't had the chance to
reread the book in light of newer trains of thought or in light of
newer outlooks of mine.  I'd like to reread it but there are so many
books I want to read that I haven't read even once, including both of
Ridley's later books.  

One of the books I haven't read even one is "Alas, Poor Darwin" ed by
Hilary and Steven Rose, which is a response to evolutionary
psychology, a pool into which Ridley dips a toe in "The Red Queen." 
Has anyone read it?

- Harimad

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