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Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  138 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
Why do we behave the way we do? Biologist Paul Ehrlich suggests that although people share a common genetic code, these genes "do not shout commands at the very most, they whisper suggestions." He argues that human nature is not so much result of genetic coding; rather, it is heavily influenced by cultural conditioning and environmental factors. With personal anecd ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published December 31st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published 2000)
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Bob Nichols
For Ehrlich, there is no biological human nature. Rather, human nature is formed by culture and it is pluralized to reflect our great diversity. Ehrlich gives a nod to our biological being (food, sex, and some genetic-based diseases). He grants the power of the genotype but then states that it is transformed, most meaningfully, by culture. Appropriately, he reacts negatively to extreme biological determinism but he goes to the opposite extreme by dismissing any fundamental role for biology to ex ...more
Steven Williams
Dec 24, 2015 Steven Williams rated it really liked it
A very servicable book on what “human natures” consist of, and where they came from. Ehrlich believes that humans do not just have one nature, but being highly complex, have multiple natures. His one big point through out the book was that the genetic component to human natures rarely acts without environmental impact. This got me to thinking that even from the beginning DNA interacts within the environment of the cell. Another point he makes is that there just aren't enough of genes to dictate ...more
Jun 05, 2015 Justin rated it liked it
Well written and extremely cogent. However, if you've already read Guns, Germs and Steel, The Blind Watchmaker, and anything by Steven Pinker, you will probably not learn anything new beyond the second chapter.
Aug 07, 2011 Ron rated it it was amazing
Ehrlich wrote numerous histrionic books in the 70s that garnered mass sales and proved to be (mostly) untrue. Time--and perhaps an association with the thoughtful Jared Diamond at UCLA--has mellowed him quite a bit, and he has written one of the best overviews of cultural anthropology ever published. He examines all the typical topics--sex, gender, violence, culture--and does so in a very well written and accessible work.
Nov 07, 2007 mandagram rated it liked it
Thus far it delves a lot into man's evolutionary path re: creating our many different cultures and "natures". The author argues that human nature is a flowing, changing, and plural concept rather than the traditional view of human nature being all inclusive or stagnant.

Ok...halfway thru book got a bit boring and repetitive. Have set it down for now, but may return to it later.

Mar 25, 2013 Josh rated it really liked it
This book is brimming with information on evolution - cultural and biological - that your lay scientist cannot afford to miss out on. My only complaint is that, if you've read up on these topics to any significant degree prior to this book, you won't find much new here. In summary, this is great for beginners - not so much for intermediates or higher.
John Petersen
Aug 01, 2012 John Petersen rated it it was amazing
A great book. The author provides an update of fossil record that fills in many of what were considered to be missing links. Then based on the updated family tree and fossil records he describes how the human evolutionary past has influenced our current behavior in such areas as; religion, ethics, the environment, etc.
Oct 28, 2008 Greg rated it liked it
Ehrlich comes at you from a lot of places: history, anthropology, biology, economics, psychology, etc. Even if at times it doesn't seem like the most tightly-written book, there's tons of interesting information and stories. If you don't know anything about evolution, it's a great place to start.
Sep 11, 2008 Bridgett rated it it was ok
Shelves: school
a tedious read at times, but also full of some interesting insights and ideas.
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Paul Ralph Ehrlich is an American biologist and educator who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies), but he is better known as an ecologist and a demographer, specifically for his warnings about ...more
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“Trying to separate the contributions of nature and nurture to an attribute is rather like trying to separate the contributions of length and width to the area of a rectangle, which at first glance also seems easy. When you think about it carefully, though, it proves impossible.” 7 likes
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