Lisa's Reviews > The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

The Red Queen by Matt Ridley
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's review
Apr 24, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, science
Read from April 20 to 24, 2012

First two thirds of the book were good, although its date is starting to show in places. (Twenty years is a long time in science.) Then I got to the chapter 'Sexing The Mind' and almost threw the book across the room. Plenty of fallacies, mostly having to do with the invisibility of the female experience to male scientists who are, consciously or not, invested in preserving the status quo- in which male access to enormous amounts of unpaid female labor in childrearing, cooking, and cleaning is enormously beneficial to males. (At one point I felt like screaming at the author that spatial navigation skills would be just as important to gatherers as to hunters. You still have to know where things are to bring them home. This is just common sense!) The author also plays down the influence of culture- nature is clearly the driver, not nurture, in Ridley's worldview, and he pooh-poohs the ongoing debate as overblown. Girls don't try to break into male dominated professions (to borrow one of the author's examples, auto mechanics) because they just don't like those things, not because men would ever be dicks when defending the boys' club. The author's assertions fly in the face of both personal experience and more recent investigation into the often subtle and invidious effects of gender bias in the workplace. In short, when the author is on firm biology ground, the book is fairly good. When he strays into sociobiology, pyschology, or worst of all evo psych, things become far more dubious.
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