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The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
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The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  12,695 Ratings  ·  491 Reviews
Referring to Lewis Carroll's Red Queen from Through the Looking-Glass, a character who has to keep running to stay in the same place, Matt Ridley demonstrates why sex is humanity's best strategy for outwitting its constantly mutating internal predators. The Red Queen answers dozens of other riddles of human nature and culture -- including why men propose marriage, the meth ...more
Paperback, 405 pages
Published April 29th 2003 by Harper Perennial (HarperCollins) (first published October 1993)
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Oct 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who has no idea why they fall in love with the wrong person
Things I learned from this book: (human) women like tall men, (human) men like beautiful women, (barn swallow) women like men with long, symmetrical tails, gentlemen prefer blondes, sperm are small because they made a dastardly deal with nature, gender exists (and there are two of them) essentially as an accidental by-product of a primordial genetic arms race, why (we think) that we (or anything else) has sex (as opposed to splitting in half or excanging packets of DNA), why roosters have wattle ...more
Jennifer Arlene
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Coming out of pre-veterinary medicine and a slew of genetics classes, I can say that nothing in this book is particularly mind-blowing... except the hubris. The author has drawn up a laundry list of assumptions about all of humanity and left out a good deal of its subjects. As a scientist or, at the very least, as a lover of science... the references were interesting enough to keep me reading. But as someone with sexual awareness, a hesitancy to polarize gender and sexuality, and my own idea of ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: en, non-fiction, z-lib
What could have shaped the human mind is an endlessly interesting subject, no question about that. Speculating about contributions of the genes, nature, nurture, culture is fun, as much as getting a new perspective on what has always seemed "obvious". Still, I did not like this book as much as I probably would, had it a bit less of sheer speculations. Some readers praise Ridley for objectively presenting to them so many different and often contradictory theories. When discussions are heated, it ...more
Jul 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
This was one of those books that I bought because I was sucked in by the title and the cover. Plus I thought, hey that's kinda out of my comfort zone, I'd like to push myself to read something new and possibly difficult to understand.

I couldn't make it past the first chapter, so I read the end in hopes to find what his conclusion is and its we are all apes in the end. I find that rather depressing and quite hard to believe. I find it hard to swallow that we are only biological animals who are dr
Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jason by: Heather
Well, I had hoped to write this review closer to having read the book, but I'll write this anyway, just without some of the examples I was hoping to remember.

Roughly the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the books covers the different explanations for why sex arose and the mating habits of various non-human species. One thing that is great about this book is it will relate a theory, then an insufficiency in the theory, then a counter theory, then additional findings, and back and forth and so on. If there isn
Ana Rînceanu
This is really well written, but I just can't really wrap my head around the themes of sexuality in this book, especially as it concerns the idea of gender. Also I don't really trust men of science who can write things like "boys are better in math than girls" or "girls are better at linguistic tasks" as if they are universal truths instead of biased theories.
Alex ☣ Deranged KittyCat ☣
How much more generous it would be if, instead of writing parables about childhood wounds, psychologists were to accept that some differences between the sexes just are, that they are in the nature of the beasts, because each sex has an evolved tendency to develop that way in response to experience.

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature is a very accessible book. It is easy to read, follow and understand.

After reading this book, you will never look the same at a cheating spouse,
Nikolas Alixopulos
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and recommend it highly. Some may see it as a cynical view of human nature, however I found it to be an engaging and convincing one.  My favorite quote from this book sums up the totality of the text for me: "...the choosiness in human beings in picking their mates has driven the human mind into a frenzied expansion for no reason except that wit, virtuosity,inventiveness, and individuality turn people on. It is a somewhat less uplifting perspective on the purpose of humanity ...more
Nick Davies
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This was an interesting exploration of the reasons for sexual reproduction in many organisms, as well as then discussing the science with relation to human sexuality and sociology. Ridley makes good thorough use of a broad range of research findings in the area, discussing these with (mainly) even-handedness and a breadth of illustrative examples. The central theme relates to the importance of sexual reproduction in protection from disease and in best perpetuating our genes. It's an educational ...more
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
کتاب رو ک خوندم افسرده شدم، آدم ناامید میشه ک برای پیدا کردن جنس مخالف این قدر باید تویه ی فضای رقابتی قرار بگیری
فصل هشتم و نهم کتاب رو دوست داشتم بقیه اش چرت و پرت های این دانشمندهای حوزهی میمون شناسی و اولوشن بود، بدرد من این همه علم خشک نمیخوره

لب کتاب تویه فصل آخرش اینه که اگر پیدا کردن جنس مخالف یه بازی باشه که هر کسی شماره ای رو پیشونیش باشه و شماره ی خودش رو ندونه و بهش بگند که برو دنبال شماره های بالاتر و با اون جفتی پیدا کن بعد یه مدتی اونی که روی پیشونیش نوشته 1 میخواد بره با 1000 دوست
Juan Pablo
As I was reading the first chapter, I kept thinking I was embarking on something written by a geek giggling at the word "sex"; I don't think I was entirely wrong, but if there was any giggling from the author at the mention of sex, it was for truly fascinating reasons.

I disliked the first chapter: anything titled "Human Nature" in this day and age seems preposterous. I kept on reading, nevertheless, hoping I'd find salvageable bits from this.

I was absolutely enraptured by chapter three, at which
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
I really wanted to love this book. It was a fun and at times thorough overview of human sexuality. I do have some complaints about it, however.

First, the author seemed extremely out of touch with society and came across as a very typical privileged white male in his views. It was painful to read sometimes when he'd go on about how women can do whatever they want these days with no limitations! Painful.

Second, I especially disliked his lambasting of feminism as being completely wrong due to som
Aaron Arnold
May 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, read-in-2012
I might have rated this more highly if I hadn't just come off a spate of reading very similar and slightly better works that incorporate much of its content in pithier form (Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works, though those were both written afterwards), yet its central metaphor of sexual selection as arms race is compelling enough that I finished it alongside the superior Dennett and Pinker books anyway. The "red queen" of the title is derived from th ...more
Mark Colenutt
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Matt Ridley was educated at Oxford and is a journalistic scientist, which means he is able to translate the more complicated scientific breakthroughs and understandings to the wider public in a clear and succinct manner.

Almost anything he has written, including his Guardian articles, are worthy of a reader's time. This particuar publication is a mind blowing look at evolutionary biology from the origin and end game of sex in our cultural and genetic lives.

There are many books on this topic but f
May 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
My God, I loved this book. Extremely accessible, yet very substantial. I don't think I can ever think about sex or human nature the same way. I feel that this is one of those seminal books that a person can't go back from.

And it certainly does make it strange to go to a party and watch all the humans hooking up.
Mohamed al-Jamri
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
الملكة الحمراء من تأليف مات ريدلي

هذا الكتاب يسبق الرواية التي تحمل نفس الإسم بأكثر من عشرين سنة، وهو كتاب علمي يتحدث عن أسباب تطور الطبيعة البشرية أو الفطرة، ويقوم بربطها بتطور الجنس. .

فلماذا تطور الجنس أصلًا؟ أليس التكاثر اللاجنسي أفضل للكائنات الحية، حيث يمتلك الأبناء نفس جينات الأمهات بنسبة 100% بدلًا عن 50% في التكاثر الجنسي؟ ولماذا هناك جنسان فقط بدل ثلاثة أو أربعة؟ ما العلاقة بين التطور الجنسي وبين طبيعة النفس البشرية ومشاعر الغيرة، الرغبة في التعدد والخيانات الزوجية؟ وهل هناك ارتباط لتطور
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: big-brained sexy apes
an exposition of the basic idea that 'man is a self-domesticated animal', only far more interesting and accessible than that sounds. matt ridley tackles the question of why human beings reproduce sexually- you'd think the answer'd be 'because it's fun!', but you'd be wrong- when in the race for genes to reproduce themselves in mass quantities, asexual reproduction is more efficient and a more certain success, numbers-wise.

the general answer has to do with parasites, and with the idea that like
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The Red Queen theory stems from the Queen in Alice in Wonderland who runs and runs but stays in the same place. She never gets any further because the world is moving with her.
Genes change their locks to combat parasites and parasites make new keys. They prey is always one step faster that the predator. “Sex, according to the Red Queen theory, has nothing to do with adapting to the inanimate world—becoming bigger or better camouflaged or more tolerant of cold or better at flying—but is all abou
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology, non-fiction
I learned a lot from this book.
The thesis is that much of human intelligence is a result of a sex-selection arms race.
As a background, we are asked basic questions like, "why sex"?
Ridley does a good job quantifying this question and providing an honest, if uncertain answer.
The short answer is, the perpetual arms races with viruses and parasites makes sex worth the cost.
That cost can be as large as the Peacock's tail feathers, or the giant human brain.
In the case of the human brain, the battle of
Sep 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
Since this is a science book it is troubling that this doesn't follow the scientific method. Frequently topics are not developed logically leading to confusing and odd sentences.
Some interesting propositions -- read for a lark.
David Joseph
Dec 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: everything-else
This was like being in a work release program with an educated half-wit.
Very questionable reasoning throughout.

Aug 27, 2009 added it
Nothing sexier than reading about about the genetic reasoning behind objectifying the opposite sex, that's what I always say.
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I didn't give five stars because I found this book something of a slog in the beginning.

To make his case, it's necessary for Ridley to give an account of what has been found true of animal behavior before moving on to relate it to the most familiar animal, man. These accounts of the sex lives of birds and mammals and so on are rather dull to me.

But stick with it! The book gets more interesting until it becomes absolutely fascinating with the chapter "Sexing the Mind". From that point on I was ha
Morgan Blackledge
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Would you like to more thoroughly understand why people are the way they are and why they do the crazy shit they do? If so, this book would be a great place to start. It's one of those ridiculously insight inducing reads. It's also one of those books that you absolutely can not judge by its cover. Or by its first and last chapters. Curious? Than by all means read on.

One of the things that put me off of the book (before I actually read it) was the title The Red Queen. I'm dreadfully embarrassed
Tanja Berg
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, evolution
This book one star deducted because of the long-winded introduction. I almost added it at the end though, because that was so brilliant. This is a lucid, immensely readable book about the evolutinary foundation of human nature. It starts out with animals and covers much the same ground as "the Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins that I read not long ago. However, it as soon as it moves into the deeper waters of human nature it becomes vastly more interesting.

Humang beings are just another animal sp
Parker F
Feb 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book on my favorite topic. The author refreshingly acknowledges that half of the theories he espouses in the book are likely to be wrong; for instance, I am highly skeptical of Ridley's theory that human large-brainedness arose from runaway sexual selection favoring cute, disproportionately large heads. Nonetheless, I have no good reason to doubt this, and, as Ridley notes, all arguments of runaway sexual selection involve somewhat circular reasoning. I was fond of Ridley's literar ...more
Angela Juline
Oct 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
SOOO glad to be done with this book! I don't understand how it has such a high rating. My uncle sent it to my daughter, so I wanted to read it first. I'd let her read it, but I don't know why she would want to. He states a theory, and then loves to say, but, wait, in the black tailed, orange-rimmed sage grouse, the opposite happens. It's annoying how he picks out a totally obscure animal/insect/bacteria to prove the theory has flaws. Clearly, he has done an amazing amount of research - but to wh ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Apr 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This was an absolutely fantastic book. I love this author! The questions posed in the work are terribly to the point. Why do we have two sexes? Why not perform Asexual reproduction as many plant species do? What are the genetic, and social functions of sex from an evolutionary standpoint? I remember wondering about this very thing when studying botany in college. How did we evolve to be a diplontic species? (I want to be a dikaryotic fungus by the way... yes I did go there). Basically if you lov ...more
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is Evo Psych masquerading as hard science. It is sometimes dense and technical, sometimes defensive and condescending. There is some well-researched science, some reasonable observations, and some logical conclusions, but they are so inextricably tangled with sweeping generalizations, correlations misinterpreted as causations, and ambiguous data presented as certainty as to render the whole mess too annoying to read. I gave up with about 70 pages to go. Life is too short, and surely there i ...more
Anthony Bello
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, science
The author attempts to avoid heteronormativity and sexism and fails outright. Only the first half of the book is worth reading; I got to learn about all different strategies that nature uses for sexual and asexual reproduction and different biological applications of game theory. Past that, the rest merely reeks of essentializing Victorianism. The first half of the book will endure; the second half is already dated.
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Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley DL FRSL FMedSci (born 7 February 1958, in Northumberland) is an English science writer, businessman and aristocrat. Ridley was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a doctorate in zoology before commencing a career in journalism. Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington cor ...more
More about Matt Ridley
“Life is a Sisyphean race, run ever faster toward a finish line that is merely the start of the next race” 22 likes
“Half the ideas in this book are probably wrong.” 15 likes
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