Laura Betzig
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Human Nature

Human Nature: A Critical Reader

From the back cover:

“Betzig has put together an exciting and authentic picture of current evolutionary studies of human behavior, and of both their triumphs and pitfalls. Anyone with any interest in Betzig’s big questions, ‘where we came from, why we’re here, and who we are,’ ought to read this book. Its organization and juxtaposed selections make it thought-provoking in a way reminiscent of the classic dialogues of Socrates, Galileo, and Hume. It is an ideal way to introduce students to recent progress in the biology of human behavior.”

—George Williams, State University of New York

“The tabula of human nature was never rasa and it is now being read. The inscription found is no dogma or world system and it bids to build no empire whose later painful collapse will sweep it away. Darwinist and self-critical, data-based from pole to tropic and from gamete to despot, the text is the science of a young and growing army. The book is their story and it shows what we are universally like—and above all, it explains why. Thirty years ago I had no idea that a critique I had a hand in could reach so far into the human sphere and explain so much. To the romantic that I was then, it’s depressing that it can; to me now, on the whole, it’s inspiring.”

—Bill Hamilton, Oxford University

Human Reproductive Behavior

Human Reproductive Behaviour: A Darwinian perspective

From the reviews:

"This may, with luck, be a pivotal book."

- Virginia Maiorana, University of Chicago

"This volume shows how far sociobiology has come, moving in about twenty years from theory-building to hypothesis-testing in human populations.…Given the data in this volume, it becomes difficult to dismiss sociobiology."

- Virginia Avernethy, Vanderbilt

"Honest scientists must face their critics and answer the sceptics. It is therefore the responsibility of those who endorse a biological or evolutionary approach to human behavioral patterns to support their argument; the burden of proof always lies with new ideas, theories, or frameworks. *Human Reproductive Behavior* does just that. It is a major step in substantiating an evolutionary influence on human behavior."

- Meredith Small, Cornell

Despotism and Differential Reproduction: A Darwinian View of History


Despotism and Differential Reproduction: A Darwinian View of History

From the inside flap:

“This book is an important exploration of the biological meaning of injustice. Confirming pessimists’ views of the universal abuse of power for personal ends, this work provides initial verification for an explanation of that abuse, beyond ‘human nature’ or economic gain, as the consequence of Darwinian competition for the increase of one’s offspring and their descendants. In demonstrating the power of this approach against alternative explanations, Betzig makes a significant contribution to the emerging neo-Darwinian analysis of large-scale, stratified societies.”

— Mildred Dickemann, Sonoma State University

“Laura Betzig has written a pioneering book, one of the first that applies modern evolutionary theory from the science of biology to the cross-cultural data form human history. The topic, despotism, is central: does power translate as reproductive success in the social environments of history? The answer is yes, delivered in a spare but lively journalistic style.”

— Richard Alexander, University of Michigan

A compelling and most appropriate application of Darwinian theory to an important question in the history of political society. Dr. Betzig has provided an important challenge in this lucid, well-documented analysis of the powerful. Her study shows how, throughout human history, political status has generally translated itself into extraordinary reproductive success, and the circumstances under which it changes in the process of democratization.”

— Napoleon Chagnon, University of California

Despotism and Differential Reproduction: A Darwinian View of History


Eusociality in History
Human Nature: An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective

From the overview:

“From the beginning of human evolution to the beginning of history, H. sapiens has spanned the eusociality continuum. At the low end of the continuum, we’ve been cooperative breeders. Helpers have included our sisters and brothers, who occasionally put off starting their own families in order to help their parents reproduce. And at the high end of the continuum, we’ve been eusocial, or “truly” social. Sterile workers—from postreproductive grandmothers in the first foraging societies to castrated civil servants in the first states—have fed and defended other people’s daughters and sons.”


Despotism and Differential Reproduction: A Darwinian View of History


Darwinian History
Ethology and Sociobiology

From the introduction:

“People within and across societies often do respond to their environments adaptively. They don’t always: there are some puzzles. But, to me, sex and marriage in ancient Rome, nepotism in medieval nunneries, wet nursing and other kinds of “delegated mothering” across European history, family planning in early modern Sweden and Norway, inheritance in Sacramento, and men’s tastes for thin American women, are all in some ways better understood as individuals’ means to reproductive ends.”


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Copyright © 2003-08 Laura L. Betzig. All rights reserved. Information in this document is subject to change without notice.