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The Moral Animal


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About the Author

Robert Wright is the bestselling author of Three Scientists and Their Gods, The Moral Animal, Nonzero, and, most recently, The Evolution of God, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages and his awards include the National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism. A contributing editor for The New Republic, Wright has also written for The Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, Time, and Slate.com. He is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and editor in chief of the website Bloggingheads.tv. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife and their two daughters.


The new field of evolutionary psychology-which seeks to explain human behavior, thought and emotions in terms of Darwinian evolution-finds its most articulate exponent in Wright (Three Scientists and Their Gods). In attempting to unravel the evolutionary logic behind friendship, romance, xenophobia, racism, sibling rivalry and so forth, Wright leavens his presentation with wit and humor, interlacing a biographical profile of Charles Darwin, whose marriage, sex life, personal tragedies and travels in turn are thrust in a neo-Darwinian light. Wright, a New Republic senior editor, holds that altruism and conscience did not evolve for the overall good of the species; on the contrary, we deploy the moral sentiments with brutal, flexible self-interest, surrounding our actions in an often delusionary aura of rightness. However, the prevalence of serial monogamy, he says, is the worst of all possible arrangements because it massively squanders love, the most precious evolutionary resource. This is the most sophisticated, in-depth exploration to date of the new Darwinian thinking. Photos. (Sept.)

In the past 25 years, a new model of human behavior has arisen. Originally termed sociobiology (a term that fell out of favor when its early proponents were labeled neo-Social Darwinists), this model seeks to apply evolutionary theory to human behavior. Wright (Three Scientists and Their Gods, LJ 8/88) does a fine job of explaining the current state of sociobiological theory and illustrates its tenets in an unusual way-by applying them to the life of Charles Darwin himself. Answering some critics, Wright argues that the evolutionary paradigm is not at all incompatible with support of religious or moral codes, liberal political agendas, or women's rights. Wright has written a fine state-of-the-art introduction to this increasingly important model of human psychology. Highly recommended as a single source on the topic for small libraries and as an addition for larger libraries needing to update their holdings in this still-developing area.-Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, Wa.

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