Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution "People are now being joined into a global human society. Only a few of us so far live among the interlinked elite. All, however, are affected. It is not possible to opt out. A society that you cannot secede from is in some ways like an organism. The more the world integrates, the more our society becomes like a living thing. What to say about Lucy's Legacy? Generally I come away from a book with some fairly strong opinions.
This book on the other hand was rather ho-hum. It didn't strike me as particularly good or bad in total. Although I could see how someone who was not familiar with the topics discussed would find Lucy's Legacy to be quite good, thought-provoking, and entertaining.
Those well read in the fields of evolution and sociobiology won't find too many new ideas. Jolly essentially combines the studies and thoughts of numerous other individuals into one, very readable, whole. A wide range of interesting territory is covered. Why is sex fun?
Why do males and females of various species including ours exhibit the sexual characteristics that they do? Why did sex become a part of evolution to begin with? What is sexual selection, and how does it work?
Are there distinct, rigid genders, or is an organism's gender just a point along a continuum that is possibly subject to change over time and individual development? What causes favor ed the evolution of intelligence? All these good questions and many more of a similar nature are explored. Chapter 6 and the section near the end suggesting that the rich should be politically forced to give away more of their wealth than is required by the current progressive tax systems doesn't fit in as well together as the rest of the book.
It deals mostly with Haraway's controversial book from Much of the chapter is a rehash of the book review Jolly wrote in for New Scientist. Jolly is much kinder to Haraway than other scientists and primatologists. Not having read Haraway, myself, I can't comment on who is likely to be more on target. Likewise, most readers probably haven't either.
I've never quite understood why so many authors like to toss a book review into the middle of their book. It would make more sense if the book being reviewed was nearly universally known. Otherwise it just seems like the review is shoved in to fill space. A point that Jolly makes over and over again is how even though our genes are "selfish" , cooperation and altruism play key roles in the success of our genes.
This point has been made by every author I have read who emphasizes the selfish nature of genes. Again, there is nothing really new here. I recommend Lucy's Legacy if you haven't already read several books that discuss the above questions. Veterans of the field may still find plenty to interest them. And if it is alive, we suspect it has intentions--the stuck automobile, the purring pussycat, the automatic bank teller, the thunderstorm.
In the beginning of this book, I talked about our conviction that nature itself has purposes: Alison Jolly believes that biologists have an important story to tell about being human--not the all-too-familiar tale of selfishness, competition, and biology as destiny but rather one of cooperation and interdependence, from the first merging of molecules to the rise of a species inextricably linked by language, culture, and group living.
This is the story that unfolds in Lucy's Legacy, the saga of human evolution as told by a world-renowned primatologist who works among the female-dominant ringtailed lemurs of Madagascar. We cannot be certain that Lucy was female--the bones themselves do not tell us.
However, we do know, as Jolly points out in this erudite, funny, and informative book, that the females who came after Lucy--more adept than their males in verbal facility, sharing food, forging links between generations, migrating among places and groups, and devising creative mating strategies--played as crucial a role in the human evolutionary process as "man" ever did.
In a book that takes us from the first cell to global society, Jolly shows us that to learn where we came from and where we go next, we need to understand how sex and intelligence, cooperation and love, emerged from the harsh Darwinian struggle in the past, and how these natural powers may continue to evolve in the future.