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The bad news is that science has enabled an entirely new level of violence with weapons of mass destruction. The authors are optimistic that we can be smarter than our ancestors. Men can choose to stop abusing women for hegemony, stop blindly adhering to religious doctrine, allow women control of their reproduction, and start reacting to threatening situations with more judiciousness and less bravado. After all, men don't really want to kill each other, as this example from Chapter 4 proves: Ninety percent were loaded and one musket had twenty-three powder charges and pieces of shot.

How many men were killed before they could pull the trigger, and how many could not bring themselves to fire on an enemy that had been, until the start of war, part of their national ingroup? Nov 16, Erika rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: The big idea of this book is that human evolutionary biology helps explain why human beings - almost alone in the animal kingdom - organize groups that go out and intentionally kill other members of our species.

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Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World

But this doesn't mean we are condemned to fight each other endlessly; in fact there are a few major things we could do to stop global violence - such as giving people access to family planning all around the world. The authors - one of whom is my husband, journalist Thomas Hayden - draw o The big idea of this book is that human evolutionary biology helps explain why human beings - almost alone in the animal kingdom - organize groups that go out and intentionally kill other members of our species.

The authors - one of whom is my husband, journalist Thomas Hayden - draw on evidence and examples from history, animal behavior studies, and personal experience to make their case, and the lively, broad-ranging nature of their discussion is the real strength of the book. The authors visit all kinds of places in world history, from chimpanzee raids in Africa to family planning clinics in Bangladesh and the battlefields of ancient Greece.

They use their case studies and examples to argue that human males have a genetic predisposition to engage in what they call "team aggression" - the destructive behavor that can lead to war and terrorism. But the authors are not genetic determinists; they do not believe this means men must always behave this way.

They acknowledge that men inherit other, competing drives, as do women, and that by giving women a larger voice in society we can moderate the violence. That's the link to family planning; without the ability to decide when to have children, the authors argue, it's difficult for women to play an equal role in their families and communities. It's an interesting and provocative argument. And I found some of the book's examples of the destabiliing effects of unchecked population growth very telling - for instance, in the recent eruption of violence in Kenya.

But whether you agree or disagree with the authors' ideas, the book is a fascinating read, thanks to its wealth of examples and its engaging, reasonable tone. I wish there were more books like this - adventurous and well-written, integrating all kinds of information from so many areas of human knowledge and applying them to seemingly intractable problems.

I know I'm biased, but Tom is a seriously talented writer and he has done a beautiful job with this book. And his coauthor, Malcolm Potts, is venturing into territory broached by far too few scientists, by trying to synthesize his own expertise with other types of human knowledge to better understand the world. Together they have written a far-reaching and engrossing work that will change the way you think about humanity. View all 3 comments.

Sex and War is about -- wait for it! In this book the authors attempts to prove that all our violent tendencies were inherited from way back yonder. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a fast and interesting and, as such, I feel rather bad at giving it three stars. I couldn't give it more because the research was just terrible. It's so utterly terrible that it makes the read of this book so fun. I kept thinking "what batshit crazy thing are they going to throw Sex and War is about -- wait for it!

I kept thinking "what batshit crazy thing are they going to throw out next? They'll start a topic of discussion and throw out really random and useless bit of information that everyone probably knows already such as, men are more violent than women. That's for informing me There isn't a whole lot of actual scientific information in this book. It's almost totally anecdotal information.

It's mostly a authors state what they believe, b give "proof" in random and generally known stories, c throw in some really wild idea that is not supported by the above and never discussed again afterward before they d give you such an extreme and insane example of this crazy theory that it makes your head spin.

Off the top of my head, in a section about male violence, they tell the tale of two friends at the bar. A police officer comes up to the lady and annoys her. The trio run into each other later on and finally the cop pisses the woman's friend off. The man beats the cop into unconsciousness and then flips him onto his back, straddles his chest, and sucks the cops eye ball out. He popped the eye with his teeth. This is a billed by the authors as a typical example of male aggression. I couldn't help but think: Well, there are now more men than women alive today and yet I almost never see a person that doesn't have a eye.

Feb 07, Meen marked it as to-read Recommended to Meen by: Shambhala Sun on Facebook. From an interview with the author in Shambhala Sun on Facebook: When women can control their own fertility, family size begins to fall From an interview with the author in Shambhala Sun on Facebook: When women can control their own fertility, family size begins to fall. Throughout the world there is plenty of demand for family planning on the part of women, but the evolved male drive to control female reproduction often stands in the way.

Male theologians, male legislators, and conservative male doctors create and maintain the barriers to family planning. All in all, then, energetic efforts at empowerment of women will mitigate the effects of the warring nature we have inherited. Peace breaks out when women have more control over their bodies and more influence in their societies. Mar 08, Bruce Sanders rated it really liked it. This is a careful work in evolutionary psychology. It makes the case that same species outgroup team aggression by males is an inherent characteristic of Homo sapiens.

It spends a lot of time comparing this phenomenon in humans with a similar phenomenon reported in chimpanzees.

It also contrasts the human phenomenon with the much more pacific bonobo to make the case that there are things humans can do to mitigate this response. A major mitigating response to our tendency to go to war is to empow This is a careful work in evolutionary psychology. A major mitigating response to our tendency to go to war is to empower women in a variety of ways.

Another is to reduce population growth so that a society's population demographic has a higher percentage of older people and a lower percentage of young adult males. The book does not deny the importance of culture though it does a good job of torpedoing the Social Science Standard Model caricature. Personal anecdotes by the main author do a good job of adding a sense of concreteness to the arguments. Neither the thesis nor the synergy is new. The authors acknowledge that the book is a followup to Demonic Males. All and all this is a book that social scientists interested in this subject need to read.

Jan 25, Molly rated it it was amazing. He's obviously at least partly responsible for this thoughtful read. It's interesting the link they propose between women and ending warfare - I won't spoil it for you, but I can think of another very different book I read about the roots of violence that failed to address women intelligently at all, so this was really refreshing.

I've had some great discussions about this book's ideas with people who don't I've had some great discussions about this book's ideas with people who don't read enough, so if you read, it's well worth your time. Dec 27, Tom Sulcer rated it it was amazing. Sex and War is an insightful look at male humans behaving badly in sex and war, particularly fun to read if you're a guy into history and war and sex.

But I wouldn't characterize this book as groundbreaking, but rather as a helpful reminder of our evolutionary ancestry and an intelligent rehashing of some fairly widely accepted ideas. At times it overreaches, claiming to offer a solution to the problem of terrorism, and while it provides some helpful thinking as well as possibly helpful foreign Sex and War is an insightful look at male humans behaving badly in sex and war, particularly fun to read if you're a guy into history and war and sex.

At times it overreaches, claiming to offer a solution to the problem of terrorism, and while it provides some helpful thinking as well as possibly helpful foreign policy suggestions, this book does not offer a "path to a safer world" as the subtitle promises. The authors build from a model of chimp aggression, showing how bands of young male chimpanzees raid rivals' territories, and how this is beneficial biologically.

They build on a Darwinian model of survival of the fittest -- successful gangs get to promulgate their seed whether by raping conquered women or surviving to inseminate women from their own tribe. The authors extrapolate from chimp to human behavior, to tribal war, to street gangs, to large-scale warfare with underreported systemic raping, to suicidal terrorists. What's fun is watching the authors try to maintain a neutral academic tone when describing battles and raids and other guy stuff, but their affection for this stuff keeps bursting through.

This is a masculine book, but with a pro-feminine agenda?

by Malcom Potts & Thomas Hayden

The authors notice over-population is often a factor in war, particularly when there are surplus numbers of young, unemployed males. This leads them later to suggest that helping unstable nations lower their birth rates through planned parenting, birth control, and abortion would have a long term positive effect in reducing the risk of war and terrorism.

They have a point. And the authors have a good handle on why men go to war, why they're willing to risk death on distant battlefields, how courage glues them to defend their buddies, how it becomes permissible to kill enemies of an "out-group" because they've been reduced cognitively to nameless targets. And the authors correctly point out that rarely in history have women been combatants, and shows the sexual links here.

My sense is these ideas are generally correct but not ground-breaking. The middle section is more scattered, without a central focus but it allow the authors to show off their extensive knowledge of how sex and biology and war interrelate with government, religion, crime, technology, slavery, and disease and so forth. And here the author's world-wise expertise and wide-ranging knowledge shows to good effect.

The book meanders into their thinking of how to avoid war and prevent terrorism, which offers some worthy points but which tend to be somewhat left-leaning, feminist-oriented, somewhat naive. These are worthwhile proposals which may, indeed, help lessen the chance of war and reduce a long term risk of terrorism. But here the authors have wandered into a problem which they think they understand, but don't. They think they've figured out how to prevent terrorism. But don't take my word.


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Check out my book on Amazon. It's "Common Sense II: How to Prevent the Three Types of Terrorism". It prevents smuggled nuclear bombs and all other types. Theirs is a typical mistake made by intellectuals who think they can apply their far-reaching and considerable expertise to a dangerous problem, but their expertise blinds them, and they fail to think through the problem. Regarding the title "Sex and War", is there a more titillating title? How long did they take to dream this up?

And the combination of an academic authority with a journalist is a good one. Together they're the "Dr. Phil" of primate biology, wagging fingers at men behaving badly, entertaining women, except both have more hair. After all, aren't women the ones who buy books today?

Still, this book is a worthwhile read, enlightening, will be helpful to students of biology and war and primatology and anthropology and will be quoted by feminists ad nauseum. Aug 09, Steven Peterson rated it really liked it. It is about terror, and cruelty, and the biological origins and long, brutal, vicious, and destructive history of organized aggression.

Perhaps most importantly, it is not just about the depths to which human beings can sink, but also how we came to be this way and what we can do about it. Up front, I will simply note that there is not much in this book that is new. Arguments such as this have been around for some time.

What is positive about this book is that it is well written and accessible to wider audiences than some of the more academic works. The argument follows from the arguments presented, but Glendon Schubert made a similar argument a decade and a half ago I did not see Schubert's work mentioned, although I could have missed the relevant footnote--there are over , after all! The book provides a perspective based on reproductive success being the key to evolutionary change and the understanding of what behaviors any species deploys.

Among humans, team aggression groups of males working together and reproductive success are linked to make intergroup violence a default option for humans. The book notes the analogy with intergroup violence among Pan troglodytes the chimpanzee , humankind's closest relatives in nature, further suggesting an evolutionary background to this behavior. The chapter titles summarize key points made: On page , some suggestions are summarized in a table.

Would some combination of these actually work? That's a good question. I am not so optimistic, but the listing and the discussion of these in the final chapter at least gets readers to reflecting on the subject. If that leads to broader discussion--whatever the reader thinks of the book's arguments--then it has made a contribution. Dec 02, Jeremy Adam rated it it was ok.

I read this for an essay on new books about violence. This one left me underwhelmed. The authors argue that violence is the result of male efforts to reproduce; women, of course, are empathic and peaceable. Unfortunately, Potts and co-author Hayden seem not to have read some important books about violence e. As a scientist and obstetrician, Potts has worked with governments and aid organizations globally, and in the trenches with women who have been raped and brutalized in the course of war.

Drawing on these new insights, they propose a rational plan for making warfare less frequent and less brutal in the future. Anyone interested in understanding human nature, warfare, and terrorism at their most fundamental levels will find Sex and War to be an illuminating work, and one that might change the way they see the world. A graduate of Cambridge University and trained as an obstetrician and research biologist, his profession has taken him all over the world. Potts led a medical team into Bangladesh immediately after the War of Liberation in , and he has worked in many other war-torn places including Vietnam and Cambodia, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Liberia, and Angola.

The Evolution of Human Sexuality. Thomas Hayden is a freelance journalist who writes frequently about science, medicine, and culture.