email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics in the MadhouseGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Choosing ChildrenThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Extended Selfish GeneThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Selfish GeneThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny
"What is a man?" Who has never ponder this question? I certainly have. As is often the case with simple questions, the answers are complex and hard to come by. Most people's answers taken together could probably be summarized as "something very natural and utterly incomprehensible". The notion of a man is so fundamental to our thinking, being and experience, that it is hard to examine it detachedly. Who could ever claim to be an expert on the subject?
The author of Men, Richard G. Bribiescas, tries to answer the question from the perspective of an expert of biological anthropology. His book consists of ten informative chapters on human male physiology and male life history. Brimming with biological research, evolutionary theory, interesting questions and hypotheses on adaptability and senescence, it takes us on a riveting journey. Even without any knowledge about hormones, metabolism and molecular structure, it is fairly comfortable to follow Bribiescas passionate voice throughout the 225 pages. According to the author, other fields of study, especially medicine, would profit from learning more about evolutionary theory. "Physicians are not provided with the intellectual tools to formulate useful questions about the development and etiology of disease or the human body's often perplexing reactions to pathogens. Moreover, increased awareness of the full range of nonpathological variation in human biology is needed" (216). The same argument definitely applies to psychology. For psychologists to understand the evolution of our species and our place in the natural world would certainly increase our scope for creative understanding of human beings. There is evidently more to human lfie than the stuff that Bribiescas brings to our attention, but without evolution and biological foundations, nevertheless, there would not be an opportunity for social, cultural or psychological processes to develop.
One of the main themes running through this book is, not surprisingly, reproduction. This discussion on men, babies and parenting is highly absorbing. There would be no babies without fathers, but from a male perspective, the risk of being a father without babies is, and has been throughout human life history, considerable. "The question facing males are: Are my children really mine? And what do I do with calories and time since I don't have to share them with offspring?" writes Bribiescas in his concluding chapter. When it comes to reproduction, males differ from females in respect to parental assuredness and somatic investment in offspring. This, of course, affects our psychological makeups. And indeed, another theme in this book is: How does this difference influence male doings in the world? Does male dominance and warfare have anything to do with evolution and human biology?
Having only studied men empirically and from a psychological viewpoint, the perspective offered by Men is fascinating. For anyone interested in human beings, biological anthropology has some important contributions to make to the understanding of unconscious processes. Existential psychologists emphasize our fear of death, and its impact on human life. Reading Men, I realize that human beings also have other reasons to hope, wish and long for a future in life and after death. Biological reasons. And the probability of achieving it differs between the sexes. Females can comfortably nurse their offspring, secure in the knowledge that it is theirs. For a man, however, the situation is fundamentally different. Even if he has "done it with thousands of women", there will always be a possibility that he is unrelated to anyone in the next generation. He may gain power and wealth in this world, but can he be sure that his genes will be part of upcoming generations? Bribiescas depicts the male creature in a compelling way: "From an evolutionary perspective, males are quite alone" (223).
© 2009 Minna Forsell
Minna Forsell is a psychologist, recently graduated from the University of Stockholm. She currently works in a psychiatric health care center in Volda, Western Norway.