Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and the Shaping of the Species: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection

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9780099268031: Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and the Shaping of the Species: A History of Mothers, Infants and Natural Selection

Hrdy argues that evolution is controlled by the female of the species. She is more diverse, deadlier and more adaptable than the male, and the notion of maternal instinct, with its baggage of self-sacrifice, gentleness and devotion is a misapprehension.

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[ Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species By ( Author ) Sep-2000 Paperback

Review:

Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection should be required reading for anyone who happens to be a human being. In it, Hrdy reveals the motivations behind some of our most primal and hotly contested behavioural patterns--those concerning gender roles, mate choice, sex, reproduction and parenting--and the ideas and institutions that have grown up around them. She unblinkingly examines and illuminates such difficult subjects as control of reproductive rights, infanticide, "mother love" and maternal ambition with its ever-contested companions: child care and the limits of maternal responsibility. Without ever denying personal accountability, she points out that many of the patterns of abuse and neglect that we see in cultures around the world (including, of course, our own) are neither unpredictable nor maladaptive in evolutionary terms. "Mother" Nature, as she points out, is not particularly concerned with what we call "morality". The philosophical and political implications of our own deeply rooted behaviours are for us to determine--which can be done all the better with the kind of understanding gleaned from this exhaustive work.

Hrdy's passion for this material is evident, and she is deeply aware of the personal stake she has here as a woman, a mother and a professional. This highly accomplished author relies on her own extensive research background as well as the works of others in multiple disciplines (anthropology, primatology, sociobiology, psychology and even literature). Despite the exhaustive documentation given to her conclusions (as witness the 140-plus-page notes and bibliography sections), the book unfolds in an exceptionally lucid, readable and often humorous manner. It is a truly compelling read, highly recommended. --Katherine Ferguson

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