Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect

ISBN: 0142000531
ISBN 13: 9780142000533
By: Paul R. Ehrlich

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About this book

Why do we behave the way we do? Biologist Paul Ehrlich suggests that although people share a common genetic code, these genes "do not shout commands at the very most, they whisper suggestions." He argues that human nature is not so much result of genetic coding; rather, it is heavily influenced by cultural conditioning and environmental factors. With personal anecdotes, a well-written narrative, and clear examples, Human Natures is a major work of synthesis and scholarship as well as a valuable primer on genetics and evolution that makes complex scientific concepts accessible to lay readers.

Reader's Thoughts


Thus far it delves a lot into man's evolutionary path re: creating our many different cultures and "natures". The author argues that human nature is a flowing, changing, and plural concept rather than the traditional view of human nature being all inclusive or stagnant.Ok...halfway thru book got a bit boring and repetitive. Have set it down for now, but may return to it later.

John Petersen

A great book. The author provides an update of fossil record that fills in many of what were considered to be missing links. Then based on the updated family tree and fossil records he describes how the human evolutionary past has influenced our current behavior in such areas as; religion, ethics, the environment, etc.


Ehrlich wrote numerous histrionic books in the 70s that garnered mass sales and proved to be (mostly) untrue. Time--and perhaps an association with the thoughtful Jared Diamond at UCLA--has mellowed him quite a bit, and he has written one of the best overviews of cultural anthropology ever published. He examines all the typical topics--sex, gender, violence, culture--and does so in a very well written and accessible work.


This book is brimming with information on evolution - cultural and biological - that your lay scientist cannot afford to miss out on. My only complaint is that, if you've read up on these topics to any significant degree prior to this book, you won't find much new here. In summary, this is great for beginners - not so much for intermediates or higher.


Ehrlich comes at you from a lot of places: history, anthropology, biology, economics, psychology, etc. Even if at times it doesn't seem like the most tightly-written book, there's tons of interesting information and stories. If you don't know anything about evolution, it's a great place to start.

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