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The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Todayby Helena Cronin
Synopses & Reviews
The "ant" and the "peacock" stand for two puzzles in Darwinism--altruism and sexual selection. How can natural selection favor those, such as the worker ant, that renounce tooth and claw in favor of the public-spirited ways of the commune? And how can "peacocks"--flamboyant, ornamental and apparently useless--be tolerated by the grimly economical Darwinian reaper? Helena Cronin has a deep understanding of today's answers to these riddles and their roots in the nineteenth century; the analysis is new and exciting and the explanations lucid and compelling.
An enthralling account of the arguments about altruism and sexual selection raging since Darwin's day.
This book explains two puzzles of the theory of natural selection, the altruism of the ant, and that concerning sexual selection, epitomized by the peacockâ€™s flamboyant and burdensome tail. Helena Croninâ€™s account blends history, science and philosophy in a gripping tale that is scholarly, entertaining and eminently readable.
This book is a success story. It explains two long-running puzzles of the theory of natural selection. How can natural selection favour those, like the ant, that renounce tooth and claw in favour of the public-spirited ways of the commune? How can it explain the peacockâ€™s tail, flamboyant and a burden to its bearer; surely selection would act against useless ornamentation? Helena Croninâ€™s enthralling account blends history, science and philosophy in a gripping tale that is scholarly, entertaining and eminently readable. The hardback edition was selected by Nature as one of the best scientific books in 1992. Also the New York Times chose it as one of their best books of 1992. The author divides her time between the Philosophy Department at the London School of Economics and the Zoology Department at Oxford.
How can natural selection favor the ant that "renounces tooth and claw" or tolerate the ornamental and apparently useless peacock? Contemporary answers to these riddles and their nineteenth century roots are analyzed in a text geared to the general reader as well as the professional.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -474) and index.
Table of Contents
Foreword; Preface; Part I. Darwinism, Its Rivals and Its Renegades: 1. Walking archives; 2. A world without Darwin; 3. Darwinism old and new; Part II. The Peacock: 4. The sting in the peacock's tail; 5. Nothing but natural selection?; 6. Can females shape males?; 7. Do sensible females prefer sexy males?; 8. 'Until careful experiments are made ...'; 9. Ghosts of Darwinism surpassed; Part III. The Ant: 10. Altruism now; 11. Altruism then; 12. The social insects: kind kin; 13. Make dove, not war: conventional forces; 14. Human altruism: a natural kind?; 15. Breeding between the lines; Epilogue; Notes on the letters of Darwin and Wallace; Bibliography; Index.
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