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.
"This book is witty and well-informed; it will certainly raise some hackles, but it will not bore. I think this book is an important achievement in evolution biology." Michael J. Ryan, Cell"The Ant and the Peacock is a beautiful book, fascinating to scientists and historians alike, and elegantly written. I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to find an academically serious and important book that is genuinely gripping, so that you feel compelled to go on reading as if it were a good novel." Richard Dawkins"In her racy and provocative way, Dr. Cronin tells a story that sums up the essence of neo-Darwinism....Part detective story and part philosophical enquiry, The Ant and the Peacock offers a paradox in every paragraph." J.G. Ballard, Weekend Telegraph"This is a book about the evolution of beauty, goodness and intelligence, three things that especially puzzled Charles Darwin. It is part history, part science-reporting, part philosophy, and though it is footnoted like an academic book it reads much too well to be left to the professionals. Nobody with an interest in how the human mind has come to work the way it does can fail to be gripped by it." The Economist"The Ant and the Peacock is both erudite and fun, authoritative but, by and large, an easy read." John Gribbin, The Times Educational Supplement"Cronin's book is a mixture of careful, perceptive history and enthusiastic advocacy....she succeeds in keeping the past and present separate when she needs to and in illuminating past controversies by introducing current thoughts on the subject. In her exposition, the light of understanding shines in both directions." David L. Hull, Nature"...should be lauded for its ambition and its impressive control of some of the most recent literature in the field of evolutionary theory and behavioral ecology." Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, ISIS"As a look at the history and philosophy of Darwinism, it is a valuable reference..." James Williams, New Scientist"...brings the intellectual world of Darwin and Wallace to life--even mavens of darwiniana will find new material and new insights--while effectively communicating some of the most recent evolutionary thinking. I heartliy recommend that everyone read this book." M. Wilson, TREE"Almost anyone interested in evolution will learn something new from working through the easy-to-read arguments in The Ant and the Peacock....[I]t's arguments are especially worthwhile in helping one understand the darwinian and wallacean views of the same subject." William T. Weislo, Annals of the Entomological Society of America
An enthralling account of the arguments about altruism and sexual selection raging since Darwin's day.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -474) and index.
This book explains two puzzles of the theory of natural selection, the altruism of the ant, and that concerning sexual selection, epitomized by the peacockâs flamboyant and burdensome tail. Helena Croninâs 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 peacockâs tail, flamboyant and a burden to its bearer; surely selection would act against useless ornamentation? Helena Croninâs 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.
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.