"The Bell Curve", "The Moral Animal", "The Selfish Gene" - these and a host of other books and articles have made a seemingly overwhelming case that our genes determine our behaviour. Now, a leading evolutionary biologist shows why most of those claims of genetic destiny cannot be true, and explains how the aguments often stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution itself. "You can't change human nature", the saying goes. But you can, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich shows us in "Human Natures", and in fact, evolution is the story of those changing natures. He makes a case that "human nature" is not a single, unitary entity, but is as diverse as humanity itself, and that changes in culture and other environmental variations play as much of a role in human evolution as genetic changes. We simply don't have enough genes to specify behaviour at the level that is often asserted. Never has knowledge of our evolutionary past been more important to our future. Developing intelligent strategies for antibiotic use, pest control, biodiversity protection - even for establishing more equitable social arrangements - all depend on understanding evolution and how it works.
A hallmark of "Human Natures" is the author's ability to convey that understanding in the course of presenting a history of our species. Using personal anecdote, and example, Ehrlich guides us through the thicket of controversies over what science can and cannot say about the influence of our evolutionary past on everything from race to religion, from sexual orientation to economic development.