Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People is the book that the recently published article in Seed Magazine, which was in turn recently banned in an Illinois school is mainly about. Here is the Publishers Weekly overview of the book:

This brilliant and accessible work of biological criticism has the potential to revolutionize the way readers conceive of gender and sexuality in the natural world. Roughgarden, a professor of biology at Stanford University and a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, argues that the diversity of gender and sexuality one finds in many species suggests that evolutionary biologists of a strictly Darwinian bent are often misguided, since, according to Roughgarden, they erroneously assume a universally applicable gender binary in all species. The first half of the book brings that sexual diversity to light through innumerable examples among birds, reptiles, fish and mammals provided in highly readable anecdotes. The significance of this first section lies not only in this startlingly original portrait of nature, but also in how it suggests that contemporary Darwinian sexual selection theory is in part a result of cultural bias, since it “predicts that the baseline outcome of social evolution is horny, handsome, healthy warriors paired with discreetly discerning damsels.” Roughgarden critiques this theory through an expansive study of biological scholarship, highlighting the frequent contradictions between such claims and the data used (and, she argues, manipulated) to prove them. The second and undoubtedly more controversial section discusses sexual diversity in humans. Taking as a given the presence in our own species of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual and intersex persons, she reads current scientific writing-on a supposed “gay gene,” on gender reassignment and other issues-through a perspective that sees diversity as an advantage, not a handicap. Readers more accustomed to traditional categories of gender and sexuality in humans will undoubtedly be surprised at how different a portrait emerges from Roughgarden’s deeply personal and insistently ethical point of view.

I’ve got this on my too read list.

Comments

  1. #1 NewEnglandBob
    October 31, 2009

    Obviously those 450 species need proper moral training to ‘straighten’ them out.

    Question that is a bit off topic:

    Every Publishers Weekly overview I have ever read (usually on Amazon.com) is positive.

    Are they nearly always positive or do I just not see negative ones? is Publishers Weekly purpose to promote publishing?

  2. #3 Stephanie Z
    October 31, 2009

    Bob, you won’t see editorial reviews on Amazon that aren’t good. I believe those are all supplied by the publishing house with the rest of the information on the book, and the publisher won’t pass along any poor reviews.

    Publishers Weekly is well respected in the business. A starred Publishers Weekly review (their top picks) is generally money in the author’s pocket, since libraries pay a great deal of attention to these reviews.

  3. #4 carr2d2
    October 31, 2009

    this book is currently on my shelf collecting dust. you’ve reminded me that i must brush it off and read it one of these days.

  4. #5 Greg Laden
    October 31, 2009

    I should make clear that the Pub Weekly review is just for informational purposes.

  5. #6 Tom Coward
    October 31, 2009

    I got this book when it was first published. It is very well written and quite thought-provoking. It is well worth reading.

  6. #7 skeptifem
    November 1, 2009

    blake stacey- that is kind of a meaningless criticism.

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