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The Moral Animal

Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology
Written by: Robert Wright
Narrated by: Greg Thornton
Length: 16 hrs and 30 mins
5 out of 5 stars (28 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Are men literally born to cheat? Does monogamy actually serve women's interests? These are among the questions that have made The Moral Animal one of the most provocative science books in recent years. Wright unveils the genetic strategies behind everything from our sexual preferences to our office politics - as well as their implications for our moral codes and public policies.

©1995 Robert Wright (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the critics say

"An accessible introduction to the science of evolutionary psychology and how it explains many aspects of human nature. Unlike many books on the topic,which focus on abstractions like kin selection, this book focuses on Darwinian explanations of why we are the way we are--emotionally and morally. Wright deals particularly well with explaining the reasons for the stereotypical dynamics of the three big "S's:" sex, siblings, and society." (Amazon.com review)

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Wright on

Informative, logical, well written. This book showed how biological evolution can explain much otherwise puzzling human behaviour.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An excellent and important work that holds up

Truly an excellent book that only occasionally reminds the reader that it was written in the 90s. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in really understanding the origins behind our shared moral inclinations, and an exploration of what those inclinations are.

And despite the book ruining some of the "magic" of altruism and brotherly love, it ends on a surprisingly upbeat note.

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Good book, good approach to the topic

I truly enjoyed the book, the evolutionary psychology perspective taken was very interesting, I also think that the references to Darwin life were really good maybe the best part. There are some claims made throughout the book that need some verification but overall a really good book, highly recommended.
The narration is also very good it makes the book more enjoyable

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Liron
  • San Jose, CA United States
  • 2010-10-25

Ridiculously Insightful

The Moral Animal is THE book on evolutionary psychology. Robert Wright applies a straightforward game-theoretic analysis to theorize how natural selection shaped human psychology, and gets remarkably penetrating insights into human nature.

I feel like I am seeing human nature laid bare. I find myself shaking my head in awe, because after I hear Wright's characterization of some social dynamic, it seems so clear obvious in retrospect that I can't believe it's not common knowledge.

I also love the way Wright applies the principles of evolutionary psychology to analyze episodes in Darwin's life. Wright's Darwinian understanding of human nature enriches the book's view into Darwin's life.

This is one of the best books in the entire Audible collection. A must-listen.

50 of 53 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 2012-09-18

A Masterpiece of Science Writing

Robert Wright's 'The Moral Animal' is a phenomenal look at the science of evolutionary psychology, using Darwin's own life (and his published and unpublished writings) to organize and explain various ev. psych topics like: marriage, families, society and social status, and morality.

In a growing field of popular books on psychology, geology, economics, evolution, etc., Wright tends to stand apart (along with the likes of E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Steven Leavitt, Michael Lewis, John McPhee, Oliver Sachs, Michael Shermer, etc).

It all tends to fit into Wright's 'big thesis' on non-zero sum relationships. If you haven't read Wright's 'NonZero', or 'Evolution of God', go pick those two up after you read/listen to this one. They are all fantastic.

Greg Thorton does a good job of narrating this masterpiece of science writing.

49 of 53 people found this review helpful

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  • Lynn
  • 2012-02-12

Older but Worthwhile Introduction

Robert Wright’s Moral Animal (1995) is not one of the new books on the topic of evolutionary psychology, but it is a start. Here Wright explains thinking associated with evolutionary psychology and links it to the life and teachings of Charles Darwin. The book is thought provoking and gently takes the reader into this relatively new psychological perspective. Wright’s consideration of kin-related altruism was of particular interest to me. For my taste, however, Wright spends more time on Darwin’s biography than on introducing evolutionary psychology per se. I will look further to learn more. Greg Thornton's reading is a plus.

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Douglas
  • 2010-11-19

Wonderful and Insightful!

This is a profoundly insightful book that explores the inner evolutionary workings of the human being in regard to what we term moral behavior, particularly in the sexual realm, as Wright sees the reproductive urges and needs of the male and female animal as being perhaps the greatest inner (and thus often highly subconscious) motivators of almost all "moral/immoral" behavior and views them as the very source of the need for moral systems to start with. A fascinating read and a great introduction to the growing realm of evolutionary psychology.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 2012-07-13

Philosophy for the non-philosopher

The book is a Darwinian slant on Darwin the man and its new paradigm (evolutionary psychology). I only started to fully appreciate this book after I realized it was not a science book for non-scientist, but rather a philosophy book for non-philosophers.

The author coherently ties together through an overriding narrative on our human psychology and moral development. While I've listened to most of the more recent books on the same topic from various authors (Dawkins, Diamond, Pinker, Gazzaniga, Wilson,Kahneman, and Ridley) available on Audible, none of them tied together the story as well as this book and make you feel the philosophical implications of the theory of evolutionary psychology.

The book is dated (copyright 1994) but not out of date. Most of the stories told in the book I've heard versions of them in the more recent books. That's not a fault of the book. It's just that I read this book (in 2012) after having read the other books.

I enjoyed this book so much that after listening I started listening to his other book, "Nonzero".

Warning: this book has the ability to make you reassess you place in the universe and become more interested in philosophy. Enjoy.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Sea Mare
  • 2011-08-18

Evolutionary Psychology and Charles Darwin

Evolutionary Psychology was a new topic for me and I found the presentation to be interesting and understandable. The last part of the book, where the author attempts to deal with the moral/ethical issues raised in the first part, was not nearly as interesting to me as the 1st part.
There were 2 aspects of this book that made it memorable. First is the excellent narration. This is the first book that has prompted me to look for others by the same narrator, and sadly there is only one. Greg Thornton has a pleasant voice with a slight accent. It reminds me of Ray Romano's voice. And the delivery helped to keep my attention from wandering (as sometimes happens with audiobooks) without being overdone or distracting.
Secondly, the author's frequent use of material from the life of Charles Darwin to illustrate the material he was presenting was a bonus. I never expected to find a biography of Darwin embedded in this book.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Grant
  • NANTUCKET, MA, United States
  • 2011-10-25

Solid.

This book was written in 1994, and its underlying philosophy holds true today, even if a few other theories on evolutionary psychology have eclipsed what Wright has written here. (Just as what Charles Darwin has written is still powerful despite the work that has been done after his death, interestingly.) For those of us who are atheists, a book like the Moral Animal becomes extremely important because it shows that morality does not need to come from a deity, and instead likely comes out of our own interest in passing our genes to the next generation. Although I personally feel that at least some morality need not come out of clinical self-interest. Nor does it always need to be explained. The Moral Animal along with Wright's latest book, The Evolution of God, have, inadvertently or tangentially, done more for the cause of atheists than any works before, during or since.

28 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • Yixiao
  • 2017-11-27

Remember its one of the first of its genre!

The book is excellently written posing some of the most interesting and stimulating questions and ideas in evolutionary psychology. I personally find evolutionary psychology a crippled discipline that seeks self-confirmation over asking open ended questions. Having said so I still find Wright writes with a positivity and does not degrade men to mere animals (unlike the title may suggest) like many other writers of the same subject. Also while it is awesome to realise that such information was compiled and presented back in 1994, it is sad to see absolutely nothing worthwhile, nothing groundbreaking aimed at the general public has been published since then, despite the huge advancement in technology and data compilation.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Rebecca McCann
  • 2018-04-15

This book changed my life

This book was extremely eye opening for me and has been on my mind since I finished it. I would recommend this book to anyone. I can confidently say that this is my all time favorite piece of non-fiction.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mel
  • 2011-07-13

One of the most intelligent books ever written

I was absolutely amazed that a theory of origin could so succinctly describe and explain the rationale for modern human behaviour. I am a born skeptic but, this work is very good. What a beautiful gift it was to learn from this book the true nature we hide from ourselves and by knowing, to gain power over it. Reading this book was an exercise in liberation. As some skeptics of evolution have said, "the truth will set you free" and so it does.
To make the information more readable and to explain his points, the author brings in stories from Darwin's life from his love for his wife to his devout faith in god. This does makes the book less academic and more personal. The narration was very well done and easy to listen to.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful