Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

Synopsis

In this innovative celebration of diversity and affirmation of individuality in animals and humans, Joan Roughgarden challenges accepted wisdom about gender identity and sexual orientation. A distinguished evolutionary biologist, Roughgarden takes on the medical establishment, the Bible, social science--and even Darwin himself. She leads the reader through a fascinating discussion of diversity in gender and sexuality among fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals, including primates. Evolution's Rainbow explains how this diversity develops from the action of genes and hormones and how people come to differ from each other in all aspects of body and behavior. Roughgarden reconstructs primary science in light of feminist, gay, and transgender criticism and redefines our understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality. Witty, playful, and daring, this book will revolutionize our understanding of sexuality.

Roughgarden argues that principal elements of Darwinian sexual selection theory are false and suggests a new theory that emphasizes social inclusion and control of access to resources and mating opportunity. She disputes a range of scientific and medical concepts, including Wilson's genetic determinism of behavior, evolutionary psychology, the existence of a gay gene, the role of parenting in determining gender identity, and Dawkins's "selfish gene" as the driver of natural selection. She dares social science to respect the agency and rationality of diverse people; shows that many cultures across the world and throughout history accommodate people we label today as lesbian, gay, and transgendered; and calls on the Christian religion to acknowledge the Bible's many passages endorsing diversity in gender and sexuality. Evolution's Rainbow concludes with bold recommendations for improving education in biology, psychology, and medicine; for democratizing genetic engineering and medical practice; and for building a public monument to affirm diversity as one of our nation's defining principles.

Excerpt

After ten years, Evolution’s Rainbow still offers a valuable overview of how diverse the sexuality and gender expression is among animals and people. Part of this book’s lasting value is how it brings the scope of this diversity together in one place.

Another value is that this book’s approach is biological, whereas most books about sexuality and gender come from the humanities or medicine. My approach is what a Martian biologist would take in an expedition to Earth. A newly arriving Martian would gaze about to discern the diversity here in animals, including humans. As you read this book, imagine you’re a young Darwin, not the bearded, aged thinker of most photographs but the young lad trying to discover just what’s “out there”—the Darwin who jumps ashore in the Galápagos to marvel at the strange and surprising creatures he finds. As you jump ashore onto the field of sexuality and gender, you too will find many surprising facts. The task is to scope out this diversity, not to explain it but to accept it and put it all on the table for further discussion later on. I wrote this book with the mind-set of an expeditionary biologist, like those in the 1800s or a Martian visiting Earth today. I knew that the stereotypes of male and female behavior weren’t accurate in animals and suspected they weren’t accurate for people either. So this book is an expedition to find out what is going on out there.

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