Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species (英語) ペーパーバック – 2000/9/5
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Maternal instinct--the all-consuming, utterly selfless love that mothers lavish on their children--has long been assumed to be an innate, indeed defining element of a woman's nature. But is it? In this provocative, groundbreaking book, renowned anthropologist (and mother) Sarah Blaffer Hrdy shares a radical new vision of motherhood and its crucial role in human evolution.
Hrdy strips away stereotypes and gender-biased myths to demonstrate that traditional views of maternal behavior are essentially wishful thinking codified as objective observation. As Hrdy argues, far from being "selfless," successful primate mothers have always combined nurturing with ambition, mother love with sexual love, ambivalence with devotion. In fact all mothers, in the struggle to guarantee both their own survival and that of their offspring, deal nimbly with competing demands and conflicting strategies.
In her nuanced, stunningly original interpretation of the relationships between mothers and fathers, mothers and babies, and mothers and their social groups, Hrdy offers not only a revolutionary new meaning to motherhood but an important new understanding of human evolution. Written with grace and clarity, suffused with the wisdom of a long and distinguished career, Mother Nature is a profound contribution to our understanding of who we are as a species--and why we have become this way.
"Sarah Hrdy's magisterial survey of childbearing through the ages sets a new standard for the graceful blending of scholarship, field research and personal experience. As meticulously documented as the book is, it never loses the human touch...Mother Nature is one of those landmark books that forces you to rethink everything you thought you knew about human nature..."
-- San Francisco Chronicle
"This is a superb book. It is beautifully and clearly written, by one of the nation's leading primatologists and sociobiologists, without sacrificing intellectual rigor; it is the best introduction I know to both fields. It establishes more convincingly than any other work with which I am familiar the relevance of the study of (other) primates and of human evolution, to urgent current issues of public policy involving women, children, and the family."
-- Richard Posner, Chief Judge, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
"A magnificent synthesis of ideas about motherhood, this is a book brimming with warmth, wisdom, and wit. It is not easy in a polarised academic world to keep a foot in the feminist camp and another in evolutionary psychology, nor to bridge the arts and sciences so effortlessly. But Sarah Blaffer Hrdy achieves these feats."
-- Matt Ridley, author of The Origins of Virtue : Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation
"Hrdy has given us a truly monumental work, as elegant as it is insightful. It took a woman scientist to find the rightful place of our species in the matrix of the animal kingdom, and Hrdy has done so brilliantly. This is by no means the usual psychobabble or hodge podge of animal behavior that other authors so often use to define us -- here is a clear and telling examination of a hitherto almost unknown organism -- the human female. Any woman wanting to know who she really is will find out in the pages of this tremendously important work of real science by a real scientist."
-- Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
"This is a brilliant, liberating book on a profoundly important subject. Sarah Hrdy, the leading scientific authority on motherhood, is also, to the benefit of us all, one of the best stylists now writing on any subject in science."
-- E.O. Wilson
"Mother Nature is a pioneering reassessment of key assumptions in debates about human evolution. By demonstrating how female strategies as mates and mothers have shaped the evolutionary process throughout nature, Hrdy succeeds in overturning some of the most entrenched theories in this scientific domain. A worthy companion to Darwin's Descent of Man, and an endlessly fascinating read, Mother Nature reflects a lifetime of bold research and judicious thought by one of the foremost primatologists of our day."
-- Frank Sulloway
"Mother Nature is a stunning achievement. The book reveals the highest scholarship with an unparalleled breadth in the use of the comparative method. Hrdy expertly uses the comparative method. Hrdy expertly uses the comparative method to illustrate her points by contrasting biology and behavior across species and orders, and by making full use of human variation both through evolutionary and historical time and across space and cultures. This book is a very accessible, scientific discussion of the evolutionary history of maternal care written by a first rate scientist."--Jane B. Lancaster, Editor of Human Nature
"By demolishing superstitions that have long clouded our true natures, Sarah Hrdy shows how knowledge may be our best tool for achieving justice among women, men, and the generations that follow. Clear-eyed science can equip us for this liberating journey, far better than any rigid ideology. Mother Nature takes us one bold step along that road."
-- David Brin, author of Glory Season and The Transparent Society
"This is a deep and brilliant work, a masterful account of mother nature and the nature of motherhood, with a superb selection of photos, built on a powerful logic by someone who easily and clearily sees life both from the inside and the outside."
-- Robert Trivers, Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University
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Sarah Blaffer Hrdy convincingly shows that females are locked in their own brutal status-seeking competition. Females are bigger and stronger than the males in many species such as mole rats, jackrabbits, marmosets, and bats. Among solitary species these "big mothers" are able to control a larger territory than their smaller and weaker rival females. That means more food for their offspring. Among social animals such as hyenas the alpha females are able to claim a larger share of the group's food for herself and her offspring. The lower status females have to make do with the scraps. In some species the alpha females don't even let the low-status females breed. They are forced to wait for the alpha female to die, at which time they may become the new alpha and gain the power they need to breed.
Hrdy also shows that infanticide isn't just for males. Chimp females do not let rival females hold their babies because they may not get them back alive. Killing a rival's children mean more food and higher status for her own offspring. That's why babies often have stranger anxiety - it is the baby's defense mechanism against infanticide. Babies know perfectly well that they are not safe with strangers. In fact, females have a good reason to kill their own offspring. A popular slogan from sociobiology is that "sperm are cheaper than eggs", which means that procreating takes a smaller investment for males than females. That's what leads to the myth of the coy female and promiscuous male. But a corollary would be that "eggs are cheaper than caring for offspring." It doesn't make evolutionary sense for a female to invest her time and energy caring for a weak, sickly, or disabled infant. Better to kill it and try again. Killing healthy offspring also makes sense if the female doesn't have a high enough social status to secure food for it. Better to cut her losses early than to waste time trying to feed it. In our Judeo-Christian culture we expect mothers to attach immediately to babies but that is actually unnatural in most human cultures. Attachment (and therefore love) is conditional on having a healthy baby and the status needed to care for it.
A lot of people will find these revelations shocking. Hrdy agrees. The traditional picture of sociobiology is that "males do a lot of ugly things to get ahead." Hrdy points out that females do a lot of ugly things to get ahead too. But don't confuse explaining the facts with a moral stand. That is the logical fallacy of the appeal to nature - basing morality on the way the natural world works. The best solution would be to bring about a detente in the status-seeking arms race. In one of the more poignant quotes Hrdy writes: "Sociobiology is not a field known for the encouraging news it offers either sex. Yet its most promising revelation to date has to be that over evolutionary time, lifelong monogamy turns out to be the cure for all sorts of detrimental devices that one sex uses to the exploit the other." Indeed.
This book is pretty dense so I would start with something a bit easier if this is your first exposure to sociobiology. Start with The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People by David Barash to get an overview of sociobiology. The Triumph of Sociobiology is also good.
This book is also a bit of a shock--it explores how moms ruthlessly cut their losses and why--not a pretty story at all. I was especially undone by Hrdy's account of all the "Espositos" in Italy. The number of children left in foundling hospitals throughout is staggering. It's even worse than the 46K plus in Florida's foster care system in 2002 (with 1000+ missing!).
Hrdy also explores connections between the erotic and the maternal, something that will no doubt freak some people out. But she does this with a cool scientists gaze and a warm human voice. She seems very generous toward readers and their potential discomfort with the more startling phemomena she wants to account for.
Hrdy is a primalogist and a mom. The book is not entirely distrubing--it also accounts for intense feelings of love moms have for their children.
I was also excited to read in her book about Darwin's French translator, Clemance Royer! This book will delight anyone interested in women's intellectual history, parenting, evolutionary biology, or primatology.
Thank You Dr.Hrdy!