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A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life

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In this book, Heying and Weinstein cut through the politically fraught discourse surrounding issues like sex, gender, diet, parenting, sleep, education, and more to outline a science-based worldview that will empower you to live a better, wiser life. They distill more than 20 years of research and first-hand accounts from the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth into straig In this book, Heying and Weinstein cut through the politically fraught discourse surrounding issues like sex, gender, diet, parenting, sleep, education, and more to outline a science-based worldview that will empower you to live a better, wiser life. They distill more than 20 years of research and first-hand accounts from the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth into straightforward principles and guidance for confronting our culture of hyper-novelty. For evolutionary biologists Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, the cause of our woes is clear: the modern world is out of sync with our ancient brains and bodies. We evolved to live in clans, but today most people don't even know their neighbors' names. Differences between the sexes once served a necessary evolutionary purpose, but today many dismiss the concept of biological sex as offensive. The cognitive dissonance spawned by trying to live in a society we're not built for is killing us.


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In this book, Heying and Weinstein cut through the politically fraught discourse surrounding issues like sex, gender, diet, parenting, sleep, education, and more to outline a science-based worldview that will empower you to live a better, wiser life. They distill more than 20 years of research and first-hand accounts from the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth into straig In this book, Heying and Weinstein cut through the politically fraught discourse surrounding issues like sex, gender, diet, parenting, sleep, education, and more to outline a science-based worldview that will empower you to live a better, wiser life. They distill more than 20 years of research and first-hand accounts from the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth into straightforward principles and guidance for confronting our culture of hyper-novelty. For evolutionary biologists Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, the cause of our woes is clear: the modern world is out of sync with our ancient brains and bodies. We evolved to live in clans, but today most people don't even know their neighbors' names. Differences between the sexes once served a necessary evolutionary purpose, but today many dismiss the concept of biological sex as offensive. The cognitive dissonance spawned by trying to live in a society we're not built for is killing us.

30 review for A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Boissonneault

    Considering that humanity has spent more than 95 percent of its collective 200,000-year history as hunter-gatherers, we should not be surprised to find some mismatches between our evolutionary predispositions and the post-industrial environment we currently inhabit. And if this is the case—which to some extent it surely is—then by studying evolutionary biology and psychology, along with modern hunter-gatherer groups, we can gain some insights on the roots of many of our physical, mental, and soc Considering that humanity has spent more than 95 percent of its collective 200,000-year history as hunter-gatherers, we should not be surprised to find some mismatches between our evolutionary predispositions and the post-industrial environment we currently inhabit. And if this is the case—which to some extent it surely is—then by studying evolutionary biology and psychology, along with modern hunter-gatherer groups, we can gain some insights on the roots of many of our physical, mental, and social problems. Then, and only then, can we begin to reevaluate some of our behaviors to better align with our nature and our history, thus resolving many otherwise intractable problems. This, in a nutshell, is the argument and purpose of the book. The problem, of course, is how far you’re willing to take this argument. It’s one thing to concede that evolution gives us certain predispositions (e.g., the compulsion to binge eat) that no longer match environmental realities (an overabundance of sugary foods), leading to disastrous consequences (obesity, heart disease, etc.), and that by understanding the mismatch, we can modify our behaviors (whole food diets, intermittent fasting, etc.), leading to better outcomes. Few reasonable people would argue against these more clear-cut cases. But the authors don’t stop there. They want to take the argument further and claim that all long-standing cultural adaptations “evolve to serve the genome” (and they really mean this). This tactic, however, seems little more than using genetics and evolution to support the beliefs and practices approved by the authors. If every long-lasting cultural practice can be said to support the genome, then those practices can be defended on seemingly scientific grounds. But this is nothing more than an illusion, and should be recognized as such by the reader. It’s not necessarily useful to think of humans in this way. Humanity separated itself from the rest of the animal kingdom primarily via our ability to transcend genetic determination and to decide how to live using reason and experience. And if a cultural practice is bad for the genes but good for the individual, to hell with the genes. The classic example is contraception. This long-running practice of enjoying sex without bearing children cannot have “evolved to serve the genome,” and yet those who practice it by intentionally not having children are not living an impoverished or defective life in any sense simply because their genes may not like it. If reason tells you that you would prefer a child-free life, then that’s what you should do, irrespective of what your genome would tell you. Similarly, in many matters, evolutionary biology offers us no help whatsoever in making life choices; rather, philosophy becomes far more important. But the authors want to pretend that every aspect of our lives can be guided by evolutionary logic when in reality they’re simply using a particular reading of evolution to justify their own beliefs (don’t watch porn, have casual sex, or take medication). Readers should be able to see through this ruse pretty easily, I would hope. So take the content for what it’s worth. As I said above, there’s much to learn about our evolutionary past, which can provide deep insights into how we can modify our behavior for the better. But don’t think that evolutionary logic can make all the decisions for us, or that our own reason and capacity for independent philosophical thought cannot or should not override what may or may not be “best” for our genes, or for whatever traditional practices justify themselves on the basis of longevity alone (a bullshit argument often used by conservatives or religious fundamentalists).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Godsell

    Just leaving a great review since that person ignorantly left a negative review without even reading it. You are ruining a review system.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Amara

    The amount of times in the last couple of months that I've checked my pre-order to see when this releases is absurd. I'm on the edge of my seat in excitement. The amount of times in the last couple of months that I've checked my pre-order to see when this releases is absurd. I'm on the edge of my seat in excitement.

  4. 5 out of 5

    James Girnus

    This book loosely weaves together some legit evolutionary science with angry manifestos and personal opinions. The epigenetic link between culture and genetics, which much of the book is built upon, is poorly explained. They interpret this emerging science ina way that is convenient for the worldview they are trying to expound. The first few chapters are interesting and stick closer to evolutionary theory. From about chapter 4 and on the book starts to feel more like propaganda. Somewhat convinc This book loosely weaves together some legit evolutionary science with angry manifestos and personal opinions. The epigenetic link between culture and genetics, which much of the book is built upon, is poorly explained. They interpret this emerging science ina way that is convenient for the worldview they are trying to expound. The first few chapters are interesting and stick closer to evolutionary theory. From about chapter 4 and on the book starts to feel more like propaganda. Somewhat convincing because they use lots of fancy science words and come off as real hoity toity intellectual types, but their arguments begin to feel more loose and strained Should be noted that the authors are taking ivermectin and doing a right wing media tour to promote their ideas, a pretty telling sign of the underlying politics that cloud real evolutionary science.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Spen Cer

    To say that I was disappointed when I finally got this book after preordering it would be a vast understatement. This book had so much potential to be an interesting and scientific trip through how our evolution leads us to be who we are today. Instead what I found was a lot of unsubstantiated correlation based thinking. Especially when it came to medicine and food. It seems like if the authors had their way we wouldn’t do anything advanced until knowing every possible parameter, which is just n To say that I was disappointed when I finally got this book after preordering it would be a vast understatement. This book had so much potential to be an interesting and scientific trip through how our evolution leads us to be who we are today. Instead what I found was a lot of unsubstantiated correlation based thinking. Especially when it came to medicine and food. It seems like if the authors had their way we wouldn’t do anything advanced until knowing every possible parameter, which is just not possible or realistic. Also a note for the audiobook is that they should not have narrated their own book. There are a lot of great audiobook voice actors and they are not among them. I managed to slog through 75% of this book and while it gets 2 stars for chapters 2 and 3 the rest is just untenable. Take this review for what you may, but this will be one that I’ll be returning to audible.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Yass Ye

    All the good bits are old and all the new bits are not that good. I highly recommend reading the following review since it says every thing I want to say and more with much more authority and style. https://www.theguardian.com/books/202... . Ok it seems I have to add some of my own dislike here. 1. Book is titled " A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide" but the justifications the authors provide for most claims are anecdotal . It is either about them or their children or some other combination of their family All the good bits are old and all the new bits are not that good. I highly recommend reading the following review since it says every thing I want to say and more with much more authority and style. https://www.theguardian.com/books/202... . Ok it seems I have to add some of my own dislike here. 1. Book is titled " A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide" but the justifications the authors provide for most claims are anecdotal . It is either about them or their children or some other combination of their family. 2. B & H were professors at a third rate college and both of them have very little original work to their name . In fact it seems they haven't really kept up with the literature since a lot of their arguments are based on some sort of hyper-adaptionism. 3. Bret in particular pushes for criticizing pharmaceuticals based on his theory . He believes lab mice have longer telomeres and this renders them more resistant to drug toxicity. Thus, since they are used for human pharmaceutical research we can not be sure which drugs are potentially toxic to humans. Bret also thinks he should have received a noble prize for this claim and that his idea was stolen ( He is wrong on all counts as detailed here https://yurideigin.medium.com/why-bre... ) . I should also mention that B & H don't actually mention all of this in their book but we need this context to make sense of their advice in regards to flourides in water , sunscreen etc etc.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Krishna

    The whole book feels poorly thought through. The authors clearly have particular views on issues like GM food, casual sex, sleep patterns and water fluoridation. They then cherry pick scientific studies to support their beliefs and move on without properly considering the literature. It’s a self help book with a sciencey veneer.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brian Sachetta

    I’ve enjoyed listening to Bret on the Joe Rogan Experience over the years, and I’ve dabbled in his (and Heather’s) podcast as of late as well. Both he and Heather are great thinkers and scientists, and they present things in a straightforward and practical way. That’s why I decided to grab this title. Overall, I thought it was pretty good. It’s got a similar vibe to their “DarkHorse” podcast in terms of its pragmatic and scientific approach. The basic structure of the book is this: take a subject I’ve enjoyed listening to Bret on the Joe Rogan Experience over the years, and I’ve dabbled in his (and Heather’s) podcast as of late as well. Both he and Heather are great thinkers and scientists, and they present things in a straightforward and practical way. That’s why I decided to grab this title. Overall, I thought it was pretty good. It’s got a similar vibe to their “DarkHorse” podcast in terms of its pragmatic and scientific approach. The basic structure of the book is this: take a subject (say, sleep, for instance), discuss its evolutionary purpose, talk about what helps or harms it, then make some recommendations on it. For example, when it comes to sleep, the pair says we should reduce our use of blue-light-emitting devices, sleep in dark, cold rooms, and be careful not to consume caffeine within eight hours of going to bed. Though some of the conclusions they draw are ones you may have heard before, it’s the evolution-based science that makes such findings interesting and drives them home; this book isn’t just a “do this, don’t do that” guide — it’s also a thoughtful explanation as to why we should or shouldn’t act in specific ways. There’s no doubt in my mind that implementing the ideas in this one would improve one’s quality of life overall. The only reason I’m going four stars is that the book does, at times, feel overly academic or like it could use a little more excitement. An extra story here or there would’ve helped tremendously. The science is great, but it does get a tad dry at times. -Brian Sachetta Author of “Get Out of Your Head”

  9. 5 out of 5

    Petros

    I was looking forward to this book (I pre-ordered it and started reading it just a couple of days after it arrived). I like the authors, have listened to a number of episodes of their podcast and have watched a number of interviews of Weinstein in previous years. So I really wanted to like this book, but it was a disappointment. My main issue is that I don’t think this book is well-argued. It is clear the authors have good intentions (for the betterment of society and individuals) but the book se I was looking forward to this book (I pre-ordered it and started reading it just a couple of days after it arrived). I like the authors, have listened to a number of episodes of their podcast and have watched a number of interviews of Weinstein in previous years. So I really wanted to like this book, but it was a disappointment. My main issue is that I don’t think this book is well-argued. It is clear the authors have good intentions (for the betterment of society and individuals) but the book seems more like a collection of opinions/assertions rather than anything resembling rigorous argumentation. For instance: there is the claim that sleep evolved because eyes can’t be excellent at both seeing in the day and in the night. But we know that organisms like the worm c elegans also sleep and they don’t have eyes (and it is almost certain our most recent common ancestor didn’t have eyes either, so the hypothesis of sleep evolving due to trade-offs relating to eye function doesn’t seem reasonable). Sometimes there were not even enough details to understand a point. For instance: there is the claim that, in animals with breeding seasons (as opposed to animals who, like humans, can be fertile year-round), it is easier for a single male to monopolize the reproduction of several females. No explanation is given as to why, and I can see an equally (if not more) valid argument for the contrary: if all females ovulate at the same time a single male should have a harder time to control and mate with all of them. Considering the above, I felt that even some factual claims might be suspect. For instance this claim: “an octopus can die in contact with her hatching eggs, thereby handing over the nutrition of her own body to her hungry offspring.” Now, I love octopi but I hadn’t heard of this fact. As the book offered no reference for it, I tried looking it up online but was unable to find any information that supported it (on the contrary, all relevant information I found seemed incompatible to it). Some other statements seemed cryptic to me (e.g. “[human] software is the interplay or experience and knowledge with capacity”; i definitely think this statement required additional explaining for its meaning to be clear). Another point I found particularly surprising... in the chapters about sexual behavior (which do offer some interesting food for thought), the authors describe three possible “reproductive strategies”: pair-bonding, forced reproduction (i.e. rape) and free/consensual sex without commitment. They consider the third opinion to be “junk sex, formulaic and without depth”; this is an opinion they provided some arguments for (through their “evolutionary lens”), so it is a position the reader is free to find convincing or unconvincing (I think their analysis is narrow, overlooking alternative points of view that could also have merit). But later on they write: “...if you are a man engaging in reproductive strategy two or three, it does not benefit you to fall in love. While reprehensible, these strategies have been effective for men throughout history...”. So consensual sex without commitment is reprehensible; I think that’s blatant moralizing and crosses a line of good taste (and is also counterproductive if the authors want to change the minds of people who don’t already agree with their opinion). The book does have some interesting thoughts to offer: their culture vs consciousness analysis (although the authors define consciousness very differently than the term is commonly used: according to their definition an octopus doesn’t have consciousness), the chapters on child upbringing and education (very interesting ideas which I wholeheartedly agree with; although, still, not that well-argued for) and their analysis of addiction as reward vs opportunity cost (with boredom signifying zero opportunity cost) have some merit. But even those are generally not that well explored (mostly offered as opinions). In general: the book contains some interesting and/or thought-provoking ideas (regardless of whether one agrees with them or not), but too often there are generalities, claims are offered without adequate argumentation (some claims seem suspect of being “just-so stories”), mechanisms are not explored to a deep level and possible counter-arguments are generally not addressed. I wanted to like it but, as it turns out, I don’t think I gained much from it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Quijano

    My thoughts on using hunter-gatherers as a guide to better living in the modern world are mixed. On one hand, I am inherently skeptical of people claiming we should live like hunter-gatherers. Some branches of humanity stopped being hunter-gatherers 10,000 years ago. That’s a lot of time to evolve. On the other hand, there are many recent changes in the modern world that seem to have completely disrupted our traditional way of life. It is one thing to switch from being a hunter-gatherer to farmi My thoughts on using hunter-gatherers as a guide to better living in the modern world are mixed. On one hand, I am inherently skeptical of people claiming we should live like hunter-gatherers. Some branches of humanity stopped being hunter-gatherers 10,000 years ago. That’s a lot of time to evolve. On the other hand, there are many recent changes in the modern world that seem to have completely disrupted our traditional way of life. It is one thing to switch from being a hunter-gatherer to farming over several generations. It is a much bigger change to go from farming to sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day with zero physical activity within two or three generations. And that is just one change. There are probably dozens of changes from food, sex, physical activity, etc. that have all changed dramatically within the last 80 or so years. Many of our modern problems (obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, drug abuse, suicide, etc.) are new or are on scales so much larger than in the past, that they are likely caused by some of the trappings of modern life. So when I first saw A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century by Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying on Joe Rogan’s Instagram, the title caught my attention immediately. I have previously been exposed to Weinstein’s work from Rogan’s podcast and my general impression is that he is someone I don’t particularly agree with, but is kind of an interesting dude. I knew that he was a biologist and his wife and coauthor was an evolutionary biologist. I know they are both liberal-ish and secular, so what I hoped to get out of this book was some science-based advice on how to overcome the various ways that modern life disrupts human existence. Although this book isn’t bad, it is a mere introduction to the idea that the modern human lifestyles is often in direct opposition to the way we evolved and it lacked the depth and originality I was hoping for. What really drew me to this book was a clip of the authors on Mikhaila Peterson’s podcast where they talked about dating strategies. This is a subject that interests me and I found their take (pro-monogamy) interesting, considering the fact that they were secular. The clip made me recall a book I read a few years ago titled, Sex at Dawn. In that book, the authors describe the sexual practices of various ape species as well as the recorded sexual practices of various hunter-gatherer groups (some historic and some who still exist as hunter-gatherers to this day). The message of the book, though flawed in some parts, was pretty clear: for most of human history our sex was non-monogamous, but also not with random people. The issue with looking to hunter-gatherers for any information regarding modern day life is obvious: we are no longer hunter-gatherers. We live in a totally different environment now compared to the vast majority of our evolution. Not to mention, considerable genetic evolution has occurred since we stopped being hunter-gatherers. So yes, we evolved having lots of sex with various people in our tribes. But unlike today, they weren’t random people from the internet. They weren’t people who would abandon you if you got pregnant. They were close friends who cared about you. Friends with benefits might sound fun, and the appeal of it makes sense because it is how we evolved. But the reality of hunter-gatherer sexual arrangements is much less appealing. A small tribe where sex is mostly free and and the father of any given child isn’t known means that no one knows who is related and how. This means that the sex arrangements in hunter-gatherer groups that some portray as utopian because of fewer sexual taboos was actually just one disgusting incestual orgy. This is where the whole application to modern day life falls apart as this sort of sexual arrangement violates widely accepted taboos regarding sex. I bring all this up because sex is a great example of the follies of trying to apply hunter-gatherer practices to the modern world, and the authors do a good job at explaining this fact in various ways. For one, there was no monolithic experience for hunter-gatherers. The most obvious examples are probably diet and culture. Diet was dependent on your tribe’s environment and cultures vary widely depending on many factors. Unfortunately, this also means the kind of advice one might hope to get from a book like this does not exist. It is even possible that it cannot exist. We cannot possibly know how all the various hunter-gatherer groups lived. Even if we did, we wouldn’t know which groups we descended from. And even if somehow, a person was able to properly identify all the hunter-gatherer groups they descended from and all their various practices, you still wouldn’t know which practices to follow. If a person descended from Inuits and Ethiopians, which diet should they follow? Which clothing will react better to your skin? Does any of this actually matter or is any perceived benefit in our heads? My hope with A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century was that I would have a few key takeaways on better living in the modern world. Instead, the authors really focused on presenting ways for individuals to analyze their lives and find better ways for themselves. On one hand, I appreciate this approach. No author is going to have all the answers about modern living inside of hunter-gatherer bodies. So an intellectual framework for people to discover things for themselves makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, I felt like this book was mostly underwhelming with very little to offer in terms of actionable information. One perfect example of the underwhelming amount of information was the question of diet. I get it, diet is very complicated. You could easily write multiple books on the question of the evolution of the human diet and how best a person could optimize their diet to fit their genetics. But the author’s main advice seemed to be to follow the traditional diet that your ancestors ate, be skeptical of GMOs, and listen to your body. This is not bad advice, but it also isn’t particularly detailed. They mention off-hand that maybe the perceived issues with wheat has to do more with modern wheat and that maybe an older, non-GMO versions of wheat would be more suitable for more people. This is an idea I was interested in, but they didn’t elaborate. It is the perfect example of what disappointed me in this book. It really isn’t the fault of the book, but my expectations. Rather than reading a book that tells you everything about how humans should adapt to the modern world, you will have to read a dozen books that cover each subject individually: diet, sex, relationships, community, clothing, sleep, etc. There is just no way to fit all of this information into one book. The one thing I came away thinking was that it would actually make a great podcast series with each episode being about a specific subject with a guest that is an expert on that issue. There’s just too much info to cover otherwise. I wouldn’t particularly recommend this book. The one thing it does is get you thinking about all the various ways that the modern world messes with our wellbeing. This book might be a good starting point to explore these questions, but you won’t find much in-depth or actionable information here. I would generally recommend that if you are interested in a given subject, to just read a book by an expert or two on that one issue. You will get much more information that way. I give this book two stars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    mark

    Very disappointed. Official DNF. Okay, this bothered me so much I had to expand on this review. Here it is: The messiah complex is a state of mind in which a person believes they are the savior of the world. Usually the person can be found on a street corner or a soapbox. Or in a treehouse. The Book is titled A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century, co-authored by a middle-aged married couple. Both of whom earned PhDs in Biology and recently resigned teaching positions from a liberal college i Very disappointed. Official DNF. Okay, this bothered me so much I had to expand on this review. Here it is: The messiah complex is a state of mind in which a person believes they are the savior of the world. Usually the person can be found on a street corner or a soapbox. Or in a treehouse. The Book is titled A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century, co-authored by a middle-aged married couple. Both of whom earned PhDs in Biology and recently resigned teaching positions from a liberal college in the Northwest. "They cohost weekly livestreams of the DarkHorse podcast." The podcast is shot in what looks like a backyard treehouse. When I learned of the book I preordered it. I am a proponent of Evolutionary Psychology and an author, too. I was very much looking forward to reading it. It sounded like something right in my own backyard. DNF is book-speak for "did not finish". I couldn't - it was that bad. However, I don't disagree with the major premise - that we humans evolved in a world that is much different than the one we have created. And that we are therefore "mismatched" to it. Ironically, or of a paradox as the authors purport. But by page 90, I'd had enough. Though I did skim the rest. The writing is redundant, pompous, poorly constructed and the thinking magical. The authors like to make up words, principles, rules, and concepts, then pretend they're doing "science". There are boxes at the end of most chapters wherein they list remedies, or instructions / rules, to "guide" the reader toward survival. They call the lists "The Corrective Lens". In fact there are 103 of these corrections. The implication being if you follow these instructions you'll correct the mess we've made. The Writing and story telling is awful. They mix metaphors, stories, philosophies. Repeat themselves. It reminded me of children I used to counsel in residential treatment. Six, seven, eight-year olds with their nonsensical yammering. Kids in a tree house using their imaginations to construct a make believe world. Examples are so numerous you can open to any page and find them. Why use mutual when you can use "mutualistic"? Did you know that fire is "abiotic"? Why be precise when you can flood the page with maybes, probably's, suggests, mights, may have been's, almost's, etc. and so on. And commas, oh my word. Blah,blah, blah, and yada, yada. Did I want to turn the page and keep reading? Nope. That defines bad writing and 'did not finish'. The Noble Savage myth is the belief that those people - the "natives" who we white folk killed, enslaved, conquered and oppressed - had it right. And yet, almost in the same sentence, Heying and Weinstein deny they are romanticizing that lifestyle and belief. The authors label us (readers of the book) WEIRD. WEIRD  stands for Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, Democratic. It's one of the authors' clever (?) inventions. What they mean is: English speaking white people, with some college, living with indoor plumbing and full-time electricity, adequate income, and voting rights. That's hardly a majority of people living in the "West". Even in the US! Yet, here's another one of their favorite paradoxes: we are killing ourselves. With all our convenience. We are too soft and too clean. Furthermore, we live in square buildings with "carpentered corners"! And those corners prevent us from seeing the world as it is. This book is amazing. At least so far in the 21st Century, 2021. The worst year ever? What's truly amazing is that it's gotten any traction at all. Moreover, some high praise from some pretty smart people (Sebastian Junger for one). Seems like the magical (crooked) thinking of kids in a treehouse works. Robert Wright takes exception. Calling the Weinsteins "crackpot". I agree with Mr. Wright. Skip this one. Try these: Set Yourself Free: Twelve Books to Read on Human Nature in stead.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alienor

    Endlessly interesting, thought provoking, wise, fun. One of the few books I think EVERYONE should read!!! Every single paragraph is deliciously loaded with lateral thinking - of things we know, deep down. I'm so happy they finally wrote this book!!! Endlessly interesting, thought provoking, wise, fun. One of the few books I think EVERYONE should read!!! Every single paragraph is deliciously loaded with lateral thinking - of things we know, deep down. I'm so happy they finally wrote this book!!!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Absolutely eye opening

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael David Cobb

    Bret and Heather do a show without the jokes. It's worth hearing. If you have a thing for indigenous ingenuity, this is the kind of book that will make you giddy with delight. To me, on the other hand, it sounds like celebrity name dropping. But that doesn't change the unique wonder of listening to folksy scientists working to popularize deep and consequential ideas that are generally only obliquely referenced by actual hack celebrities. Their approach to evolutionary biology is methodological a Bret and Heather do a show without the jokes. It's worth hearing. If you have a thing for indigenous ingenuity, this is the kind of book that will make you giddy with delight. To me, on the other hand, it sounds like celebrity name dropping. But that doesn't change the unique wonder of listening to folksy scientists working to popularize deep and consequential ideas that are generally only obliquely referenced by actual hack celebrities. Their approach to evolutionary biology is methodological and yes a bit simplified for the reader but substantial nonetheless. What I have come to see is their counterweight using the Precautionary Principle to David Deutsch's open-ended infinity [stone] approach to applying knowledge to life. Where Deutsch is a die-hard epistemologist who asserts that the human mind will achieve all, Heying and Weinstein see how 'we moderns' have managed, after a virtual infinity of evolutionary years, to get a whole lot wrong. Knowledge is not only created, but destroyed. This book reminds us of how much we arbitrarily destroy for the sake of modern convenience. If you come to this book looking for their last word on COVID vaccines and such, don't bother. It's in the appendix or the afterword. It's no big reveal. The point is rather that you come to understand their thinking process. There are no cheat codes. There are mysteries about why, when most of us only want what and sometimes how. The team shines most in their retelling of parenting stories. If you've ever sat in school and dreaded the idea of one or both of your parents being schoolteachers, they will relieve you of such fears. They are the absolute opposite of helicopter parents and understand something deeply important about what a child knows and how he is supposed to learn. This is marvelous because it is without a doubt the most important job any of us are likely to have. For that alone, I cannot recommend this enough. On the other hand, as the book draws to its conclusion, there is more than a whiff of Malthus in the air. I would have expected them to have a better grip on economic theory, but they clearly do not. They do understand that we are rats in an urban rat race, and from the POV of the rat, they do excellent work. But they fall short in their understanding of what can be properly engineered and evolved in institutions and systems. That should come as no surprise given their horrid treatment at the cowardly hands of Evergreen students, staff and leadership. At the individual level they are right on target, and they also understand the dynamism of complex systems. Yet they make the error of suggesting that controlling for the single variable of sustainability will deliver us from evil. Nope. I'm glad I read the book. I will refer back to it. I will also continue listening to the podcast. They are both excellent teachers at ground level.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    A lot of what is in this book is common sense to me but it seems that it's not common sense to every one. After reading the chapters on parenting and childhood, I actually went and thanked my mom for allowing me to go to funerals, play with friends on my own, and grow and learn by suffering the consequences of my actions. She encouraged me to go outside and tromp through the woods and get injured and solve my own problems and she trusted me to ask for help when I needed. It was almost like she r A lot of what is in this book is common sense to me but it seems that it's not common sense to every one. After reading the chapters on parenting and childhood, I actually went and thanked my mom for allowing me to go to funerals, play with friends on my own, and grow and learn by suffering the consequences of my actions. She encouraged me to go outside and tromp through the woods and get injured and solve my own problems and she trusted me to ask for help when I needed. It was almost like she read those chapters herself before raising me. Of course that is impossible. But now, even as I'm typing this, I realize the problem is that what was common sense when I was growing up is no longer common sense today. In less than 40 years, everything about raising children has changed. We are no longer interested in raising children that can become happy adults who are functioning members of society capable of solving problems. We are interested in keeping kids safe, in a protective cocoon that makes them think that they are the center of the universe, which leads to dissatisfied adults who aren't really adults at all. How could that happen so quickly? That is one of the questions Heather and Bret address in this book. The last chapter is a bit scary. I've read similar warnings from other authors. What is new for me to think about is the American obsession with growth. It's been at the back of my mind before but I've always pushed it away as an uncomfortable thought to worry about later. They also mention crises that I have thought a lot about, like a Carrington Event, or a nuclear event, either of which could take out society as we know it. Of course, it's obvious to most intelligent people that the status quo is unsustainable. That's why people like Elon Musk want humans to go to Mars. Heather and Bret lay out some ideas that do not require going to Mars, but I don't know if our society is capable of accomplishing them without some major catalyst occurring first. In any case, wouldn't it be nice to have more than one plan in place?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I have enjoyed many interviews with Bret over the years and have, of recent, also enjoyed many of Heather and Bret’s podcasts. I was quite excited to have this book, to say the least. But, like others, I ended up feeling let down. It seemed to skim the surface of some really good topics that I was hoping to have found more in-depth discussion about, since it’s a BOOK. Too many stories about their life experience where it felt like they were more interested in sounding cool than truly adding to w I have enjoyed many interviews with Bret over the years and have, of recent, also enjoyed many of Heather and Bret’s podcasts. I was quite excited to have this book, to say the least. But, like others, I ended up feeling let down. It seemed to skim the surface of some really good topics that I was hoping to have found more in-depth discussion about, since it’s a BOOK. Too many stories about their life experience where it felt like they were more interested in sounding cool than truly adding to what points they were introducing or expounding upon. Bottom line is-I was really hoping that this would be a deeper dive into these subjects but I think they could’ve done a better job by cutting out half of the topics and then doubling the size of the book. It was all a little fluffy and I was quite surprised after hours of listening to two very interesting and intelligent people speak previously. Eh, we can’t all be it all, right? Maybe podcasting is their calling.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Russ

    Heying and Weinstein are standing athwart modern culture and politely yelling stop. These two academic refugees from a great idea turned racket (Evergreen College) are wonderful teachers. They are the professors we all wished we had experienced and their love/passion for their subject is clear with every chapter of this book. They tell the story of human development to modern day through the lens of practically experienced evolutionary biologists. They start with the beginning of life and procee Heying and Weinstein are standing athwart modern culture and politely yelling stop. These two academic refugees from a great idea turned racket (Evergreen College) are wonderful teachers. They are the professors we all wished we had experienced and their love/passion for their subject is clear with every chapter of this book. They tell the story of human development to modern day through the lens of practically experienced evolutionary biologists. They start with the beginning of life and proceed through our development including civilization, culture, medicine, food, sleep, sex and gender, parenthood, childhood and school. It is a holistic interpretation of what humans are evolutionarily as well as how our current reductionist thinking is in direct opposition to the evolutionary process. Every open-minded reader will gain something from this book. The ending is a bit fatalist/Malthusian from my point of view. However, it does not detract from the insights gained from the first 13 chapters. After reading it, I will exercise and sleep more, eat better and be more social (maybe). In the audiobook, I would have preferred hearing the conclusion from Heather's comforting voice instead of Bret's cautionary one. No spoilers here - read the book. You'll be glad you did.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mars Cheung

    I was waiting to read this book by the two professors who were cast out of Evergreen thanks to 'Social Justice' ideologues several years ago. Evolutionary Psychology has something to offend everyone and it easily does so if the reader isn't aware of how to handle what philosophers call the 'Naturalistic Fallacy' - just because something is natural does not mean it is 'good'. Decent book that gives a broad overview into EP and how our evolved biology interacts with today's modern innovations for g I was waiting to read this book by the two professors who were cast out of Evergreen thanks to 'Social Justice' ideologues several years ago. Evolutionary Psychology has something to offend everyone and it easily does so if the reader isn't aware of how to handle what philosophers call the 'Naturalistic Fallacy' - just because something is natural does not mean it is 'good'. Decent book that gives a broad overview into EP and how our evolved biology interacts with today's modern innovations for good or ill. It doesn't take a deep dive into specifics. For those, you're better off reading Steven Pinker's Blank Slate which really goes into detail on multiple aspects of evo psych and its implications and many controversies. The book does mention those but only in general strokes. I wasn't sold on Bret and Heather's idea of Chesterson's Fence (do not remove or alter an existing item of culture until you've done a thorough analysis of exactly what this item contributes to our culture and to the underlying biological impulses behind it). Much of what makes up our modern world stemmed forth from the innovations put into place that solved issues at the time, only to create other problems later. I don't think they can successfully argue that many of those areas of progress were not worth the changes. They lead to 'better problems' not necessarily to calamities. Still, the point was well made that at least a general analysis had to be performed to determine possible effects, especially as we now live in an age where technological progress proceeds along an alarmingly fast rate. A decent read though I wouldn't put it up there with some of the ones I've gone over on EP. Pair this one with The Blank Slate to get more details.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Simon Tudge

    Fascinating book that discusses our place in the world through an "evolutionary lens". I particularly like the authors' non partisan approach to writting and thinking. The book is clearly political, it could hardly not be, but it is never partisan. They have an interesting blend of left- and right-wing ideas; in short something to annoy almost everyone. There were many ideas that I didn't agree with, for instance the authors' reticence on GM crops or nuclear energy. But even the points on which I Fascinating book that discusses our place in the world through an "evolutionary lens". I particularly like the authors' non partisan approach to writting and thinking. The book is clearly political, it could hardly not be, but it is never partisan. They have an interesting blend of left- and right-wing ideas; in short something to annoy almost everyone. There were many ideas that I didn't agree with, for instance the authors' reticence on GM crops or nuclear energy. But even the points on which I disagreed I found they way in which the ideas were discussed quite constructive, to the point that I could see why they think what they think, even if I don't agree. On a more critical note the writting verges on the cryptic at times, some of it is quite dense and full of gnomic statements. Good writting can be challenging, but also accessable to a general audience. I'm well versed in the topics that they are talking about, but i wonder whether someone new to these topics would understand what they are talking about at points. This could be solved with a little bit more exposition around technical terms, or a simple glossary. Overall, incredibly nourishing food for thought.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Weis

    Bret and Heather tackle some of the deepest problems of the modern world and offer evidence based solutions from the perspective of evolutionary biology that you can apply to your own life. There's also much about society as a whole and how the hyper-novelty of the modern world is driving us all insane. Bret and Heather tackle some of the deepest problems of the modern world and offer evidence based solutions from the perspective of evolutionary biology that you can apply to your own life. There's also much about society as a whole and how the hyper-novelty of the modern world is driving us all insane.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ali Edwards

    Listened to this one. Lots to think about.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Somma

    This is philosophy masquerading as scientific thought. The author's assert that floride in water is bad because it's not natural; nevermind the decades of hard scientific evidence showing otherwise. The authors say we should trust cultural norms that have been around for a long time because they must have evolutionary advantages, except when the authors disagree with the long-standing norms of other cultures, like infant-swaddling--then it's a bad thing. Authoritative parenting is bad because it This is philosophy masquerading as scientific thought. The author's assert that floride in water is bad because it's not natural; nevermind the decades of hard scientific evidence showing otherwise. The authors say we should trust cultural norms that have been around for a long time because they must have evolutionary advantages, except when the authors disagree with the long-standing norms of other cultures, like infant-swaddling--then it's a bad thing. Authoritative parenting is bad because it coddles children, and then they describe the ideal parenting style... which is a perfect description of authoritative parenting. I could go on and on, but I learned long ago not to waste my time on pseudoscience.

  23. 4 out of 5

    owned

    I was looking forward to this book, being a fan of Sapolsky. It was hard to get through the first pages, not because of their writing style, which is very engaging and makes you want to read on. But because they simplify some unnamed social issue "legitimate concerns about injustice become excuses for violence and anarchy while civic leaders offer pablum rather than solutions." With the phrase "Some of the most fundamental truths—like the fact of two sexes—are increasingly dismissed as lies." th I was looking forward to this book, being a fan of Sapolsky. It was hard to get through the first pages, not because of their writing style, which is very engaging and makes you want to read on. But because they simplify some unnamed social issue "legitimate concerns about injustice become excuses for violence and anarchy while civic leaders offer pablum rather than solutions." With the phrase "Some of the most fundamental truths—like the fact of two sexes—are increasingly dismissed as lies." they lost my interest and gained my mild disgust. It's not that they're wrong (there are, as far as we know, two sexes) but they are actually simplifying the issue by equating two sexes versus the social construct of gender. Not to mention the way people who are born intersex will feel reading that line. I'm going to peruse this book a bit further but I wanted to mention these first things here, in case these issues would turn other hopeful readers off. Therefore three stars; good (in fact great) writing style, but writing text as if you're neutral when in fact you're coaching your readers with certain "truths" from the get-go is a no-go for me. Facts can incorporate other people's opinions without coming off as callous. I downgraded this book from non-fiction to a book with an agenda.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jake Davis

    These guys trust science not "the science". Great read. These guys trust science not "the science". Great read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Will Shoemaker

    A great read, if you're a baby A great read, if you're a baby

  26. 5 out of 5

    عدنان عوض

    what a book! Finally, a scientists who have a deep understanding of evolution, can broaden it's life applications, a "correct lens" as they call it in the book. lots of books available trying to apply evolution into one domain of human life: nutrition, economy...etc. but to make it a framework, a system of thinking, a lens to see the world, is what missing in most, if not all of the writings. what a book! Finally, a scientists who have a deep understanding of evolution, can broaden it's life applications, a "correct lens" as they call it in the book. lots of books available trying to apply evolution into one domain of human life: nutrition, economy...etc. but to make it a framework, a system of thinking, a lens to see the world, is what missing in most, if not all of the writings.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Timothee Sallin

    Ponderous, pedantic, pessimistic, self righteous, finger wagging, Malthusian.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dustin Cubit

    I thought that the point of evolution was to create the most robust version of ourselves in order to adapt to environmental pressures and for natural selection to eliminate the unadaptable. Oddly enough this book promotes resisting environmental change which I find kinda odd. In layman's terms they are basically promoting conservative moral values. I thought that the point of evolution was to create the most robust version of ourselves in order to adapt to environmental pressures and for natural selection to eliminate the unadaptable. Oddly enough this book promotes resisting environmental change which I find kinda odd. In layman's terms they are basically promoting conservative moral values.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anu

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Poorly researcher pop science book from people who clearly haven’t been keeping up to date on scientific literature. The prevalence of ADHD diagnosis amongst boys/men is not due to biological differences in men and women but rather due to the fact that ADHD presents differently in women and girls/women are under-diagnosed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti... While monogamy is a mating strategy which benefits children, polyamory may be of more benefit since children are exposed to many adults ( Poorly researcher pop science book from people who clearly haven’t been keeping up to date on scientific literature. The prevalence of ADHD diagnosis amongst boys/men is not due to biological differences in men and women but rather due to the fact that ADHD presents differently in women and girls/women are under-diagnosed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti... While monogamy is a mating strategy which benefits children, polyamory may be of more benefit since children are exposed to many adults (ie, it takes a village to raise a child.) This is more ancestrally consistent to how humans lived 10,000+ years ago. Polygyny may have been beneficial especial for women practicing fast mating strategies- if you purposefully confuse paternity, more men and women will team up together to raise kids. This is even easier when practicing mainly polygamy- there is an essential endless supply of sperm and several females to help raise children. Nuclear, monogamous families are a modern concept spearheaded by the need for guaranteed paternity in passing down of property, finance, etc. This is an argument coming from a woman who has absolutely no desire to be with a polygamous/polyandrous partner. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/... https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti... Heying and Weinstein refer to a study talking about the Big 5 traits and rank women as more agreeable, altruistic, and extroverted. However, this study doesn’t look into whether this pattern is created by normal biological nature or whether it is created by nurture. In families, girls are often expected to take care of their younger siblings- something that is less required of older male siblings. From a young age, women are taught to be nurturing and agreeable. As such, women end up doing more emotional labor in families as adults and even in the workplace. These are traits that can be cultivated by men provided they are also forced to perform this level of emotional labor within families. Beyond this, Big 5 tests are also known for their acquiescence bias- especially in developing populations. Personality test responses in general reflect what a person wants to be vs who they actually are. Self response personality tests are fundamentally non empirical forms of psychological analysis and evidence. So are women naturally more agreeable, extroverted, nurturing, and neurotic or are are we just inclined to believe that these traits are desirable and marks of womanhood? https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/bl... https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-ins... Heying and Weinstein also discuss the variability hypothesis as though it is biology that dictates IQ and representation amongst top performers in STEM fields. However, recent studies have shown that this is neither found outside the US and in fact, even within the US, this phenomenon is consistently disproven by Asian and Indian American women who perform higher on math/stem exams than their Asian and Indian American male counterparts (ie top 10% is 7% female, 3% male). Additionally, even amongst the general American population- the top 10% of people in STEM courses are 5% male, 5% female. In other fields, women actually make up a higher proportion of the top 10%. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper... https://www.nature.com/articles/s4146... I do agree with a lot of their points on ancestral consistency with diet and staying away from medical intervention unless absolutely necessary.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Dye

    A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century was a little different from what I was hoping for. I think I wanted a guide to hunter-gatherering for the 21st century, but Bret and Heather have plenty of interesting insights into how the world we find ourselves in is very different from the one our ancestors evolved in, and how to mitigate the maladaptive practices that have been habituated in us moderns. My only criticism of the book is that it sacrificed depth for breadth. The topic on food alone A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century was a little different from what I was hoping for. I think I wanted a guide to hunter-gatherering for the 21st century, but Bret and Heather have plenty of interesting insights into how the world we find ourselves in is very different from the one our ancestors evolved in, and how to mitigate the maladaptive practices that have been habituated in us moderns. My only criticism of the book is that it sacrificed depth for breadth. The topic on food alone deserved a full book. I understand the authors were providing a survey to support their thesis, summarized above, but after every chapter I felt myself wanting more. I also had trouble following their arguments in a few places. Some sections, such as whether animals have consciousness or if our pets love us, were interesting, but didn't add to the thesis of the chapters they were in. I think Heather or Bret had written such sections before knowing where they would go in the book. Sometimes paragraphs within sections didn't lead naturally to the next. A reference to land theft throughout human history and across cultures didn't transition seamlessly into a section about the Mayas, other than to serve as a reminder not to romanticize people or periods of the past before mentioning something admirable about the Mayas. Jordan Peterson, who wrote a blurb on the back cover, and whom I also admire, also goes off on long tangents, but his seem to flow more naturally from his stream-of-conscious communication style, not shoehorned in where they would seem to fit. I might be the only one bothered by this as I take copious notes on every book I read (38 hand-written pages on this one!). Despite my mild frustration with the flow of the book, I found it informative and useful. I have already incorporated some of their "corrective lenses" in my life. As an anthropology major and something of a crank, I was predisposed to be drawn to their arguments and prescriptions. I have seen enough interviews with Bret and Heather and have listened to clips from the DarkHorse podcast from the beginning, so I enjoyed being able to hear their voices in my head as I read the book. I think I can reliably guess who wrote which parts. Whenever an idea would be followed with a punchy, emphatic phrase, I heard Heather. Whenever a paragraph started with something like, "This is true for # of reasons..." and then proceeded to lay out the reasons with "First... the second reason..." I knew that was Bret. I certainly think this book is useful enough to recommend to my friends and family. I will keep my copy to give to my daughter when she is old enough, along with 12 Rules for Life, because I think taken together they will help her live a healthy and enriching life.

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