Despite what you may have heard, evolutionary psychologists are not singularly focused on sex – they are dedicated to understanding behavior from an adaptationist standpoint. That means from the perspective of an evolved design for solving problems. For every intensely emotional thing you do, there is probably an adaptive problem connected to it, including sex.
Under certain conditions, for example, jealousy can work as a solution to for keeping mates. In other contexts it is maladaptive and dangerous. When you make that twisted grimacing face after drinking sour milk, you are experiencing disgust – an emotion shaped by biology to motivate us to move away from the offending source. Orgasm is designed – along with many of the other complex feelings associated with sex – to move us in a positive direction toward our partners. And so on.
We could go down the list of our common behaviors and try to identify the adaptive problems and solutions associated with each. Indeed, many significant thinkers have done just that. Here are some great books on sex, evolution, moral behavior, and everything else linked to human activity.
1. The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, by David M. Buss. Based on one of the biggest ever cross cultural studies, this book explores why we have desires and how they often lead to conflict. Desire is a powerful emotion that spans cultures with roots extending far back in human history.
2. The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, by Geoffrey Miller.
What role did sexual selection play in shaping the human mind? Also, check out Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior by this author.
3. Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles, by Robin Baker. At the time of its publication over two decades ago, Sperm Wars was a revolutionary thesis about sex. Still controversial today, the book reconsiders old biological assumptions and reveals new facts about mating. If less than 1% of a man’s sperm can fertilize anything, what is the other 99% doing? The answer can be found in the title. They are blocking, interfering, and destroying all other men’s sperm.
4. The Evolutionary Biology of Human Female Sexuality, by Randy Thornhill and Steven W. Gangestad. Closer to a textbook than any of the others on this list, Thornhill and Gangestad explain how female sexuality is dual purpose in design – to select mates for genetic quality and enlist male resources. This new theoretical framework provides an understanding of women’s sexuality based on comparative sexuality across all vertebrate animals and reexamines males sexuality from a new viewpoint.
Source: Duy Truong/Flickr
5. The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture, by Jerome H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby. How did evolutionary forces shape the architecture of the human mind? This edited volume is filled with articles by researchers from a number of perspectives.
6. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, by Steven Pinker. This must read book looks at concepts such as the blank slate, the noble savage, and the ghost in the machine in an exploration of morals, emotions, and politics.
7. The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, by Robert Wright. This provocative book covers everything from genetic strategies and office politics to moral codes and public policies.
8. The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins. The original edition was published almost 40 years ago and remains a classic in evolutionary thought.
~ Napoleon Bonaparte