Matt Ridley’s The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature (2003) Book Review example

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Matt Ridley’s The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature (2003) Book Review

Why has the author chosen to write about the Red Queen Theory and the study of human nature? By studying, what does he eventually hope to learn? Do you think that he is ultimately successful in his search for this knowledge?

The author believes and aims to prove that human nature has some typical traits manifesting themselves through human species-specific behavior. Ridley (2003) announces “It is the assumption of this book that there is also, in the same way, a typical human nature. It is the aim of this book to seek it” (р. 3). At the same time, according to Ridley (2003) “We will never quite reach that goal, and it would perhaps be better if we never did”(p. 349). The author believes that the most significant human behavioral patterns and life processes, such as survival, development, reproduction are defined by belonging to a definite species. However, humanity is characterized not only by biological attributes. Historical evolution, cultural characteristics, psychological peculiarities are subjects of many branches of knowledge, besides evolutionary biology and anthropology. Ridley considers many issues generally studied by history of culture, social science, psychology, proving that the considered phenomena are explained through biological, specifically genetic laws and evolution processes. To emphasize the extent of impact biological factors have and to prove the unexpected conclusions found far away from biology field and evolution theory, Ridley claims to achieve the ambitious aim of describing the human nature.

The Red Queen theory is described in detail and applied to sexual reproduction explanation by Ridley. The question why sexual reproduction was chosen by many species is one of ultimate questions of the book. The author eventually wants to find a universal explanation, a sort of maxim or a law, specifying the way biological factors influence evolution and, through evolution, cultural, social, psychological life of human beings. He succeeded partly in this, showing numerous spheres of life, influenced by human beings evolution, however, having explained many aspects of human nature, existential questions such as necessity of an individual to find life purpose, meaning of life, different from species-specific, were not covered by the book. Nevertheless, this cannot downgrade the luminous work of the author.

Who developed the Red Queen Theory, and what does the theory say? How does the Red Queen Theory assert itself throughout the history of animal evolution? Give an example of how the Red Queen Theory works.

The Red Queen Theory was firstly introduced by Leigh Van Valen. He discovered that “species do not get better at surviving (nor do they grow feeble with age, as individuals do)” (Ridley, 2003, p. 64). “The Red Queen” metaphor is used to illustrate that like the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll's “Through the Looking-Glass” always runs, but remains at the same place, a species must always struggle to ensure its survival. Some period of well-being does not …

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