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Biology, Evolution, and Human Nature

Timothy H. Goldsmith, William F. Zimmerman

ISBN: 978-0-471-18219-1 November 2000 384 Pages


Designed for a one term introduction to the modern theory of evolution by natural selection and how that theory explains animal social behavior in general and human sociocultural evolution in particular. The book can be used in courses in Biology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology, as well as in courses in Economics and Law that seek to include a biological evolutionary perspective. The book is based upon the teaching experiences of two general biologists who have taught these subjects to students at Amherst College and Yale University for many years. It provides a balanced and engaging account of the important theories and concepts of evolution and how they contribute to our understanding of human behavior and history.


Why Study Biology?

Charles Darwin and the Origins of Evolutionary Theory.

Cells and the Molecules of Life.

Genetic Continuity and Change: Organisms, Environments, and Microevolution.

After Darwin: Molecular Evolution, Selection, and Adaptation.

Evolutionary Social Theory.


The Success of Social Insects.

Parasites, Hosts, and the Evolutionary Warfare of Infectious Disease.


Nervous Systems Generate Behavior.

Individual Organisms are the Product of Development.

Behavior as Phenotype.


The Physical Record of Human Origins.

Exploring Our Behavioral Heritage.

Viewing Human Cultures in an Evolutionary Context.



"This is a well written and illustrated introduction to modern biology, notably thorough and useful in the way it builds upon evolutionary explanation." --Edward O. Wilson, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

"An excellent introduction to a body of knowledge and concepts that should be mastered by every educated person." --Steven Pinker, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"The explanations of many difficult concepts are the best I've seen." --Donald Kennedy, Standford University

"Truly a pleasure to read...The authors have a real knack for style and ease of expression.... The concepts and ideas are clearly stated, well developed, and easily understood." --Charles Mallery, University of Miami

"This is a remarkable book." --Martin Daley, McMaster University

"This is a superb book ? highly engaging, extremely well written, and well stocked with fascinating information." --David M. Buss, University of Texas - Austin
  • Uses evolution as the unifying theme to trace the connections between levels of biological complexity from genes through nervous systems, animal societies, and human cultures.
  • Examines the history of evolutionary theory from Darwin to the present, including the impact of molecular biology and the emergence of evolutionary social theory.
  • Includes recent work on primate societies and human evolution.
  • Shows how the biological and social sciences provide complementary insights into human nature and history.
  • Provides background in biology for understanding evolutionary approaches to the study of anthropology, history, psychology, sociology, medicine, and law, including:
    • The nature of genes and the control of their activities
    • The interactions of genes, cells, and the environment in the development of organisms
    • The relation between genes and brains
    • The development and evolution of behavior
    • The evolution of culture