Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Natural History of the Rich

Yes. I followed my unsentimental foray into the institution of marriage with a safari into the mansions and golf courses of the rich.

Written by a journalist, it looks at the behavior of the rich through the prism of evolutionary psychology. Now, I have my own problems with evolutionary psychology, mainly that I think it so oversimplifies behavior that it can convolute ANY human action into a reach for propagating genes. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this book.

The writer is entertaining and draws many varied, National Geographic-esque examples from animal behavior. He also clearly did his homework on caviar dreams, from detailed histories to interesting interviews with the obscenely wealthy. It has definitely left me with lots of little anecdotes for cocktail parties.

None of the conclusions Conniff made were earth-shattering. For me what it established more was the mysterious biological root to so much of our behavior. It is interesting to note that the DNA for almost every living creature on the face of the planet is pretty much the same. The smallest of variations account for all of our biological diversity, and the same sequences keep popping up in the unlikeliest of places, creating similar behavior in wasps, buffaloes, and humans.

It has definitely made me look more closely at the reasoning behind some of our most culturally expected behavior, so for that I would recommend the book. Just be patient with the beginning...and maybe the end. The middle is golden, though. ;)

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