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Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You

Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature

Agustín Fuentes
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You
    Book Description:

    There are three major myths of human nature: humans are divided into biological races; humans are naturally aggressive; men and women are truly different in behavior, desires, and wiring. In an engaging and wide-ranging narrative Agustín Fuentes counters these pervasive and pernicious myths about human behavior. Tackling misconceptions about what race, aggression, and sex really mean for humans, Fuentes incorporates an accessible understanding of culture, genetics, and evolution requiring us to dispose of notions of “nature or nurture.” Presenting scientific evidence from diverse fields, including anthropology, biology, and psychology, Fuentes devises a myth-busting toolkit to dismantle persistent fallacies about the validity of biological races, the innateness of aggression and violence, and the nature of monogamy and differences between the sexes. A final chapter plus an appendix provide a set of take-home points on how readers can myth-bust on their own. Accessible, compelling, and original, this book is a rich and nuanced account of how nature, culture, experience, and choice interact to influence human behavior.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95167-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)

    • 1 Myths about Human Nature Are Powerful—and Misleading
      (pp. 3-26)

      There is a shared set of beliefs about human nature that shapes the way we see the world—common assumptions about race, aggression, and sex that are seen as just part of being human.

      While we might not always admit it in public, most people think that there is a specific set of biological differences between various kinds of people in the world, and that if you strip away society and laws, humans become beasts, with survival of the fittest and the bigger, badder, more aggressive taking control. And of course, nearly everyone knows that it is natural that men...

    • 2 Culture—Problems with What We Believe about Being Human
      (pp. 27-41)

      My dissertation advisor at Berkeley, Phyllis Dolhinow, once began a lecture about research and the interpretation of information with the phrase “I would not have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.”¹ This twist on the adage “seeing is believing” pinpoints an aspect of being human that makes myths about human nature so resilient. What we believe to be true affects the way we see the world, the way we think things should be, and how we interpret information presented to us. That our perspectives affect our perceptions on a daily basis is a core concept of this book.


    • 3 Evolution Is Important—but May Not Be What We Think
      (pp. 42-62)

      This quote by a respected science writer illustrates how even the educated public may have a very poor understanding of what evolution is and what it is not. To sell the story, the false representation of a “debate” as to whether evolution happens in humans has to be a central theme. Two common misconceptions about evolution are revealed here: that it has an end point and that humans are somehow less affected by evolution than other organisms. The first sentence reports the common assumption that culture shields us from evolution and the second, that humans have made it, that we...


    • Prelude: Human ≠ Nature + Nurture
      (pp. 65-69)

      Being human is messy. We are simultaneously biological and cultural beings with complex schemata and social lives that shape and populate our perceptions and philosophies: we are naturenurtural.³ As Theodosius Dobzhansky notes, we have not evolved to have one particular way of being human; there are a number of potential outcomes to the human experience. However, the way we see the world and our cultural inheritance limit the ways in which we can perceive and experience those potential paths. Albert Einstein urges us to make an attempt to see what is really out there as opposed to seeing only what...

    • 4 The Myth of Race
      (pp. 70-113)

      Ashley Montagu, one of the most prominent anthropologists of the twentieth century, warned about the pernicious myth of race in 1942, and his warning is still relevant today. In his 2010 book, Guy Harrison challenges the biological reality of race:

      Few things are more real than races in the minds of most people. We are different. Anyone can see that. Look at a “black” person and look at an “asian” person. If a black Kenyan stands next to a white guy from Finland we all can see that they are not the same kinds of people. Obviously they belong to...

    • 5 Myths about Aggression
      (pp. 114-155)

      In his story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson famously shows the dark side of humanity. The respectable and kind Dr. Jekyll devises a potion that enables him to bring to the surface his evil core. In Mr. Hyde, with his vile appearance and violent behavior, Jekyll sees that this alter ego “bore the stamp of lower elements in my soul.” The concept that humanity has a violent and evil core is widespread; it is one of the oldest and most resilient myths about human nature. From historical and philosophical beliefs to current popular and scientific beliefs,...

    • 6 Myths about Sex
      (pp. 156-206)

      In 1995 the author and family therapist John Gray published the first edition of his bookMen Are from Mars,Women Are from Venus, which argues that to make male-female romantic relationships (especially marriages) work, one needs to realize the core differences in communication, emotion, and behavioral styles of males and females. Twenty years (and multiple editions and follow-ups) later, this is still a common metaphor people use to think about men and women.¹ Men are aggressive, belligerent, but protectors like the Roman god of war Mars, and women are emotive, beautiful, vain, and fertile like the goddess of love...

    • 7 Beyond the Myths: Now What?
      (pp. 207-216)

      This book explores some of the complicated patterns of becoming and being human, with a focus on the issues of race, aggression, and sex. Hopefully, after reading it you are less likely to passively accept popular notions about what it means to be human. Simply asking if there is a human nature is the wrong question. Rather, we need to ask what do humans actually do? How do we vary and how are we same? And, most important, how do we best explain the results of these questions? We have to be ready for multiple valid explanations and intertwined and...

  8. APPENDIX: Getting the Information Yourself
    (pp. 217-220)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 221-250)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-264)
  11. Index
    (pp. 265-274)