Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Book Review - A Taste for the Beautiful - Princeton University Press

    It was at an opportune time that I received this book for review, having recently embarked on the task of reading for the third time the seminal works of Charles Darwin, whose ideas transformed all previous notions of the origin of species, and challenged the universal belief in divine creation.




     In many ways, Michael J. Ryan's research takes over from Darwin's The Descent of Man, and Evolution in Relation to Sex. It expands on Darwin's original theories and clearly identifies that the brain is the organ specifically adapted to developing a taste for beauty. More specifically, it is the female brain.



     By reinforcing a clear preference for a male characteristic that provides prima facie evidence of superior genes, females that preferentially mate with such males ensure that those attributes are perpetuated and enhanced in subsequent generations.



     Think only of the bizarre tail of a male Peacock and the disadvantage it must pose to the male, yet it indicates to the female that the possessor of such ornamentation is parasite resistant, and in other ways healthy, to cope with what at first blush seems like an impediment. Since males with the finest tail feathers and the most vigorous display will attract many females, thereby assuring multiple matings, they will succeed in passing on their genes. And the male offspring from such pairings will inherit the splendid tails of their fathers.
     A taste for beauty is not limited to non-human animals and has wide ramifications for our own species. Not only is physical beauty a criterion for humans, but the ability of a very wealthy man to acquire what is sometimes referred to as a "trophy wife" is a clear indication of a woman choosing a man old enough to be her father, because he is able to provide financial security and all of the pleasures of life. In virtually all cases it is the female who makes the decision in such arrangements, not the male.
     Michael Ryan is a serious scientist with a wide body of work, but he has written this book in a style readily accessible to the layman. Wonderful black-and-white illustrations begin each chapter.
     It is a very fine work; you will never think about beauty and attraction in the same way again.

Publication date: 07 February 2018

Price: US$27.95, £22.95

30 comments:

  1. Sounds like an interesting read. So true that wealth attracts beauty.
    The spider looks particularly colourful, though I don't find it attractive and would certainly run a mile!
    Have a great day.

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  2. Sounds like an interesting read.

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  3. Hello David!
    The book sounds very interesting!
    And what a lovely presentation !
    You must visit Oakleigh in Melbourne a suburb with Greek shops and restaurants!
    Thank you for visiting and for your lovely wishes!
    Happy new year to you and your beloved ones!
    Dimi...

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  4. Hari OM
    Yup. It is important to remember that the human is essentially an animal. Supposedly all that separates us is the opposable thumb and development of intellect; that analytical capacity is the first thing which can be sacrificed when survival instincts kick in! What makes us the most dangerous animal on earth is the misuse of the intellect to justify our animal behaviours... YAM xx

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    1. A human is not "essentially" an animal, a human IS an animal.

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  5. I can see the logic in this, David, and it occurs to me that the problems arise when the male tries to upset the apple-cart and thinks that his is the right to make such decisions!

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  6. I'm always on the look out for new books to add to my reading list, this looks like a good add!

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  7. I wonder why my wife chose me....I'm not rich or handsome. I don't have beautiful plumage but I do have a bit of a beergut and double chin.

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  8. I really enjoyed your review on "A Taste For The Beautiful" David. I called Chapters to see if it's available, but unfortunately not until January 26th. I'll just have to wait and hope that I'll remember at that time, lol!
    Much love,
    Moi

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  9. I can't but think how the current feminazis will respond to such a book. If only they had the intelligence to understand it. Meanwhile, Sue loves me for better or worse.

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    1. It's probably mostly better after all this time!

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  10. I think it's full of pictures, that is best for me.

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  11. Certainly sounds an interesting read - many thanks for the review.

    All the best Jan

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  12. Nice to see our natural instincts made clear in this way....

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  13. Seems very interesting book. I never read such book. Would like to read.
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  14. Hello, it does sound like an interesting read. The photos look wonderful, it does not seem fair that the males are so much prettier than the females. Happy Friday, enjoy your day and weekend!

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    1. That ornamentation often carries a heavy price, however, as these gaudy displaying males subject themselves to increased risk of predation.

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  15. Muy interesante libro. Saludos y gracias.

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  16. This sounds like a very interesting book. I will put this one on my 'to read' list which grows ever longer by the month. Happy Friday to you David.

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  17. It does sound interesting and the photography is beautiful! You did a good review! Thanks! And Happy New year!

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  18. Beautiful and interesting book.. Happy new year David.. :-)))

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  19. It looks like a beautiful and interesting read, David, thanks for sharing this.
    But I believe man is not just an animal.....!!
    Thanks for the info about the Wrynecks you saw in Ethiopia, I would to see the Red-throated!
    I am about to spend 3 weeks in Kenya, a part of Eastern Africa I don't know yet, and impatient to discover the birds there.
    Warm hugs and abrazos to share with Miriam :)))

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  20. Interesting sounding book. Of course, an interesting idea here is 'false advertising' - here a male displays traits that are associated with 'genetic health', but does not go to the expense (from an energy point of view) of doing the 'healthy thing' - if the female cannot tell the difference, this liar male will be at an advantage over the honest one. I read some stuff an age ago on brightness of male plumage in birds and its relation to parasite load - and also some stuff about the production of red pigments in feathers. Both are considered an indiction of health, but both can (to some extent) be faked. I feel some long conversations coming on!!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. One would assume, Stewart, that in such an arrangement, the inherently inferior genes of the impostor male would be inherited by his offspring, and that they would ultimately lose out to the genuinely fit males in subsequent generations.

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  21. Hello David,:=) Many thanks for your visit,..it's good to be back. You have given this book such a good review, and the photos are beautiful. I have always been fascinated by what attracts male and female animals.I will add it to my reading list, and let you know what I think of it.

    Are we not also spiritual beings, as well as animals David! Just saying!

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    1. I don't happen to think so.....but that's a whole other discussion!

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  22. Hola David, este libro parece muy interesante, muchas gracias por compartirlo. Las fotos de las aves son espectaculares, me encantan. Un abrazo estimado amigo.

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