Wild Life: Adventures of an Evolutionary Biologist

Wild Life: Adventures of an Evolutionary Biologist Robert Trivers Is A Living Legend In Biology And The Social Sciences, A Man The Harvard Psychologist Steven Pinker Calls One Of The Great Thinkers In The History Of Western Thought And Time Magazine Named One Of The Greatest Scientists And Thinkers Of The Th Century His Theories On The Evolutionary Tensions Between Parent And Offspring, Sibling And Sibling, Man And Woman, Friend And Friend, And A Person And Himself Or Herself Have Not Only Revolutionized Genetics And Evolutionary Biology But Have Influenced Disciplines From Medicine And The Social Sciences To History, Economics, And Literary Studies But Unlike Other Renowned Scientists, Trivers Has Spent Time Behind Bars, Drove A Getaway Car For Huey P Newton, And Founded An Armed Group In Jamaica To Protect Gay Men From Mob Violence Now, In The Entertaining Tradition Of Surely You Re Joking Mr Feynman, Trivers Tell Us In His Inimitable Voice About The Inimitable Life Behind The Revolutionary Science He Comments With Irreverent Wit And Penetrating Insight On Everything From American Racism To The History Of Psychiatry To Who Killed Peter Tosh, Musical Heir To Bob Marley Sprinkled With Anecdotes About Such Luminaries As Richard Dawkins And Stephen Jay Gould, And With Photographs Throughout, This Volume Is Sure To Enlighten And Entertain Anyone With An Interest In Science, The Human Condition, Or The Nature Of Creative Genius PRAISE FOR WILD LIFE To Call Robert Trivers An Acclaimed Biologist Is An Understatement Akin To Calling The Late Richard Feynman A Popular Professor Of Physics PSYCHOLOGY TODAY Who Would Have Guessed That Arguably Today S Most Original Thinker In Evolutionary Theory Could Possibly Have Led The Extraordinary Life Robert Trivers Recounts In These Pages We Are Taken On A Wild Trip From Inspired Meditations On The Biology Of Self Deception, Through A Steamy Jamaican Underworld, To Black Panthers In California, To Frank Appraisals Of Distinguished Or Over Rated Scientists, The Whole Adding Up To A Disarmingly Frank And Utterly Unique Memoir Of A Rollercoaster Of A Life RICHARD DAWKINS, Bestselling Author Of The Selfish Gene And The God Delusion Robert Trivers Is Not Just A Brilliant Evolutionary Thinker But A World Class Raconteur, Adventurer, Kibitzer, People Watcher, Jester, And Provocateur This Memoir Is Filled With Sharp And Hilarious Observations About The Living World, Not Least A Certain Species Of Hairless Primate, Not Least A Certain Member Of That Species Named Robert Trivers STEVEN PINKER,best Selling Author Of How The Mind Works And The Better Angels Of Our Nature Why Violence Has Declined It Would Not Be Hyperbole To Say That Robert Trivers Is One Of The Most Important Evolutionary Theorists Since Charles Darwin But Contrary To The Image Most People Have Of Theoretical Scientists As Stodgy Intellectuals Holed Up In Their Offices Buried In Paper, Trivers Memoir Reveals A Man Whose Life Has Been Wild In Every Sense Of The Word A Lust For Life Doesn T Begin To Sum Up A Career Devoted To Truth, Courage, And The Audacity To Think What No One Else Has Thought, And To Act In Ways Few Others Would Dare You Ll Even Learn How To Defend Yourself In A Knife Fight If That Were Not Enough, Trivers Is Witty, Clever, And Compassionate This Book Is Destined To Become A Classic In Scientific Autobiography MICHAEL SHERMER, Editor In Chief, The SkepticABOUT THE AUTHORRobert Trivers Is A Professor Of Anthropology And Biological Sciences At Rutgers University


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  • Kindle Edition
  • 238 pages
  • Wild Life: Adventures of an Evolutionary Biologist
  • Robert Trivers
  • English
  • 09 May 2017

10 thoughts on “Wild Life: Adventures of an Evolutionary Biologist

  1. says:

    Would have benefited from a good editor Within the 200 page book, there are about 50 pages of great content regarding academic mentors, friends, and the development of the authors intellectual interests The remaining 150 pages are a combination of heavy handed attacks on academic enemies, and overly involved stories about the mundanities of life in Jamaica Worth a quick read, but left me with a somewhat sour taste in my mouth regarding the author.

  2. says:

    This was a great memoir from Robert Trivers, famed evolutionary biologist 72 years old at the time of writing, he has little incentive to hold back from speaking his mind, so he doesn t There are many critiques to be made of this book.Here are mine 1 He repeats himself far too often Who would later become my mother in law or at that time I was a committed ganja man Heard it the first time.2 Apparently murder is a big deal in Jamaica I quickly found myself skipping the many, many accounts of Jamaican murders There s an expression you ll sometimes hear from tourists who thought they d never run out of time for fascinating castles another boring castle The same expression can be applied to churches, temples, and, apparently, accounts of murders in Jamaica.3 There was a surprisingly high number of grammar errors and typos the same words the same words repeated, for example.Still, if every prominent scholar wrote a book like this at the end of their career, the world would be a better place My favorite chapters were his homages to his mentors, why he chose to study biology, and the closing chapters in which he reflected on his life and on Jamaica.I finished the book determined to read of Trivers work, to read The Selfish Gene by Dawkins so that I can develop a stronger understanding of natural selection, to further reduce my esteem for Stephen J Gould, and to continue not visiting Jamaica Though Trivers still lives in Jamaica, he does also reside in Somerset, New Jersey, and I sincerely regret that I didn t have a clue who he was or that I might seek out a lecture by him while I lived in the Garden State.I will almost certainly remember Wild Life as one of the ten best books I read this year.

  3. says:

    This is one very weird but enjoyably forthright autobiography.

  4. says:

    Very interesting book Trivers is so far outside of what you expect a successful academic to be like that it made me reconsider the whole category of academics.The blurb on the back describes this book as being in the tradition of You re Surely Joking Mr Feynman, and this is an apt comparison Feynman too was a very unconventional academic or at least, he didn t conform to my idea of a conventional academic , and in those memoirs he discussed all kinds of wacky adventures from reforming the Brazilian education system to getting into a bar fight to partying for several days straight with prostitutes in Las Vegas But with Feynman, there was always a sense of that at the end of the day he had his priorities right and nothing would get too out of hand Like when he starts getting concerned he might be heading towards alcoholism so becomes a teetotaller.Not so with Trivers, who, were it not for the fact that he s a very smart guy, would no doubt have spent large chunks of his life in prison He s a big drug user There s one story where he gets pulled over by the police for drink driving like a maniac, and narrowly avoided being done in for possession of cocaine by virtue of the fact that he hadn t been able to find any And he was a big marajuana user his whole life Here s a nice photo of him in a marajuana plantation There s another story where he gets arrested for being drunk and acting dangerously around a moving vehicle The following day, his jailers are acting extremely wary around him and he can t figure out why His cell mate eventually explains to him You don t remember what you were yelling when they brought you here last night I did not You were cursing them left and right, calling them mother fuckers for holding you for the night Almost immediately after this, comes the most incongruous paragraph transition I ve ever seen In 1980 I had a prestigious fellowship from the Smithsonian and space provided to do a year of tropical research in Panama.As well as drugs, sex and violence also played pretty major parts in Trivers narratives Most of his field work was done in Jamaica which he tolerated despite it being one of the most violent countries in the world in no small part because of its sexually promiscuous norms At one point Trivers laments his younger self s naivety because he didn t pursue a threesome when one might have been within reach At another point Trivers stabs a big Jamaican guy with arguably commensurate provocation and then lacerates himself to make it look like damage was evenly done to either side and thus avoid Jamaican s ineffectual justice system He was also a member of the Black Panthers and didn t have any issue with affiliating with what sounded like a bunch of reprehensible thugs.Aside from Feynman, the other person who Trivers really reminded me of was Hunter S Thompson Here s a bit which sounded particularly HST y It was these actual details of a murder that soon came to trouble me and, in fact, set me off on a ten day tear in which I ended up investigating the crime, sleeping two to four hours night, smoking ganja marajuana continuously, and so polarizing the community that by the end of my stay some men were carrying guns against me, and I had to seek refuge in my lawyer s home By then I had also had several physcial fights, both in Southfield and elsewhere, inccluding one in a Kingston night club that resulted in an icepick being shoved almost completely though my left hand And here s a photo of Trivers is looking very much like a Gonzo journalist next to W.D Hamilton Sometimes I wonder how brilliant people end up in cul de sac disciplines like zoology If you re really smart you go into physics or maths because 1 those are the highest prestige disciplines, 2 it s where the problems are that are most tractable to throwing a bunch of brain power at them ie, no legwork required , 3 they become Schelling points for smart people to congregate to and smart people will want to be with their own kind If you can t cut it as a mathematician or physicist, then you try out computer science or statistics Then maybe psychology or philosophy Eventually you get to the lowest rungs of sociology and dance studies But every now and then a genius ends up at one of the lower rungs and revolutionises the field Why Why didn t they follow the natural flow of things to end up at maths physics where they belong Trivers story sheds some light on how this can happen He started out doing a maths degree at Harvard so far so good , but soon suffered a mental breakdown and subsequently went so far off the rails in terms of antisocial behaviours that there s no way he would ve fitted in with the conventional bourgeois lifestyle of high prestige academia.That s all very cynical Here s a inspiring take away message from this book You don t have to choose between living a low risk, unadventurous, conformist lifestyle and achieving social prestige and intellectual fulfilment If you play your cards right, you can have it both ways.

  5. says:

    Strong start, but gets weaker at the end as he sinks further into unresolved delusions.

  6. says:

    The best book I ve read this year

  7. says:

    Good writer describing a nearly incredible life Perhaps it s today s hyperpolitical world, but when he stated his belief that African Americans should take a page out of Jewish history and murder those murderers of their own people , snarky and iconoclastic became insupportable claptrap.

  8. says:

    As my husband was researching his theory of sex, I heard a lot about Robert Trivers My husband was very impressed with his writings on reciprocal altruism and paternal investment So, it was with great interest that I started to read this book and I was not disappointed Dr Trivers has indeed had a wild life and this memoir recounts some of his interesting escapades Early in his career, he went to Jamaica to study lizards and ended up getting very involved in living, loving and fighting with the native human population He openly admits his fondness for ganja and is willing to reflect on both the successes and the failures of his life The book was an entertaining read, consisting of a series of anecdotes, some funny, some scary, some shocking I loved the stories in the book which paid tribute to other scientists and mentors I also admired the author s willingness to discuss his own bouts of mania As Dr Trivers now reconsiders how he feels about Jamaica he seems saddened by the newer tourism models of all inclusive resorts there I have stayed at some of these resorts and they are quite nice from a visitor s point of view, but they do reinforce the idea of only being safe inside the walls Dr Trivers laments that Jamaica still has one of the highest murder rates anywhere I can t help but wonder if the murder and violence of the Jamaican society might be an inevitable and inherent consequence of disenfranchised men in a predominantly matriarchal society with high paternity uncertainty In my dreams, I would like to listen to my husband and Dr Trivers have a conversation about this.

  9. says:

    What a life

  10. says:

    My suspicion is that most people will feel ambivalent, at best, about this book, unless they have a personal connection to Trivers In this case, as in most, I fall into the category of most people.The book, however, wasn t a total waste of time and I finished reading it It contains a few doses of insights and the occasional interesting anecdote, mostly about life in Jamaica.

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