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Monkeluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals is a witty, insightful collection of essays by Robert M. Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University. The essays originally appeared as articles in journals such as Natural History, Scientific American, and Discover.
If you are curious about behavioral biology, that is, why we behave as we do, Sapolsky postulates some compelling answers. In the age of the human genome project, many people seem to believe that genetics are the be-all-end-all explanation for behavior. While Sapolsky acknowledges the role of genes, he urges that we also consider other equally influential factors. Among the topics he addresses are:
- How small differences in our environment affect behavior
- Why we are reluctant to try new things as we age
- How ecology shapes theology
- How stress affects our brains.
For example, in his essay "Genetic Hyping," Sapolsky argues:
"Genes, of course, have plenty to do with behavior. Genes determine your intelligence, and your personality, and certain genetic profiles cause criminality, alcoholism, and a proclivity for misplacing car keys...Genes influence behavior, environment influences behavior, and genes and environment interact" (30).
Would you be the same person if you grew up in Iceland rather than California? Sapolsky thinks not.
The collection is divided into three sections:
Part 1: Genes and Who We Are Part 2: Our Bodies and Who We Are Part 3: Society and Who We Are
Simple answers are not to be had, but after reading Sapolsky's book, you will come away with a richer understand of who you are and why, perhaps, you behave the way that you do. Get in touch with your "inner monkey," and read this erudite and appealing study.