Alison Jolly
Lucy's Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution

"People are now being joined into a global human society. Only a few of us so far live among the interlinked elite. All, however, are affected. It is not possible to opt out. A society that you cannot secede from is in some ways like an organism. The more the world integrates, the more our society becomes like a living thing." p. 408
Hmmm... What to say about Lucy's Legacy? Generally I come away from a book with some fairly strong opinions. This book on the other hand was rather ho-hum. It didn't strike me as particularly good or bad in total. Although I could see how someone who was not familiar with the topics discussed would find Lucy's Legacy to be quite good, thought-provoking, and entertaining. Those well read in the fields of evolution and sociobiology won't find too many new ideas. Jolly essentially combines the studies and thoughts of numerous other individuals into one, very readable, whole.

A wide range of interesting territory is covered. Why is sex fun? Why do males and females (of various species including ours) exhibit the sexual characteristics that they do? Why did sex become a part of evolution to begin with? What is sexual selection, and how does it work? Are there distinct, rigid genders, or is an organism's gender just a point along a continuum that is possibly subject to change over time and individual development? What causes favor(ed) the evolution of intelligence? What exactly is intelligence, and are humans the only species that can be considered intelligent/conscious? All these good questions and many more of a similar nature are explored.

Chapter 6 (and the section near the end suggesting that the rich should be politically forced to give away more of their wealth than is required by the current progressive tax systems) doesn't fit in as well together as the rest of the book. It deals mostly with Haraway's controversial book from 1989. Much of the chapter is a rehash of the book review Jolly wrote in 1990 for New Scientist. Jolly is much kinder to Haraway than other scientists and primatologists. Not having read Haraway, myself, I can't comment on who is likely to be more on target. Likewise, most readers probably haven't either. I've never quite understood why so many authors like to toss a book review into the middle of their book. It would make more sense if the book being reviewed was nearly universally known. Otherwise it just seems like the review is shoved in to fill space.

A point that Jolly makes over and over again is how even though our genes are "selfish", cooperation and altruism play key roles in the success of our genes. This point has been made by every author I have read who emphasizes the selfish nature of genes. Again, there is nothing really new here.

I recommend Lucy's Legacy if you haven't already read several books that discuss the above questions. Veterans of the field may still find plenty to interest them.

"If in doubt, it's alive. And if it is alive, we suspect it has intentions--the stuck automobile, the purring pussycat, the automatic bank teller, the thunderstorm. In the beginning of this book, I talked about our conviction that nature itself has purposes: just the idea you would expect from an intelligent social primate." p. 222
from the publisher:
Alison Jolly believes that biologists have an important story to tell about being human--not the all-too-familiar tale of selfishness, competition, and biology as destiny but rather one of cooperation and interdependence, from the first merging of molecules to the rise of a species inextricably linked by language, culture, and group living. This is the story that unfolds in Lucy's Legacy, the saga of human evolution as told by a world-renowned primatologist who works among the female-dominant ringtailed lemurs of Madagascar.

We cannot be certain that Lucy was female--the bones themselves do not tell us. However, we do know, as Jolly points out in this erudite, funny, and informative book, that the females who came after Lucy--more adept than their males in verbal facility, sharing food, forging links between generations, migrating among places and groups, and devising creative mating strategies--played as crucial a role in the human evolutionary process as "man" ever did. In a book that takes us from the first cell to global society, Jolly shows us that to learn where we came from and where we go next, we need to understand how sex and intelligence, cooperation and love, emerged from the harsh Darwinian struggle in the past, and how these natural powers may continue to evolve in the future.

Alison Jolly is a visiting lecturer in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University and is former president of the International Primatological Society.

"Princeton primatologist Jolly brings good news from prehistory and delivers it with style. Neither evolutionary theory nor sociobiology, as popularly understood, flatter humanity. Evolution paints a grim picture of survival of the fittest, and sociobiology has more than a few sexist implications. Jolly argues that human development is not the story of battle after battle to determine survival of the fittest...[She] considers neo-Darwinism explanations of human feelings and decisions, from white lies to charitable giving to abortions. As she moves from discussions of human culture to her own research among the Lemurs of Madagascar, Jolly proves an illuminating guide to the complex intersection of nature and nurture...[An] accessible, comprehensive and thought-provoking work." --Publishers Weekly

"[Jolly] tells a good tale in her quest to explain where we came from and where we're headed...Jolly is an enthusiastic guide; she has fun with all this, and readers will too." --Kirkus Reviews

"Jolly suggests that enhanced cooperation, social behavior, and the division of labor have played significant roles [in human evolution]. [She] is sympathetic to a sociobiological approach, which emphasizes the role of evolution-influenced instinct as both an asset and a problem for our species; she provides many interesting insights based on her knowledge of primate intelligence and behavior. She also discusses some interesting fossil evidence of paleontology, muses over the views of various factions on human evolution, and speculates on the future of our species and of our planet. An interesting, well-written, and well-documented book." --Marit MacArthur, Library Journal

"In clear and clever prose, Jolly shows us how we got started, what sex had to do with it, and how our brains have become the central force in evolution. With the recent decision of the Kansas Board of Education to play down the teaching of evolution, this may be the time to stock up on good sources that tell the remarkable story of how we became human." --Philip Herbst, Booklist

"One of the best-written, erudite, and informative books I have seen in a long time. Building on her expertise as a primatologist, Alison Jolly addresses an incredible range of topics, from the peculiarities of the Y-chromosome to those of postmodernism. The sex wars are in full swing here, but always presented with balance, humor, and nice bits of poetry." --Frans de Waal

"Alison Jolly is a pioneer in the study of social intelligence and one of primatology's Great Souls. This book is a treasure." --Sarah B. Hrdy

"Jolly's version of Lucy's Legacy shows a keen intelligence about both sexual and mental life in the compelling worlds of primates. Jolly's accounts mine a deep vein of evolutionary and biobehavioral research to bring the reader into the drama of human evolution and multistranded relation to our near kin. Jolly believes in a rich possible human future for Lucy's descendants. Such visions are crucial in a world that too easily loses track of its biological inheritance. The book's wit alone is worth the price; but best of all, the reader will set the book down with a deeper appreciation of the complexity of primate natures and the richness of our scientific cultures that have let us know more about these important matters." --Donna Haraway, University of California, Santa Cruz

"If you want to know how you became the most intelligent and sexiest creature on Earth, this is the book for you. Alison Jolly, one of the world's leading primatologists, provokes us to think deeply and clearly about our place in nature--our origins, our primacy on the planet, and even where we may be heading as a species. Written with grace and wit, Lucy's Legacy offers refreshing and challenging insights into what it means to be human." --Don Johanson, Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University