In this innovative celebration of diversity and affirmation of individuality in animals and humans, Joan Roughgarden challenges accepted wisdom about gender identity and sexual orientation. A distinguished evolutionary biologist, Roughgarden takes on the medical establishment, the Bible, social science--and even Darwin himself. She leads the reader through a fascinating discussion of diversity in gender and sexuality among fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals, including primates. Evolution's Rainbow explains how this diversity develops from the action of genes and hormones and how people come to differ from each other in all aspects of body and behavior. Roughgarden reconstructs primary science in light of feminist, gay, and transgender criticism and redefines our understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality. A new preface shows how this witty, playful, and daring book has revolutionized our understanding of sexuality.
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Problematic, unscientific and poorly edited
This book would have been improved by serious revision. As a transgender man with a graduate degree in biology, I certainly wanted to like it. The first part of the book, dedicated to dismantling sexual selection stories, suffers from telling fanciful "what if" stories without providing experimental evidence for Dr. Roughgarden's theories, or clearly outlining how the predictions of her hypotheses differ from those made by classical sexual selection theory. This gross, unscientific oversight leads her book to read like a political tract rather than a scientific critique. As the book progresses further, Roughgarden makes a number of basic biological mistakes (for example, her explanation of evolutionary developmental biology is convoluted and misrepresents the discipline), and while there are certainly some interesting tidbits hidden within the book, the overall impression is of stories cherry-picked from the literature and grossly reinterpreted without experimental evidence to back up those reinterpretations. Her description if human sex differences in the brain is both outdated and marred by cultural biases, while her anthropological work is highly superficial, and, like her scientific work, makes exaggerated claims without the benefit of good evidence; for example her description of Joan of Arc as a transgender man, which conveniently ignores Joan's own explanations of WHY she wore the clothing that she did, and imposes a twentieth century American viewpoint onto a fourteenth century French woman. Finally, her own understanding of gender theory seems markedly flawed, as her anthropological survey of human gender expression completely erases those people who do explicitly identify as nonbinary.
In addition to the book's problems, the audio is poorly narrated. Several times, phrases (especially scientific names) are repeated as the narrator tries to get the pronunciation right --- these repeats should have been edited out, and are the signs of a sloppy production.
- L. J.
Queer, Kinky Animal Kingdom