Book Review: Race, Monogamy, & Other Lies they told you – Busting Myths About Human Nature by Augustine Fuentas

Race Monogamy, and other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature Agustin Fuentes, University of California Press, 2012, 220 pgs.

Reviewed by Dym Squirrel

Some books are so near-comically ambitious that they invariably provoke either knee-jerk ridicule or messianic hopefulness, with precious little in between. The expansively tiled Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature, runs that risk, but I hope it will be read with guarded optimism.

In my opinion, Mr. Fuentes doesn’t quite “bust” the myths he addresses, but he still does a helluva job deflating them, giving readers some solid ammunition in the battles over what “human nature” is (if anything) and the consequences of those battles on society. This book has two parts: first, a 3 chapter “Myth-Busting toolkit,” “Myths About Aggression,” and “Myths About Sex.” While all are interesting, I found the “Myths About Aggression” the most valuable from an anarchist perspective, since evidence that humans are not inherently vicious or greedy really strikes at the heart of justifications for hierarchical power and society’s infatuation with coercive control. Without espousing anarchism himself, Mr. Fuentes’ points go far in support of those of us who do. As for sex and “race,” he largely attempts to disprove any significant, genetically based differences between the sexes and amongst what most people think of as “the races,” and he succeeds about as well as one might hope.

Ultimately, the highlight of this book is Mr. Fuentes’ thorough, clear and accessible “Myth Busting Toolkit,” which should probably be reviewed annually by both newbies and veterans of the nature/nurture debate alike. His “Naturenurtural” coining for how people actually develop is a valuable conceptual tool for avoiding binary thinking AND the fallacy that development is just the addition of “nature” and “nurture,” like 1 +1 = 2, helping us see how 1 + 1 = * instead. Alchemy, baby.

My hardcover first printing contained a lot of small but annoying editorial errors, but hopefully those will be fixed in the softcover edition, and I’d still recommend it to anyone wanting to contribute to a free and equal society that cares more about people and truth than money and mythology.