But in her new book "Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn about Sex from Animals" (University of California Press, 2002), Marlene Zuk, professor of biology at UC Riverside, argues that while animals do display a lot of interesting variation, not all of it can be extrapolated to explain human behavior. She thinks some researchers have been too quick to ignore vital information from the animal kingdom, and have instead hustled 'evidence' they believe is supportive of their ideas.
"I am not saying we should never try to draw conclusions about human behavior from animals," says Zuk. "But people who already have social or political agendas sometimes see science as automatically deterministic about our behavior, as though we are programmed to behave in only a certain way. Then again, we have scientists who sometimes completely ignore the social or political biases that can affect our work."
Zuk wrote the bulk of her book in 1999-2001. "Sexual Selections" addresses several politically charged topics including motherhood, the genetic basis for adultery, the female orgasm, menstruation, and homosexuality. "Writing the book was suprisingly easy and enjoyable," she says. "It also got me reading a good number of marvellous books related to the topic, many of which were in the fields of anthropology, sociology and psychology. I sought to write a popular book that also edges into several of these fields."