May 25, 2016

New book of essays on human biology has exactly ZERO contributions by women

A book called Life: The Leading Edge of Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, and Environmental Science came out just over a week ago. And among my Facebook and Twitter feeds, people are very, very not happy with it:



Yes, a book with 23 different contributors to 18 different essays on the wondrous diversity and evolution of human life on this planet... does not include one woman or one person of color.  It's a veritable petri dish of white dudes in a field that, sure, includes lots of white dudes, but includes plenty of diversity, especially on the anthropology side of things.

Given the fact that the book appears to be a collection of essays and interviews from a website called, I do wonder if that strongly influenced who was included in this volume.  After all, women are less likely to put themselves out there on the internet because of gender-based trolling (more like name-calling, questioning their expertise, and death and rape threats).  And as women are still less likely to be tenured professors, it may be that the male heavy-hitters in this volume are at a stage in their career where they can risk writing for or being interviewed for a website.

Or maybe it's just old-fashioned sexism?  According to a 2012 profile of John Brockman at The Guardian, "the roll call of current and deceased members of the Edge salon runs to 660. It's a predominately male crowd, with women accounting for only 16.5% of the members." Ouch.

Anyway, as is my typical response to this, I mostly just want to snark on the table of contents... who wants to help?  Here's the TOC and a couple of my own suggestions below.  Post yours in the comments! Or heck, check out the Amazon comments and add your own there.

Real Contents (from
  1. Evolvability by Richard Dawkins
  2. Genomic Imprinting by David Haig
  3. A Full-Force Storm with Gale Winds Blowing by Robert Trivers
  4. What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr
  5. Genetics Plus Time by Steve Jones
  6. A United Biology by E.O. Wilson
  7. Is Life Analog or Digital? by Freeman Dyson
  8. Life: What a Concept! by Freeman Dyson, J. Craig Venter, George Church, Dimitar Sasselov, Seth Lloyd, and Robert Shapiro
  9. The Gene-Centric View: A Conversation by Richard Dawkins and J. Craig Venter
  10. The Nature of Normal Human Variety by Armand Marie Leroi
  11. Brains Plus Brawn by Daniel Lieberman
  12. Mapping the Neanderthal Genome by Svate Pääbo
  13. On Biocomputation by J. Craig Venter, Ray Kurzweil, and Rodney Brooks
  14. Engineering Biology by Drew Endy
  15. Eat Me Before I Eat You: A New Foe for Bad Bugs by Kary Mullis
  16. Duck Sex and Aesthetic Evolution by Richard Prum
  17. Toxo by Robert Sapolsky
  18. The Adjacent Possible by Stuart Kauffman (with an introduction by John Brockman)
Modified Titles:
3. A Full-Force Storm with Gale Winds Blowing, or: Women, Amiright?
8. Life Includes Women: What a Concept!
9. The Y-Chromosome Centric View
10. The Nature of Man Variety 

Oh, and if you are a woman doing research in human biology, broadly conceived, consider adding yourself to this list, so at least the next editor will have binders full of women to contact:


Summer said...

16. Duck sex requires a female

Writch said...

1. Evolvability: Richard Dawkins is Actually Talking About a Subject In Which He Has Actual Authority For Once! by Richard Dawkins

This actually makes me want to write an evolutionary biology book of my own. I can see the title now...

Progeniting a Species: Men Talk, Women Do

Bone Belle said...

I admit I'm surprised that not even some of the "token" female researchers seem to be mentioned anywhere. The ones who are always listed on the "pioneers in the field" articles somewhere around the bottom and as an afterthought to some male supervisor...

And furthermore, it makes it appear that, of the women they do have in their membership, none of them seem to be contributing to the field.

Has any sort of explanation been given as to why these researchers were chosen over any others?

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