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The Wild Life of Robert Trivers
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For decades, the standard for astonishing scientific autobiography has undoubtedly been Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, which provides the zestful flavor of the remarkable life and times of perhaps the greatest theoretical physicist of the second half of the twentieth century. Now Robert Trivers, one of the most influential evolutionary biologists of the last half-century, has clearly unseated that reigning champion, publishing an autobiography with the very apt title Wild Life. Feynman ranks as one of my own greatest scientific heroes, but I must concede that compared to Prof. Trivers, he led the life of an homebody CPA, whose most exciting lifetime experience was being named assistant treasurer of his local Rotary Club.


From his numerous arrests for drug-related offenses, both in America and abroad, to his years spent in close association with Huey Newton and his rifle-toting cop-killers of the Oakland-based Black Panther Party to his various narrow escapes from sudden violent death at the hands of ordinary criminals, Robert Trivers has led a life exciting and eventful enough for twenty regular men, and perhaps without historical precedent for a scientific researcher of the first rank.

Earlier this year, we published a lengthy excerpt from this book, providing his personal accounts of notable evolutionists he had known—Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin, William Hamilton, and others—which generated huge traffic and reached the top spot on the prestigious Arts & Letters Daily website. Perhaps half the autobiography focuses on these scientific matters, and his scientific stature is reflected in the names of the towering scientific figures who have provided his blurbs:

“Who would have guessed that arguably today’s most original thinker in evolutionary theory could possibly have led the extraordinary life Robert Trivers recounts in these pages. We are taken on a wild trip from inspired meditations on the biology of self deception, through a steamy Jamaican underworld, to Black Panthers in California, to frank appraisals of distinguished or over-rated scientists, the whole adding up to a disarmingly frank and utterly unique memoir of a rollercoaster of a life.”
—RICHARD DAWKINS, Bestselling author of The Selfish Gene

“This memoir is filled with sharp and hilarious observations about the living world, not least a certain species of hairless primate, not least a certain member of that species named Robert Trivers.”
—STEVEN PINKER, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

“It would not be hyperbole to say that Robert Trivers is one of the most important evolutionary theorists since Charles Darwin. A lust for life doesn’t begin to sum up a career devoted to truth, courage, and the audacity to think what no one else has thought. If that were not enough, Trivers is witty, clever, and compassionate. This book is destined to become a classic in scientific autobiography.”
—MICHAEL SHERMER, Editor Skeptic, columnist Scientific American

In order to provide a clear sense of the the personal stories contained in Wild Life, we will be running several lengthy extracts over the next few weeks, and those who find the find the material as fascinating as I did may click a button and purchase the entirety from Our first extract recounts a 2am life-and-death struggle to ward off two machete-wielding home invasion robbers in Jamaica intent on stealing his Crafoord Prize money and leaving him a corpse. I very much doubt any other Crafoord Prize winner has ever faced such a situation, let alone handled it in his sixties.

Read the whole book and prepare to be shocked.

• Category: Science • Tags: Robert Trivers 
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  1. Robert Trivers is tremendous. I’m looking forward to the extracts.

  2. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Ron, shocked by Jamaca? It appears that nothing has changed.

    We took our honeymoon there in 1973. The hotel in Kingston took guests to a private beach because, as they said, the “public beaches are too dangerous.” We were accosted twice (euphemism for being threatened) while walking the markets in Montego Bay. Everyone, it seemed, was trying to shake down the tourists. We also could not help but notice that anyone who had anything apparently lived behind high walls lined with razor wire.

    We were told by locals that a popular passtime for gangs of young, idle males was to assault young girls and take their money on paydays. What a wonderful place to live!

    We changed our flight schedule and flew home early, never to return.

  3. This book does look intriguing, the story from Jamaica was pretty thrilling.

    By the way, his blurb section reads like Nassim Taleb’s hit list!

  4. Rehmat says:

    If my memory serves me right -in February 2014 Dr. Robert Trivers was suspended by Rutgers University when he told students he knew nothing about the “Human Aggression” class he was assigned to teach.

    On May 29, 2009, David Horowitz’s ‘FrontPage magazine’ called Triver “unstable academic” for challenging ‘Israel Defender’ Alan Dershowitz, a pedophile.

    Frankly, I’m no reader of Trivers’ theories – but I have one of my favorite academics at the Rutgers. Her name is Deepa Kumar. She is author of 2012 book, “Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire”. She based her own experience of living and studying with Muslims, in India to debunk Western prejudice against Muslims.

  5. Mr Unz, I want to let you know that if one has to change anything about how he gets on the net, your system of Commenter Handle control doesn’t allow him to carry his handle with him. I suspect that’s why we we see Syonredux and Blooby3, etc. It’s why I have a new handle. Remembering your name and fake email address doesn’t cut it.

    Thanks for hosting us!

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