Book: The Trouble With Testosterone And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament

Cover image

The Trouble With Testosterone And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament

Author: Robert M. Sapolsky
Publisher: Scribner

In The Trouble with Testosterone, Robert M. Sapolsky draws from his career as a behavioral biologist to interpret the peculiar drives and intrinsic needs of that most exotic species—Homo sapiens. With candor, humor, and lush observations, these essays marry cutting-edge science with a rich and compassionate humanity. Sapolsky’s book ranges broadly over the web of life, studying its details and plotting its themes.

“Curious George’s Pharmacy” examines recent exciting claims that wild primates know how to medicate themselves with forest plants. “Junk Food Monkeys” relates the adventures of a troop of baboons who stumble onto a tourist garbage dump. “Poverty’s Remains” claims that science is as riddled with metaphors as a Shakespearean sonnet. “Measures of Life” begins as a witty analysis of firing squads and concludes as a dazzling meditation on the roles and responsibilities of scientists. And in the final essay, the brilliant and penetrating “Circling the Blanket for God,” Sapolsky shows that science and religion emanate from the same place: the human brain.

These pieces, then, reveal the contradictions that confront those who describe the world objectively, those who try to reconcile the truths of the mind with the burdens of the heart.


As a professor of biology and neuroscience at Stanford and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” Robert Sapolsky carries impressive credentials. Best of all, he’s a gifted writer who possesses a delightfully devilish sense of humor. In these essays, which range widely but mostly focus on the relationships between biology and human behavior, hard and intricate science is handled with a deft touch that makes it accessible to the general reader. In one memorable piece, Sapolsky compares the fascination with tabloid TV to behavior he’s observed among wild African baboons. “Rubber necks,” notes the professor, “seem to be a common feature of the primate order.” In the title essay of The Trouble with Testosterone, Sapolsky ruminates on the links, real or perceived, between that hormone and aggression.

Views: 360 • Modified: • Elapsed: 0.033 sec