Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare


Praise for Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare

PINKERSteven Pinker:

“One of the most interesting and surprising ideas I have ever come across is that what biologists call ‘habitat selection’ is the same as what artists and landscape architects call ‘environmental aesthetics’. The human eye for beauty is not an inexplicable preference for arbitrary shapes and colors but may be explained as an instinct for choosing surroundings that are safe, healthful, and informative. The eminent zoologist Gordon Orians, who originated this powerful idea, now treats us to a cornucopia of hypotheses on why certain things please the eye, ear, and tongue and others terrify, repel, or disgust them. This is a lovely contribution to our understanding of aesthetics, and should keep scientists, artists, and humanities scholars debating its ideas for years to come.”

WILSONEdward O. Wilson:

“No scholar better understands the intimate linkage between evolutionary biology and the human condition, and none has expressed it in a more interesting and well illustrated manner than Orians.”



KELLERTStephen R. Kellert:

“Gordon Orians’ book provides great insight and understanding of the role of human evolution in our species emotions and behaviors.  It extends his pioneering work in evolutionary biology to many aspects of human activity that includes our preferences, predilections, fears, hopes, and aspirations.  We recognize in this book how our ecological mind has meshed with our cultural and creative selves to produce our distinctive species.”


NEW SCIENTISTNew Scientist Magazine:

“This is a nicely written introduction to [evolutionary psychology], which reads like a welcome meal made from landmark books The Selfish Gene and The Naked Ape, with Sociobiology for seasoning. Orians outlines the key thesis: “Our ancestors bequeathed to us… responses to environmental challenges – unpredictable sources of food, ever-present predators, extremes of weather – [that] have moulded our emotional lives.” Making the right decisions under pressure was vital, and it hardwired our responses, even when they no longer fitted our circumstances. Orians uses this powerful thesis to explain surprising behavior.”

Rafe SagarinRafe Sagarin in Evolution: This View of Life

“Gordon Orians’ Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare is a delightful primer on how our deep evolutionary past still shapes our modern tastes, desires, and aversions. When reading Orians’ plain language, one can imagine being on a pleasant walk through the woods or an art museum as the ornithologist/naturalist/author breezily weaves together seemingly disparate topics: our species’ unique fondness for spices, our musical tastes, and the design of our gardens and parks, to name a few – woven with the threads of human evolutionary biology. Orians tells these tales essentially as a string of ghost stories – the specters of the sometimes horrifying, sometimes delightful, and always very real experiences of our distant past vividly returned to haunt the halls of our modern cranial castles.”