The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal

The Development of an Extraordinary SpeciesWe human beings share 98 percent of our genes with chimpanzees. Yet humans are the dominant species on the planet -- having founded civilizations and religions, developed intricate and diverse forms of communication, learned science, built cities, and created breathtaking works of art -- while chimps remain animals concerned prima...

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Title:The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal
Author:Jared Diamond
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Edition Language:English

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal Reviews

  • David

    This is a wonderful book by a great author. In fact, I prefer this book to the other books that I've read by Jared Diamond. It is entertaining, informative, and every page is interesting. The book covers a vast range of topics, such as how are humans qualitatively different from other animals, why do men do stupid things to impress women, why do people practice adultery, why do humans practice genocide, how did languages evolve, why do some people become addicted to drugs, why do humans produce

    This is a wonderful book by a great author. In fact, I prefer this book to the other books that I've read by Jared Diamond. It is entertaining, informative, and every page is interesting. The book covers a vast range of topics, such as how are humans qualitatively different from other animals, why do men do stupid things to impress women, why do people practice adultery, why do humans practice genocide, how did languages evolve, why do some people become addicted to drugs, why do humans produce art, and why do humans age. The book ends with the ecological harm humans have done to the planet (not just recently, but in ancient times as well), and the extinctions of species that we cause. Diamond shows how none of these activities are unique to humans; each activity has some analog in animal behavior, as well.

    Like Diamond's other books, there is plenty of speculation here. He makes sweeping generalizations that are not always held up by documented facts. But Diamond's enthusiasm rings loud and clear, and his speculations always sound reasonable, at least to me.

  • Chuck

    Another great book from Jared Diamond. I found this to be just as engaging as Guns, Germs, and Steel, and also an easier read. I find that his books have so much information that it is helpful for me to outline them as I go. Here are my favorite bullet points from The Third Chimpanzee. Not at all a comprehensive outline, but may be of interest to some people.

    Chapter 1

    - Our ancestors diverged from other apes around 7 million years ago.

    - We share 98.4% of DNA with common chimps.

    - Chimps are more c

    Another great book from Jared Diamond. I found this to be just as engaging as Guns, Germs, and Steel, and also an easier read. I find that his books have so much information that it is helpful for me to outline them as I go. Here are my favorite bullet points from The Third Chimpanzee. Not at all a comprehensive outline, but may be of interest to some people.

    Chapter 1

    - Our ancestors diverged from other apes around 7 million years ago.

    - We share 98.4% of DNA with common chimps.

    - Chimps are more closely related to humans than to gorillas. We are really a third kind of chimp.

    Chapter 2

    - We descended from Cro-Magnons, not Neanderthals.

    - Hunter-gatherers were probably poor hunters.

    - Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals co-existed 100,000 years ago (from 130,000 years ago until 40,000 years ago).

    - The Great Leap Forward occurred 40,000 years ago with the emergence of spoken language. Progress no longer depended on genetic evolution but cultural evolution.

    Chapter 3

    - Across primate species, degree of polygyny is correlated with sexual dimorphism in body size and other physical features, and also testis size of males.

    - Humans have exceptionally large penises and breasts for our body sizes.

    Chapter 4

    - Roughly 10% of babies are adulterously conceived.

    - Unlike most mammals, human ovulation is concealed and sex is done in private.

    - Also unlike most mammals, humans have sex all the time and it's purpose is largely social rather than merely for reproduction.

    Chapter 5

    - Couples tend to have a high degree of correlation (+.9) in religion, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, age, and political views; (+.4) for personality and IQ; (+.2) for physical traits; (+.61) for middle finger length.

    - Incest taboo is probably genetic rather than cultural. We avoid people we grew up with between birth and 6 years, but then as adults we seek out partners similar to those people.

    Chapter 6

    - Racial variation can be explained only partly by natural selection (correlation between skin darkness and latitude - which is nevertheless noisy); but it is also probably due largely to sexual selection which results from the mating preferences reviewed in the previous chapter.

    Chapter 7

    - Body is like a car. Scheduled maintenance and unscheduled repair. When do you scrap it? When everything breaks at once. But it's not a conscious decision to scrap it. The evolutionary reasoning is this: the body is only as strong as the weakest part. So given that it's going to fail, it's ideal/optimal if they all fail at the same time.

    - If you are likely to get in a crash that totals the car in the near future, then it's not worth investing in a lot of repair and maintenance.

    - Rate of aging across species is correlated with age of first reproduction.

    - Turtles live long because it's worth repairing their bodies because they have good protection (shell) and so are unlikely to die a sudden violent death.

    - Menopause is a solution to the risk taking behavior of having more kids. Human childbirth is particularly dangerous. Having a fourth kid could kill the mom and put the other three at risk.

    Chapter 8

    - Most sophisticated animal "language" studied to date is the vocalizations of vervet monkeys.

    - Vervets have at least ten "words": "leopard", "snake", "unfamiliar human", etc. They are truly words, not just stimulus-response grunts, because they sometimes use them in a lie to confuse rival troops.

    - There is no correlation between linguistic and social complexity. (Really?)

    - Children in a community of pidgin-speaking parents spontaneously add grammar to make the next generation a full creole language.

    - Chomsky said we have universal grammar, with switches that can be set for different word orders and specifics; Bickerton went further to say those switches have a default value (a default word order that emerges spontaneously unless overridden by the linguistic environment).

    - Babies start to say single words; then at two they can make multi-word phrases; then at four they can make complete sentences. That stage may have enabled the Great Leap Forward.

    Chapter 9

    - First human (Cro-Magnon) art emerged around the Great Leap Forward 40,000 years ago in the form of cave paintings and flutes.

    - Bowerbirds use their art to woo mates. It is as if women put each of their suitors in sequence through a weight-lifting contest, sewing contest, chess tournament, eye test, and boxing tournament, and finally went to bed with the winner.

    - In humans, dance and music and poetry are common preludes to sex.

    - In summary, art is about sex. And now that we have lots of free time, our art can get very elaborate and serve other functions (such as aesthetics) as well.

    Chapter 10

    - No other primate practices agriculture. Closest thing is ants, which grow fungus and use insects such as aphids like cattle, drinking their honeydew.

    - Hunter-gatherers are taller, work as many hours or fewer than farmers, have healthier bones, fewer diseases, fewer cavities, have a more diverse diet, are better nourished, are less susceptible to famine because of the diverse diet, and have lower rates of mortality at every age.

    - Today just three plants - wheat, rice, and corn - provide more than 50% of calories consumed by the human species.

    - American and European civilized society are elites, and their lives are better in large part because of oil and other resources. The elite became healthier, but at the expense of the majority who became worse off.

    - Agriculture allowed for specialists and for class divisions.

    - Agriculture allowed for birth intervals to shorten from 4 years to 2 years, and increased calories per unit area of land tenfold, thus dramatically increasing population density.

    - Agriculture was not a conscious choice. It spread largely because it could support a population density 10x of hunter-gatherers, and 10 malnourished warriors can still beat 1 healthy bushman.

    Chapter 11

    - We drink and use drugs as a sexual advertisement that says, look how much of a handicap I can give myself and still be superior. Like birds of paradise with long tails that make it susceptible to attack. It says, look how long and heavy my tail is but I can still get away from predators.

    - but in humans drugs and alcohol are addicting and also genuinely harm the user.

    Chapter 12

    - An important consideration in guessing whether intelligent life exists elsewhere is the degree of convergent evolution (inevitably).

    - Woodpeckers exploited an extremely rewarding niche, but only evolved once. On the other hand, eyes and flight evolved multiple times independently.

    Chapter 13

    - Europe has about 50 languages, but New Guinea has one hundredth of the population but 1,000 languages.

    - New Guinea included lots of small societies completely isolated from one another by the terrain.

    - We are becoming culturally homogenized; there are very few places where alternative models for society can exist.

    Chapter 14

    - Of the many plants and animals available as candidates for domestication, only a few are actually domesticable, and those happened to be in Europe and the Near East.

    - In addition to that head start, the east-west axis of Eurasia allowed the spread of farming more easily than the north-south axis of the Americas did.

    - Rise of civilization brought disease and the people evolved immunity; but not hunter-gatherers.

    Chapter 15

    - Language evolves over time, and languages diverge to become mutually unintelligible when a group becomes isolated, just like speciation.

    - Glottochronology is like a genetic clock; languages replace 20% of their words every one thousand years, but it's noisy.

    - Invention of wheel about 3,000 BC (or about 5,000 years ago).

    - Domestication of horses about 4,000 BC (6,000 years ago).

    - Indo-European languages probably had a common ancestor around 3,000 BC north of the Black Sea. The package of agriculture and technology there allowed rapid waves of expansion, then another expansion into the Americas, and now half the world speaks Indo-European languages.

    Chapter 16

    - Chimps are xenophobic. They recognize members of other bands and treat them differently. They practice genocide.

    - Many species practice murder, and some genocide.

    - Stalin and Hitler were better at genocide because of technology, communications, and high population density.

    - Humans practice a dual standard of behavior: strong inhibitions about killing one of "us", but a green light to kill "them".

    - Our early American heroes were outspoken supporters of Native American genocide.

    Chapter 17

    - Tells the story of three ancient civilizations that collapsed due to environmental exhaustion: Easter Island, Anasazi, and Petra.

    - Humans basically live in harmony with nature when conditions are stable, but sudden changes such as acquisition of a new technology or discovery of a new island realizes conditions for species extermination and environmental collapse.

    - "While courses in the history of civilization often dwell on kings and barbarian invasions, deforestation and erosion may in the long run have been more important shapers of human history."

    Chapter 18

    - To get to the Americas, you gotta cross Siberia, then Bering Straight, then coast-to-coast ice sheet of Canada. Humans crossed the latter during an opening 12,000 years ago.

    - Those early people are called Clovis people. They reached Tierra del Fuego within 1,000 years.

    - Clovis people probably killed all the large mammals except bison.

    - The Clovis culture then rapidly changed to the Folsom culture about 11,000 years ago, with different spear tips optimized for bison.

    Chapter 19

    - Four mechanisms of species extermination: overhunting, species introduction, habitat destruction, and ripple effects.

    - "Dismissing the extinction crisis on the grounds that extinction is natural would be just like dismissing genocide on the grounds that death is the natural fate of all humans."

  • Masoud

    If you want to find answers for your questions like the qualitative discrepancies between human and animals, how and why men do stupid things for attracting women, the reasons for being unfaithful among men, evolution of language, the reason for creating artworks by people, please read this book. The author shows that such odd behaviors are not just pertaing to humans, but also has root in ancestral interfaces with animals.

  • John

    Jared Diamond should be required reading. He has influenced my view of humanity and history more than probably anyone except maybe a history professor in college, where I was a history minor. No, I think I Diamond has influenced me more.

    I stumbled across a 3 part series on PBS based on Guns, Germs and Steel a couple of years ago and was floored. I bought and read the book immediately and was even more blown away. Since then I have read Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Why i

    Jared Diamond should be required reading. He has influenced my view of humanity and history more than probably anyone except maybe a history professor in college, where I was a history minor. No, I think I Diamond has influenced me more.

    I stumbled across a 3 part series on PBS based on Guns, Germs and Steel a couple of years ago and was floored. I bought and read the book immediately and was even more blown away. Since then I have read Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Why is Sex Fun. Both of them were also mind-blowing and insightful.

    The Third Chimpanzee was Diamond’s first book and it really lays the groundwork for his three following. In fact 3C read a bit like an abridged version of the other three books combined. But that is not to say it did not contain things the other books didn’t….or at least that I don’t remember. The next time I recommend Diamond to a friend, I think I will recommend 3C because it is a great overview of his works.

    I was particularly struck by the chapters on language, both animal languages that are only beginning to be unraveled, as well as the information on human languages.

    The book also contains a striking chapter about genocide. It was a tough chapter to read and teetered on the edge of being overwhelmingly depressing to me. But it is something that can’t be ignored. Humans have a long history of killing each other on a massive scale. If humanity is going to change how we act in the future, we can’t gloss over the past because it demonstrates human tendencies.

    Besides his incredible insight, I appreciate Diamond for a number of other reasons. First off I find his writing reachable. Although he often talks about some very complex and specific things, he does a brilliant job of making it understandable to a layperson. He also pulls no punches; he seems to have a very realistic view of humanity, good and bad. He is quick to point out inconsistencies, discrimination and arrogance, including his own. He preaches without ever feeling preachy. He also has a fun sense of humor and appreciates irony as it regularly occurs in life.

    I would be dumber and my life less full if I had not discovered Jared Diamond. And much to my joy he has a new book coming out in mere weeks!

  • James

    Excellent. I'm giving it four stars instead of five only because from the vantage of 2014 its age shows, mainly in the absence of some information learned since it was written about the Neanderthals and the similar but then-unknown Denisovan people - specifically, the presence of small amounts of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in the modern human gene pool - and in the absence of that knowledge, the author makes some assumptions about our history with those other peoples that are incomplete at be

    Excellent. I'm giving it four stars instead of five only because from the vantage of 2014 its age shows, mainly in the absence of some information learned since it was written about the Neanderthals and the similar but then-unknown Denisovan people - specifically, the presence of small amounts of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in the modern human gene pool - and in the absence of that knowledge, the author makes some assumptions about our history with those other peoples that are incomplete at best; but the book is impressive in its accurate anticipation of the situations of the present and probable future.

    The title is based on our very close genetic links with the two species normally called chimpanzees, i.e. the 'common' chimp and what Diamond calls the pigmy chimp, normally referred to now as the bonobo. Any other species as closely related to those two as we are would be recognized as simply a third type of chimpanzee by naturalists, hence the title.

    But this book is not only about our species, but about the environments that have shaped us and how we in turn began shaping the rest of the natural world, usually unintentionally but no less powerfully, once our numbers and technology made that possible, starting with humankind's probable role in the mass extinctions of large animals wherever we showed up and continuing through today's problems of climate change, overfishing and -hunting, introduction of invasive species, and habitat encroachment. The threat of nuclear war is in there, but Diamond accurately predicted that it would become less likely as the catastrophic consequences of environmental devastation grew more visible and irreversible.

    Informative, thought-provoking, often funny - I recommend this strongly to anyone interested in human history and prehistory and our relationships with the places and the other life forms on our planet.

  • Scott

    If you've read

    or

    you know what to expect from Jared Diamond- a blizzard of fascinating facts, insights and theories that will spark tens of conversations among your like minded friends and colleagues.

    Diamond is a master of spinning hard fact and intriguing theory into readable books, and he does so again in

    ,

    exploring the link between humans and the beings we call apes (Diamond argues against suc

    If you've read

    or

    you know what to expect from Jared Diamond- a blizzard of fascinating facts, insights and theories that will spark tens of conversations among your like minded friends and colleagues.

    Diamond is a master of spinning hard fact and intriguing theory into readable books, and he does so again in

    ,

    exploring the link between humans and the beings we call apes (Diamond argues against such a distinction, and posits that humans are simply a third variety of chimpanzee) and the evolution of human bodies, minds and culture.

    If you're in the mood for an interesting and informative info-dump you've come to the right book. Diamond explores high and low, illuminating research ranging from comparisons of genitalia size (There's reason why 'Hung like a Gorilla' is not a popular phrase) and the theories behind these differences, the possible reasons behind Homo Sapiens' sudden technological leap beyond our early origins and our cousins the Neanderthals, and finally a discussion of the threats to our existence that Diamond later devoted

    to. Diamond weaves his own experiences working with remote tribes in Papua New Guinea into the narrative and I that found this aspect of his storytelling balances the more fact heavy sections well.

    I learned a great deal from this book about the evolution of my own body, and the ways that the human form could indicate social and behavioral traits to a neutral observer (Diamond uses the example of Aliens viewing our species for the first time). Diamond makes these learnings both accessible and interesting and I experienced a number of out-loud-wow-science exclamation moments while reading this book.

    If you're at all interested in evolutionary theory and our genetic proximity to our forest-dwelling relatives, you should read this book. If you're still uncertain that we're related to chimpanzees and gorillas, you too, should read it (I guarantee you'll be convinced we should have been inviting Bonzo and Harambe to our family barbecues). If you're really, really certain we aren't related to 'apes' and you aren't interested in being convinced otherwise.... well, I suspect you aren't browsing this section of the library/bookstore anyway.

  • Bonnie

    I've read Diamond's Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel and had never heard of this book before, so when I saw it at the bookstore I picked it up because I thought it was his new book. It wasn't. It was his first book, and it shows. This is basically a primer for the rest of his books, since all his other books are expansions of chapters/sections in this one. Why is Sex Fun? is Chapter 3, Guns, Germs and Steel is Part 4 and Collapse is Part 5.

    My problem with this book, besides the fact that I'd r

    I've read Diamond's Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel and had never heard of this book before, so when I saw it at the bookstore I picked it up because I thought it was his new book. It wasn't. It was his first book, and it shows. This is basically a primer for the rest of his books, since all his other books are expansions of chapters/sections in this one. Why is Sex Fun? is Chapter 3, Guns, Germs and Steel is Part 4 and Collapse is Part 5.

    My problem with this book, besides the fact that I'd read some of it before, was that while most of his arguments were interesting, some weren't convincing. He sometimes kinda relied on personal anecdotes--mostly from his New Guinea friends--and broad generalizations instead of facts. The chapter I had the biggest issue with was "Why Do We Smoke, Drink, and Use Drugs?" His answer is: because, like peacocks' tails and other seemingly useless/potentially dangerous displays, it shows others that I can have/do this crap and still survive, so obviously there's enough awesome about me that it outweighs this stupid thing I do, so you don't want to mess with me if you're a predator/you should want to mate with me if you are a female. He states that "Now, let's test my theory...if it's valid, [it:] should apply to other societies as well." So he brings up this one guy he knows in Indonesia who drinks kerosene as a test of strength. Okay...and that proves your theory how exactly? To be fair, he also mentions Native American tribes that used drug enemas, but still. He doesn't address other possible factors, such as the benefits people feel they get out of drugs and alocohol (mood boosts/escapism/whatever) or their addictive nature. That entire chapter seemed like a 10th grade paper: lots of suppositions, little to concretly back it up.

    The book did bring up ideas I'd never thought about before, and made me feel less special as a human being, but I'd still say just read Diamond's later, better books and skip this one.

  • Riku Sayuj

    Original review: The audience called for an encore and Jared obliged. The rewind was not as much fun.

    Update:

    However, this book has some great explanations on human sexuality but does not address one which I was not able to find a satisfactory explanation for, evolutionarily speaking: Homosexuality.

    The following is an explanatory excerpt from

    by

    . I am adding this here for my own reference, but I am sure you will find it damn intere

    Original review: The audience called for an encore and Jared obliged. The rewind was not as much fun.

    Update:

    However, this book has some great explanations on human sexuality but does not address one which I was not able to find a satisfactory explanation for, evolutionarily speaking: Homosexuality.

    The following is an explanatory excerpt from

    by

    . I am adding this here for my own reference, but I am sure you will find it damn interesting too.

    Yes, this is inconclusive, but it does point out some interesting directions in which we can direct our evolutionary reasoning. Don't you think?

  • Gendou

    Jared Diamond is a mostly sensible anthropologist. However, he's a lousy evolutionary biologist.

    For example, he presents multiple theories of the reason for homo sapiens concealed ovulation. These are presented with false balance i.e. he doesn't share the consensus view, or the quality (and lack thereof) for each theory. Some have laughably low plausibility, in my opinion. He should have done the research and presented the reader with the likely truth, not a list of mostly bad ideas. Worst of al

    Jared Diamond is a mostly sensible anthropologist. However, he's a lousy evolutionary biologist.

    For example, he presents multiple theories of the reason for homo sapiens concealed ovulation. These are presented with false balance i.e. he doesn't share the consensus view, or the quality (and lack thereof) for each theory. Some have laughably low plausibility, in my opinion. He should have done the research and presented the reader with the likely truth, not a list of mostly bad ideas. Worst of all, he presents issues of natural and sexual selection from the species and even the group point of view. Group selection isn't a thing. Individual selection isn't a thing. Gene selection is the only thing. Come on, man! Read some Dawkins! There's yet more false balance and lack of scientific scruples when discussing skin pigmentation. And race. And aging.

    He also has this cooky theory that drug and alcohol addiction is a sort of "status symbol" of fitness gone amok. I think this is bogus. Heroin isn't sexy. Alcohol and tobacco can be sexy when they make you look older (and thus allowed to legally buy it). But drug addiction didn't evolve in humans. All animal that has a basal-ganglia-to-limbic loop can become addicted. Our propensity to become drug and alcohol addicted stems only from our access to drugs and alcohol.

    While I'm picking knits, he claims that the ancient practice of taking an alcoholic beverage as enema would bypass the liver. It actually bypasses the stomach, wherein enzymes would begin to break down the alcohol. Ethanol delivered into the blood stream via the lower gastrointestinal tract goes strait into the blood but does eventually arrive at the liver. Safe to say, it's not advised.

    Another thing Diamond gets wrong is SETI. For some reason, hopefully not a personal one, he insists on calling the Drake equation the "Greene Bank Formula" which nobody else does. Diamond seems perplexed by the question, where are all the flying saucers? This is essentially the Fermi Paradox. The answer Drake himself gave me when I posed the question to him at a SETI convention in 2011 is that space travel is expensive. ET isn't going to visit us in a flying saucer. They'll send robotic probes, and maybe even colonize multiple star systems. But they won't waste time abducting cows. Diamond doesn't adequately illustrate the degree to which we've barely started looking for SETI signals. He claims we've looked, but the silence is deafening. This is just wrong. We've not looked at a millionth of the stars in the milky way at all, and looked at no single star for longer than a year. SETI will take immense patience.

    He uses the wood pecker to make some point about how convergent evolution may not be universal, implying that radio capable civilizations might be super duper rare. This is bogus. Convergent evolution is not intimidate. But you better believe that a hundred million years from now, something will be picking bugs out of trees. Maybe descendants of birds. Maybe not. But something will fill the niche.

    Diamond dedicates the last chapter to anthropogenic mass extinction without using the word "Holocene", which I found strange. He suggests that humans might be dead men walking, that we're all doomed like the Easter Island civilization. But Easter Island had people on it when it was re-discovered. Small population, but humans didn't go extinct on Easter Island. I think Diamond plays the doom and gloom card to heavily. There is plenty to say about how we can conserve biodiversity. He talks about some conservation efforts in Indonesia. But it's clear he's playing the Silent Spring card. Probably a great political tool, just not very skeptical.

  • SJ Loria

    Funny that I read this book in Mexico, a country where more people believe in creation than evolution. For the record, I think we evolved from apes. For the record, that doesn't bother me in the least.

    I am going to do two things, first, I will talk about what I learned from this book, secondly I am going to go on a rant about anthropology. While this book was interesting, there were parts where the author stepped far beyond his area of expertise, leading to some very weak chapters. Further, this

    Funny that I read this book in Mexico, a country where more people believe in creation than evolution. For the record, I think we evolved from apes. For the record, that doesn't bother me in the least.

    I am going to do two things, first, I will talk about what I learned from this book, secondly I am going to go on a rant about anthropology. While this book was interesting, there were parts where the author stepped far beyond his area of expertise, leading to some very weak chapters. Further, this was written almost 20 years ago, and it is simply amazing how quickly scientific knowledge has advanced. Some parts were outdated, which I found remarkable. Scientific facts seem to have a very quick expiration date.

    This book details defining characters of human society - symbolic language, art, agriculture, war, drug abuse and environmental destruction - and presents our evolutionary precursors to these traits. He covers some excellently, and others with not as much conviction. He begins by discussing the unique aspects of the human body both genetically and our life cycle. This part was quite interesting. I learned that we share a whopping 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, which is pretty cool if you ask me.

    It was interesting to see how our prolonged life cycle and the unique characteristic of females menopause has influenced human life. Those two things allowed us to transmit lots of information (because old folks would be the story tellers and survival experts when shit hit the fan) and allowed women to also live a bit after having children. It's quite dangerous to have children, let us recall. So menopause was a great thing for women, evolutionarily speaking. Interesting to learn that genetic changes took thousands of years to develop, but once they developed than cultural evolution exploded and since has outpaced biological evolution. Evolution slowly brought us to the place where we had the tools to really start running with it.

    One thing that stands out from this book is that a large part of our progress was heavily dependant on the environment and our genes. Rarely do we stop and thank water for being there, or acknowledge how certain geographical features shaped us as humans. Perhaps we should do this more often.

    At points, the author stepped outside of his area of expertise to strengthen his argument via other disciplines. I admire the approach and feel it's best to cover one subject through as many routes of knowledge as possible. The tricky thing is, you just have to make good arguments in those other fields. There were two chapters which I shook my head more often than I nodded it, they covered art and astronomy.

    The author, in discussing what makes humans unique tries to find precedent in other animals as to how this evolved in humans. Art proves tricky. Art, which I would define as the soul expressing itself in reality, is a uniquely human endeavor. Diamond makes the claim that chimpanzees and elephants have produced art in captivity. He quotes an abstract expressionist painter and critic and a psychologist as his authorities. However, the issue is that other animal art is not a spontaneous creation. They were provided the tools in captivity, it's much more likely that they pick up paintbrush and smoosh paint to gain the approval of their handlers and earn extra attention than it is an undeniable expression of their soul. Also, the category of "art" that Diamond holds up as his "see, they can produce art" in fact defines itself as "anti-figurative aesthetic," meaning art that tries to look like nothing in order to symbolize emotion. So yes, chimps splashing paint fits into this very specific category, but that doesn't make it art outside of that interpretation. Show me more realistic art, art that holds the mirror to reality with a bit more clarity and then show me another animal spontaneously producing that, then we'll talk. This author simply does not understand art, which is fine, but which also means you should steer far clear of it while making a case.

    However, the chapter that blew my mind more than any other was one chapter on our place within the universe. This chapter came from left field, was almost entirely speculative and had very little to do with the central thesis. I have no idea why the editor didn't cut it. Suddenly he begins to explain the immense size of the universe, accurately. Then he suddenly declares that there are no planets that can support life (incorrect), we're the only one with life (speculative), period. I was shocked, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt only because we have learned very much about the abundance of habitable planets in the universe since 1992. That is the only thing that can possible explain this chapter, because after factually stating how immense the universe is, he then is completely incorrect scientifically about the abundance of planets and finally 100% speculative about there being no other life. The crappy part is he tries to present it all as factual, when in reality just his first stand of evidence was. Ugh. What the hell.

    Now, time to rant, this book embodied a perspective on life that I am coming to disdain - anthropology, or 21st century intellectualized racial awwwing at the primitive people who are just so interesting! Primitive people make great facebook photo albums. Let me explain. The author did a lot of research on New Guinea, and talks extensively about it. Due to the terrain, there were many different societies who lived close to one another but remained isolated. Each pocked was a unique culture, with unique traditions and all that. For example, apparently round them parts the cool thing to do is wear basically a codpeice or penis stick. Some tribes painted them yellow, some green, some had flowers, some feathers, dudes had multiple and some were special occasion ones, etc. You getting the picture (if so what color is your penis stick, haha)? Lots of penis sticks, no shoes, native instruments, so cute right? None of the influence from evil modern society and satan incarnate aka the white man. Only within the last 40 years or so did these tribes begin to modernize, trade, get modern goods and all.

    The author fondly recalls one of his strolls through the jungle back in the good old days where he came up to a tribe banging on drums and they were so amazed to see him, a white man. About 20 years later he goes back to visit the tribe, with I'm sure his notebooks to do "observations" on them, fancy camera, maybe a computer, etc and to his horror hears them listening to pop music and sees a few wearing Reeboks. Gasp, they were so much cuter, so much more useful to the purpose of my research paper, when they didn't have Reeboks.

    What I find appalling about this perspective is it completely ignores the desires of the native people and it ignores the benefits that one is able to obtain from modern society. The very system that allowed the author to think in this way, be educated, and write a book is the one he wants to hold back from cultures because he would rather see the variety of penis ornaments. What if these people want to be modernized? Is it such a horrible thing that they learn about medicine and their infant mortality rate plummets? Is it a bad thing that their life expectancy is over 40 now? What if they want to wear Nikes? Is it such a bad thing to see a world map, understand it's a big place, learn that there are about 7 billion other humans out there?

    What I simply do not understand about the "awww, look at and study the primitive people" perspective is the lack of consideration for the desires, wishes, or well being of the culture in question. It's like they feel guilty about being white and going to good prep schools. So they'll write academic papers about those cute jungle people, and take photos and all that, but it's like they want that to remain the way it is. Don't modernize, I just got grant money to study you! It's like their vacation from reality, and I think it's frankly insulting to the people being photographed and studied as if they were animals.

    Breathe. Anyway, I thought this book was going to be excellent, instead it was average. Perhaps a new edition would really go a long way in improving it. I learned some interesting statistics, but am not very inspired to continue reading Diamond.

    It has also proved possible to work out a calibration between genetic distance and elapsed time, and thereby get an approximate answer to the question of when we and chimps split apart from our common ancestor. That turns out to be somewhere around seven million years ago, give or take a few million years. 12

    If our ethical code makes a purely arbitrary distinction between humans and all other species, then we have a code based on naked selfishness devoid of any higher principle. If our code instead makes distinctions based on our superior intelligence, social relationships, and capacity for feeling pain, then it becomes difficult to defend an all or nothing code that draws a line between all humans and all animals. 30

    The emergence of Homo sapiens illustrates the paradox discussed in the previous chapter; that our rise to humanity was not directly proportional to the changes in our genes. 37

    Those of us accustomed to getting our information from the printed page or television will find it hard to appreciate how important even just one or two old people are in a preliterate society...one such person in a preliterate society can thus spell the difference between death and survival for the whole society. 50

    Cro-Manon Neanderthal transition was a harbinger of what was to come, when the victors' descendants began squabbling among themselves. It may at first seem paradoxical that Cro-Magnons prevailed over the more muscular Neanderthals, but weaponry rather than strength would have been decisive. Similarly, it's not gorillas that are now threatening to exterminate humans in central Africa, but vice versa. People with huge muscles require lots of food, and they thereby gain no advantage if slimmer, smarter people can use tools to do the same work. 52

    Until the great leap forward, human culture had developed at a snail's pace for millions of years. that pace was dictated by the slow pace of genetic change. After the leap, cultural development no longer depended on genetic change. Despite negligible changes in our anatomy, there has been far more cultural evolution in the past forty thousand years than in the millions of years before. 56

    Our mean duration of coitus (about four minutes for Americans) is much longer than for gorillas (one minute), pygmy chimps (fifteen seconds), or common chimps (seven seconds), but shorter than for orangutans (fifteen minutes) and lightning fast compared to the twelve hour long copulations of marsupial mice. 75

    In these days of growing human over population, one of the most ironic tragedies is the catholic church's claim that human copulation has conception as its natural purpose, and that the rhythm method is the only proper means of birth control. The rhythm method would be terrific for gorillas and most other mammal species, but not for us. In no species besides humans has the purpose of copulation become so unrelated to conception, or the rhythm method so unsuited for contraception. 78

    How does one decide whether recognizably distinct animal populations from different localities constitute different species, or belong instead to the same special and just constitute different races (also known as subspecies)?...The distinction is based on interbreeding under normal circumstances,: members of the same species may interbreed normally if given the opportunity, while members of different species don't. 112

    The longer life span of modern humans as compared to that of apes does not rest only on cultural adaptations, such as tools to acquire food and deter predators. It also rests on the biological advantage of menopause and increased investment in self-repair. Whether those biological adaptations developed especially at the time of the great leap forward or earlier, they rank among the life-history changes that permitted the rise of the third chimpanzee to humanity. 135

    Up to half the words in typical human speech are purely grammatical items, with no referent that one can point to. 153

    Most of today's leading infectious diseases and parasites of mankind could not become established until after the transition to agriculture. These killers persist only in societies of crowded, malnourished, sedentary people constantly reinfected by each other and by their own sewage. 187

    Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming brought another curse to humanity:class divisions. 187

    [Discussing dangerous behaviors, such as smoking or tattoos] Males of many more species have bright colors, loud songs, or conspicuous displays that attract predators. Why should a male advertise such an impediment, and why should a female like it? Zahavi's theory goes to the heart of this paradox. According to his theory, those deleterious structures and behaviors constitute valid indicators that the animal is being honest in its claim of superiority, precisely because those traits themselves impose handicaps. 197

    Continental differences in level of civilization arose from geography's effect on the development of our cultural hallmarks, not from human genetics. Continents differed in the resources on which civilization depended - especially in the wild animal and plan species that proved useful for domestication. 236

    Plants and animals spread quickly and easily within a climate zone to which they've already adapted. To spread out of this zone, they have to develop new varieties with different climate tolerances. A glance at the map of the old world shows how species could shift long distances without encountering a change of climate. 245

    These calculations, which belong to a science called glottochronology ( = chronology of languages), yield the rule of thumb that languages replace about 20 percent of their basic vocabulary every one thousand years. 262

    The steppe itself reaches its western limit in the plains of Hungary. That's where all subsequent steppe invaders of Europe, like the Mongols, stopped. To spread further, steppe society had to adopt to the forested landscape of western Europe - by adopting intense agricultural or by taking over existing European societies and hybridizing with their peoples. Most of the genes of the resulting hybrid societies may have been the genes of old europe. 271

    Chimpanzee behavior suggests that a major reason for our human hallmark of group living was defense against other human groups, especially once we acquired weapons and a large enough brain to plan ambushes. If this reasoning is correct, then anthropologist's traditional emphasis on "man the hunter" as the driving force of human evolution might be valid after all - with the difference that we ourselves were our own prey as well as the predator that forced us into group living. 294

    Our power threatens our own existence. 311

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