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Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are Paperback – August 1, 2006
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De Waal's respect for both his readers and his research subjects come shining through in the simple clarity he uses when describing both the endless sex of bonobo apes and the heartrending violence occasionally present in chimp hierarchal structure. By illustrating his points with a mixture of straight-from-research experiences and jokes at the expense of modern politicians, he keeps his ideas compelling for anyone with a basic understanding of evolutionary science without drifting towards the academic drone that could be expected of by a researcher of his experience.
You won't find specific conclusions concerning human nature, but instead a gentle, almost rambling look at two primate species with vastly different social networks and how, perhaps, humanity can learn from each to our benefit. A few of de Waal's lovely duotone photos (My Family Album: 30 Years of Primate Photography grace the end of the book, featuring close-up shots of the folks he's been writing about--chimps like Yeroen, Nikkie and Mama, and bonobo Kuif and adopted daughter Roosje are downright thrilling to see after reading such interesting stories about their lives. Jill Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
With thirty years' experience in the Netherlands and the United States, de Waal wants us to understand how human values derive from primate origins. His careful studies have revealed things unexpected even to himself. His chief aim with this synopsis is to dispense with the many myths that have emerged over the past few years - chimpanzees as "murderers" or "war-makers"; bonobos as over-sexed and gender indifferent, both as "simply wild animals living at the command of "instinct". Diversity and individuality are a major facet of ape societies which, in de Waal's assessment, not only makes them worthy of study, but worthy of sound comparison with our own species.
At first glance, de Waal's condensation of ape behaviour into four topical chapters seems over-distillation. The material in those chapters, however, shows the complexity of primate personalities. Chimpanzee society is male-dominated, with young males taking every opportunity to displace the "alpha" group leader. They live in a strongly hierarchical society where the males hunt and dispense meat for sexual and other favours. Female chimpanzees form few alliances, although brief excursions with males other than the alpha occur.Read more ›
In "Our Inner Ape", Frans De Waal seeks to ground both our darkest and most sublime tendencies in a continuous, evolutionary history. He chooses two of our closest primate relatives to prove his point -- the chimpanzee and the bonobo. De Waal assumes absolutely no background knowledge on the part of the reader (in fact, he takes some time to spell out the difference between a monkey and an ape). Sandwiched in between an opening and a concluding chapter, the meat of this book concentrates on the topics of `Power', `Sex', `Violence' and `Kindness'. De Waal's accounts of the highly intricate social networks formed by the ape species and their complex forms of interaction within those networks are extremely interesting.
However, what some might view as the strong point of the book, to me seems like precisely its weakness. I am referring to the book's purely anecdotal tone. Having read it, one comes away less with factual information on the social life of the higher primates than with a somewhat random series of stories. Though these stories are intriguing, there are so many of them that it makes one wonder how much of what has been read will be retained.Read more ›
Through his fascinating and often amusing analysis of the bonobo, another primate with whom, like chimps, humans share 98.5% of genetics'. Where the chimp is brutal the bonobo is peaceful. Where chimps are territorial and hierarchical, the bonobos share and maintain a female dominate structure. Where chimps jealously guard sexual privileges, bonobos mate, well like animals, sharing partners in all conceivable combinations (De Waal pays this great attention, suggesting that such "loose" sexual relationships prevent aggression).
De Waal writes well, and offers an interesting thesis that in fact both sides of human nature may well come from our animal roots. He even presents interesting evidence for empathy among bonobs and more startling still, the elusive notion of consciousness, that an individual can project themselves into an alien form, such as bonobos caring for birds. All of this makes for a fun and thought provoking read.
De Waal falls short, however, in not going deep enough. While he demonstrates evidence for the emotional hardiness of chimps vs.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is more a comment following reading this remarkable book than a thorough review, I don't have much to add to the other positive reviews of this remarkable book, often... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Dg. Batt
Very good stuff.. The book has good lessons for humans to learn:
1) Who are we and where do we come from? We are not so unique as we think we are. Read more
Should be a required read of every college student regardless of major.Published 15 months ago by Mark Shrapnell
Interesting and data-rich. However, his reflections on social issues are, in my opinion, somehow trivial. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Ana L Valazza
I read this book for my anthropology class. I had also seen many documentaries mentioning Frans de Waal. It is fascinating and an easy read. I highly recommend it.Published 17 months ago by jan thomas
I purchased this for my 12yr old son to use for a science project. He loved the book and has taught us all so much from it. I have not personally read it, only skimmed a bit.Published 21 months ago by L. Jordan
This is a fun and easy read. It provides a number of interesting stories about chimp and bonobo communities and sets out an accessible and coherent discussion of the differences... Read morePublished on January 13, 2014 by Timothy E. Kennelly
This book does makes you take stock of who we are as a species. The most Salient point was the misrepresentation of the commonly abused concept of "Survival of the Fittest" and the... Read morePublished on September 14, 2013 by Mister C