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The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (P.S.) [Paperback]

Jared M. Diamond
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 3, 2006 0060845503 978-0060845506 Trade Paperback Edition

The Development of an Extraordinary Species

We 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 primarily with the basic necessities of survival. What is it about that two percent difference in DNA that has created such a divergence between evolutionary cousins? In this fascinating, provocative, passionate, funny, endlessly entertaining work, renowned Pulitzer Prize–winning author and scientist Jared Diamond explores how the extraordinary human animal, in a remarkably short time, developed the capacity to rule the world . . . and the means to irrevocably destroy it.

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The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (P.S.) + Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies + Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition
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Editorial Reviews Review

Jared Diamond states the theme of his book up-front: "How the human species changed, within a short time, from just another species of big mammal to a world conqueror; and how we acquired the capacity to reverse all that progress overnight." The Third Chimpanzee is, in many ways, a prequel to Diamond's prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. While Guns examines "the fates of human societies," this work surveys the longer sweep of human evolution, from our origin as just another chimpanzee a few million years ago. Diamond writes:

It's obvious that humans are unlike all animals. It's also obvious that we're a species of big mammal down to the minutest details of our anatomy and our molecules. That contradiction is the most fascinating feature of the human species.

The chapters in The Third Chimpanzee on the oddities of human reproductive biology were later expanded in Why Is Sex Fun? Here, they're linked to Diamond's views of human psychology and history.

Diamond is officially a physiologist at UCLA medical school, but he's also one of the best birdwatchers in the world. The current scientific consensus that "primitive" humans created ecological catastrophes in the Pacific islands, Australia, and the New World owes a great deal to his fieldwork and insight. In Diamond's view, the current global ecological crisis isn't due to modern technology per se, but to basic weaknesses in human nature. But, he says, "I'm cautiously optimistic. If we will learn from our past that I have traced, our own future may yet prove brighter than that of the other two chimpanzees." --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Research biologist (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands) Diamond argues that the human being is just a third species of chimpanzee but nevertheless a unique animal essentially due to its capacity for innovation, which caused a great leap forward in hominoid evolution. After stressing the significance of spoken language, along with art and technology, Diamond focuses on the self-destructive propensities of our species to kill each other (genocide and drug abuse) and to destroy the environment (mass extinctions). He also discusses human sexuality, geographic variability, and ramifications of agriculture (metallurgy, cultivated plants, and domesticated animals). Absent from Diamond's work is the role religion plays in causing both war and the population explosion as well as long-range speculations on the future of our species. This informative, most fascinating, and very readable book is highly recommended for all libraries.
- H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Trade Paperback Edition edition (January 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060845503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060845506
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He began his scientific career in physiology and expanded into evolutionary biology and biogeography. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Among Dr. Diamond's many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Japan's Cosmos Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Prize honoring the Scientist as Poet, presented by Rockefeller University. He has published more than six hundred articles and several books including the New York Times bestseller "Guns, Germs, and Steel," which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Additional information about Dr. Diamond may be found at his personal website,

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#27 in Books > History
#27 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
535 of 553 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Halfway best September 4, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Since I teach evolutionary psychology in college, I try to keep up with "popular" expositions of human evolution--both because my (better) students will have read them and because some of them make for good teaching tools. The first ten chapters of this book rank, in my opinion, as probably the best single account of what we really do and do not know about human evolution.
In these first ten chapters, Diamond gives us dispassionate surveys of dominant theories and available evidence. Here, it's not unusual for him to say something like, Here are the six dominant theories, here is the evidence that shows why four of them don't deserve serious consideation anymore in spite of their emotional or political appeal, and here are the relative scientific merits of the remainder. In an arena beset by vicious ad hominem attacks and passionate ideological presentations of unproven theories, Diamond--in these first ten chapters--offers the student more concerned with truth than ideology a lovely account.
Among the important points he makes in these first ten chapters: Our genetic propensities toward cooperation, care for no-longer-procreative elders, and (in the case of women) outliving reproductive capacity set the stage for the evolution of the human brain. Genes may be "selfish," but our genes' inclining us toward non-egoistic ways of life lie at the foundation of being human at all. This is a crucial point, consistent with the ethical views and habits of all civilizations other than those that foster "social Darwinism." That our humanity depends on the falsity of "social Darwinism" cannot be emphasized too greatly.
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194 of 212 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interactive reading January 23, 2000
Perused this book while shopping in a "brick & mortar bookstore. Having read Guns, Germs & Steel I was familiar with the author's strength - intelligent discourse in a very readable style. The Third Chimpanzee, like GG&S, requires some involvement on the part of the reader. About 70% of the time I felt like I was learning something new and the other 30% my brain was comparing Diamond's thoughts to personal experiences and formulating new perspectives. The topics, which could easily be boring are made interesting by Diamond's frequent linkages to modern reference points. The book's chapters do not need to be read in order and in fact many were published as stand alone articles in Discover and Natural History Magazines. (This may be the secret to their readability.) Diamond does weave a progressive story through the book which culminates in a very thought provoking last chapter. I finished the book thinking, "so what am I going to do about these issues". The reader participation doesn't stop at the end of the book. Two weeks later and it's still percolating in my mind.
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91 of 99 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
"The Third Chimpanzee," by Jared Diamond, is a fascinating study on how humans evolved, how seperate they are from other animals, and if anything can be done to stop the global destruction they are causing today. Much of the text of this book illustrates just how much human behavior is controlled by genes; many of the behaviors which are regarded as immoral (adultery, for instance) are shown to give the person who behaves in this manner an evolutionary advantage. Partnered with describing how much of human behavior is genetically controlled is a clear, well documented argument that humans and their unique behavior (specifically culture) are not so unique in the animal kingdom. Almost every form of "unique" human behaviors, ranging from art to language to genocide, have been observed in other species of animals. Diamond makes the point that it is known that these behaviors are not unique to humans; humans just practice these behaviors to a greater degree than most other animal species. Diamond also traces the beginnings of the environmental problems that humans are facing today to the cro-magnon period of human history. Diamond makes the point that many of the large species of mammals, such as the wooly mammoth, were not killed off by the ice age. Rather, the mammoths were driven to extinction by early human hunting parties. Diamond points out with frightening clarity that environmental destruction is part of our evolutionary history based on our genes, a history which is still influencing us today. Finally, Diamond gives some thought to what can be done to reverse humanity's penchant for environmental destruction, and most importantly, if it is too late to save the earth. This book is thought-provoking, scientifically sound, and articulate, and a joy to read. Read more ›
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dry Run for "Guns, Germs, and Steel" July 18, 2003
If you've read Diamond's two most recent books -- "Why is Sex Fun?" and "Guns, Germs, and Steel" -- very little in this book will be new to you. "The Third Chimpanzee" covers a wider range of topics and is more overtly political than those two, but much of the same territory is examined.
In this book, which was his first for a general audience, Diamond examines the history of man's evolution, seeking to establish patterns that might explain man's future. He worries that man has a self-destructive tendency -- as typified by genocide, the threat of atomic warfare, and the loss of biodiversity -- that could lead to man's own self-destruction. While Diamond occasionally tries to strike an optimistic note, the book has a dark pessimism throughout it.
One of the book's only failings is that its several aims are sometimes at cross purposes. Diamond begins "The Third Chimpanzee" by trying to level man down to the animals. He does this by explaining how closely connected man is genetically to his closest living cousins, the chimpanzees (thus, the name of this book). On this basis, he then argues that a rethinking in our concept of human rights is in order.
Later in the book, however, when Diamond is exhorting his fellow homo sapiens to save the planet, he chooses to focus on man's unique traits, both destructive and redeeming. Man is capable of genocide, certain types of which, Diamond argues, are unique to man. On the other hand, man is also capable of learning from the history of his species, something which is also unique to man. Diamond's switch from presenting man as just another chimpanzee to presenting man as both world destroyer and potential world savior is a bit jarring, even if not necessarily contradictory.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent easy read that explains how the natural world involving ...
Excellent easy read that explains how the natural world involving humans works. Explains a lot. Should be required reading somewhere.
Published 3 days ago by cara michaels
4.0 out of 5 stars Who (what) is your cousin?!
This is scholarship material, as are all of Diamond's books. Maybe not what you read on the beach on a summer afternoon. (But you can, of course! Read more
Published 13 days ago by Joel M. Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars another winner by Diamond, very accessible...
If you love this author, you'll love this book as you did the rest. If you don't know Jared Diamond...quick intro. Read more
Published 25 days ago by MATT
5.0 out of 5 stars A very prolific work that encompasses a broad number of subjects.
A very important piece of work that helps us understand a bit more about ourselves and what it means to be human.
Published 1 month ago by Luis Ortiz
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book last...
of three Jared Diamond's books and they all in some fashion repeat themselves. This was the most entertaining of the three.
Published 1 month ago by D. Vick
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
I have been a fan of Diamond's other works and was not disappointed with this foray into human development and behavior. Read more
Published 2 months ago by lynn voss
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
This book is a pretty interesting read. Lots of fascinating information on human beings, our origins, our history and our DNA and genetics.
Published 3 months ago by Giovanni Garcia
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly invigorating book describing the great odyssey of the human...
Jared Diamond is a professor at my alma mater UCLA, and he became famous outside the science world after the success of 'Guns, Germs and Steel', which apart from winning him... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Comrade_Bazarov
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, I highly recommend it.
Great book. Very interesting, and informative. Some of the theories are rather interesting conjectures than proven scientific canon, but I think the author is open about that, and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gabriel Ceriotti
5.0 out of 5 stars The Third Chimpanzee
The Third Chimpanzee is far-ranging and illuminating in the subjects it deals with, whether in biology or culture or history, and is written in a way that makes it a joy to read.
Published 9 months ago by AK
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