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Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence Paperback – November 14, 1997
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If you harbor a sneaking suspicion that men are a herd of ignoble savages, then this book is for you. Authors Wrangham and Peterson will confirm your instincts. It turns out that hyperviolent social behavior is deeply rooted in male human genes and common among our closest male primate relatives. Rapes, beatings and killings are as much a part of life among the great apes as they are among us. The authors try to conclude on some upbeat notes that ring hollow, but their science reveals much about the dark side of human nature. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Contradicting the common belief that chimpanzees in the wild are gentle creatures, Harvard anthropologist Wrangham and science writer Peterson have witnessed, since 1971, male African chimpanzees carry out rape, border raids, brutal beatings and warfare among rival territorial gangs. In a startling, beautifully written, riveting, provocative inquiry, they suggest that chimpanzee-like violence preceded and paved the way for human warfare?which would make modern humans the dazed survivors of a continuous, five-million-year habit of lethal aggression. They buttress their thesis with an examination of the ubiquitous rape among orangutans, gorilla infanticide and male-initiated violence and hyenas' territorial feuds, drawing parallels to the lethal raiding among the Yanomamo people of Brazil's Amazon forests and other so-called primitive tribes, as well as to modern "civilized" mass slaughter. In their analysis, patriotism ("stripped to its essence... male defense of the community") breeds aggression, yet, from an evolutionary standpoint, they reject the presumed inevitability of male violence and male dominance over women.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book has no male-bashing rhetoric, though I thought it could benefit from acknowledging that females also behave badly in pursuit of reproductive success. Of course females are less violent, because each gender adopts the strategies that promote their DNA. I, Mammal: Why Your Brain Links Status and Happiness
Most humans manage to avoid demonic behavior most of the time. This is an accomplishment that we should value instead of taking it for granted. We avoid conflict and respect others because our cortex can predict the consequences of actions the limbic system might motivate, and squelch actions that are not in its best interest. This is a complex skill. When you understand the limbic system we've inherited from our mammalian ancestors, you appreciate what an achievement it is that so many people are kind and decent to each other. We are born with the potential for good and for evil. Good doesn't come automatically. I like this book because it helps us understand how much skill is necessary for people to transcend their animal nature.
The notion of "nature vs nurture," that we can attribute our behavior from either exclusive force, is false, because nature and nurture act together. The potential for aggression in any animal may have a root in biology, but it does not make that behavior inevitable. An individual's tendency for violence is influenced by many circumstances, not just biological ones. Environmental and cultural influences are important for stimulating and understanding aggression. Some forms of violence exist in every culture, varying in frequency depending on the society. By the logic of this book, some groups of males could be biologically wired to act more violently due to genetic factors, and we would be able to "prove" it in the same manner as the authors- by looking at the frequency or intensity of violent acts within a patriarchal society and extrapolating them to extremes, drawing grossly culturally biased conclusions. I wonder if the people who read this book and really like it realize that this is not science, not truth, not fact, but an idea that stems from a particular worldview. It is not a universal truth.
The whole premise of the book is rather narrow-minded- why focus only on male violence? why try to prove that it is rooted in biology? what statement does that make? what's the point? The book makes it sound like male violence is inevitable, but not all men share the same fights over power, territory, or status, and in fact, neither do all chimps and bonobos. Different groups of chimps act differently from geographic area to geographic area, but the authors have only cited case studies that show extreme violence in order to prove their theory, which isn't very scientific at all. It is inductive research, and the Gombe chimps that are referred to in the book were living within a unique environmental enclosure that may have added to their violent behavior. You see, there are nuanced elements to violent behavior, but the authors make it seem so simple by essentially blaming the Y chromosome. Sexist much?
I hope that this book does not get taken too seriously as factual science, but rather as a comparative inter-species study with very debatable ways of interpreting the "evidence."
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