- Series: P.S.
- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (January 3, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060845503
- ISBN-13: 978-0060845506
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 204 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (P.S.) 1st Edition
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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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
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NOTE: Early in the book, Diamond makes an argument as to why humans and neanderthals could not have interbred. However, since this book was written (1990's), DNA evidence has proven that humans did breed with neanderthals.
I have to say undoubtedly yes. This book, like the more recent ones, proposes answers to some of the biggest questions about humanity. Thus, even though the book is outdated, The Third Chimpanzee is great at both asking the important questions and explaining a process for answering them. The book covers everything from human language, sexuality, drinking, agriculture, and geopolitics through the analytical lens of evolutionary science. Thus, Diamond finds more interesting (and probably accurate) answers than those of philosophers, anthropologists, and political scientists addressing those same questions.
Another benefit of this book is that it is actually broader in scope than Diamond's more recent books. The latter chapters of the book deal with the same subjects as Guns, Germs, and Steel (why some civilizations grew rapidly) and Collapse (how civilization risks its existence through ecological destruction). However, the first half of the book, deals with different topics, from evolutionary explanations for alcoholism to why humans have sex in private. In fact, if you only have time to read one of Diamond's book, I recommend The Third Chimpanzee as it includes a broader range.
This addition of the book also includes a useful postscript which addresses some of the advances in our understanding of these topics since the book was first written.
Part one traces the development of this "species of big mammal" through its evolutionary history. He devotes a chapter to the Great Leap Forward -a topic of great interest to me. A number of things that profoundly affected the human species reputedly occurred during this interesting period.
Part two discusses human sexuality, adultery, mate selection, and growing old. In many of the discussions throughout the book, an attempt is made to relate human behavior with some similar behavior found in the animal world. As stated in the book "parts one and two discussed the biological foundations of our unique cultural traits."
Part three delves into how we are uniquely human and distinct from the animal world. Here he discusses the bridge or gulf, however you wish to view it, between language of humans and the ways in which animals communicate. He follows this with an interesting discussion of the development of language in human society. There is an attempt to relate human art to some animal precursors, a discussion of the mixed blessings of agriculture as well as why we engage in harmful practices.
In part four we learn about the effects of geography on civilization, the Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) and development of the Indo-European language, the "linguistic steamroller," and genocide - an attribute notably ascribed to humans.
Part five finally elaborates on the "Golden Age that never was" referring to the fact that "preindustrial societies have been exterminating species, destroying of habitats, and undermining their own existence for thousands of years." So this kind of behavior is nothing new to humans. There is a chapter on early life in the New World - the Americas, and finally, some thoughts on how the human species now has the capability of destroying not only themselves but even the planet.
I rate this book highly based on the detailed and through coverage Jared Diamond has given to the subject matters involved. This book is a worthy read to gain some interesting insight into the extraordinary machinations of the human species.
I knew we were big apes, but I didn't really know all the details. Jared Diamond's well developed book puts it into a focused perspective. The problem is... us! Luckily, the solution lies in us as well, and we're definitely full of surprises.
With numerous comparisons to other species and detailed explanations of how one evolutionary trait or behavior can lead to another (and sometimes cancel out others too), the reader arrives at answers to how certain societies vanished, why will kill each other, why we grow old and die, and how at this very moment, we're kind of just a blip on the timeline of human history. Or, maybe this is the Golden Age...
A must read for anyone interested in evolution and a better understanding of why humans think and act the way they do.
Note: I've written this review after reading The 3rd Chimp & Why is sex fun? back to back.