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The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (P.S.) Paperback – 3 Feb 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Paperback, 3 Feb 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 407 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (3 Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060845503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060845506
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jared Diamond is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. Until recently he was Professor of Physiology at the UCLA School of Medicine. He is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the widely acclaimed Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies, which also is the winner of Britain's 1998 Rhone-Poulenc Science Book Prize.

Product Description

The Development of an Extraordinary SpeciesWe human beings share 98 percent of our genes with....

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First Sentence
IT'S OBVIOUS THAT humans are unlike all animals. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Opening with a false statement: "it's obvious that humans are unlike other animals", this book goes on to strenuously refute this widely held assertion. Diamond spends the remaining chapters explaining why the allegation is false. He does this first by showing how close we are to the other primates. He follows that by bringing the human species into a more valid relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom. He uses the mechanisms of evolution, from eating habits through language to sexual practices. The theme of this book is to challenge to us to reconsider our view of our place in life's panorama. It's clear that we can no longer hold ourselves aloof from our relations in the animal kingdom. When art critics and psychologists can be deceived by animal-produced art, the claim that "humans are unlike other animals" rings pretty thin.
The range of topics is extensive, and he handles them with a special talent, exercised with aplomb. We like to think we are exclusive among animals in having speech, writing, agriculture and other aspects of "civilization". Diamond shows us that those aspects we think are particular to us are in fact shared by numerous other species. Ours may be more pronounced, but they are not isolated in us. These abilities differ only in degree, usually limited by environment or physical capabilities. But they are the shared result of the evolutionary process.
Diamond has a special talent for the sweeping view. He's used this aptitude elsewhere, but perhaps none of his books quite match what he's done here. Challenging many of our dearly held beliefs with a refreshing directness, he aptly demonstrates that if we can learn how evolution works, we'll gain a better understanding of ourselves.
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Format: Paperback
2006 Harper Perennial reissue of 1st edition (1992), 368 pages

This is another of the twenty books Charlie Munger recommends in the second edition of Poor Charlie's Almanack (which I recommend very strongly you get and read). Two of Jared Diamond's books make it on to the list (this one plus Guns, Germs and Steel), so I had high hopes for his first book, The Third Chimpanzee. I wasn't disappointed.

A big theme in Poor Charlie's Almanack is the importance of multi-disciplinary learning. Munger believes that many/most academic disciplines suffer from `man with a hammer syndrome': if your only tool is a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail. Jared Diamond is a man who comes equipped with a full tool kit: he started off in medical research, then pursued a parallel second career in bird ecology, evolution and biogeography and is learning his twelfth language.

The first part of this book is about where we came from and how we have become so different to all of the other animals, when, for example, only 1.6% of our DNA differs from that of a chimpanzee. The second part is about our likely future as evidenced by our relatively recent past (though these broad headings are actually subdivided into five sections by the author).

The book is full of interesting facts and surprising (and well argued) theories. The evidence that he discusses when looking at whether we ever lived in harmony with nature and how far back and regularly our human genocidal tendencies manifested themselves is rather disquieting. It suggests strongly, for example, that my own laissez faire attitude towards the environment is emphatically not justified by human history.
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Format: Paperback
"The Third Chimpanzee" was Diamond's first major book, and it sows the seeds for his three more recent works, "Why is Sex Fun?", "Guns, Germs and Steel", and "Collapse". Many of the chapters here introduce the ideas of the later books prior to their later expansion and development.

Diamond's aim is to view human history through the lens of biology: given that we are about 98% genetically identical to chimps, what light does that shed on our own life-cycle, culture, history and destiny?

The book's first section briefly documents our genetic history - our divergence from a proto-chimp ancestor, and the development of homo sapiens over about six million years (homo erectus, homo habilis etc). Diamond is always keen to draw out the political implications of his science, and suggests that if we were to label chimps as "homo troglodytes" rather than "pan troglodytes", we might make different ethical decisions about their treatment. I found this first section all too-brief - I'd have liked to see a lot more detail on the biological commonalities and differences between humans and chimps.

The second section reviews the human life-cycle, particulary our sexuality - why are we monogamous? How do we choose mates? What can sexual selection suggest about human races? This draws heavily on comparisons and contrasts with other animal species and I found it all interesting.

The third section covers the evolution of things that might seem "uniquely human" - language, art, agriculture, drug use - and traces animal precursors to see whether we really are as unique as we think. I found all of this to be far too brief - a whole book on this area would have been interesting.
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