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Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence Paperback – Nov 14 1997

25 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (Nov. 14 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395877431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395877432
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #194,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Karasik on July 8 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this book several years ago but I find myself constantly referring to it in conversations about politics and global events. The chilling examination of rape, genocide and infanticide practiced by male orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas (respectively) is depressingly resonant of our human penchant for violence, and suggests that we come by these behaviors "honestly" by way of a shared genetic heritage. Unfortunately, we don't seem to share as much behavior with our other close relatives, the bonobos, who make love, not war. More poignantly than anything else I have read, this book poses the question of whether humans can ever overcome their genetic predisposition for violence and create a more peaceful society. If the past decade of world events is any indication, the very depressing conclusion would seem to be in the negative. But there are always pockets of progress and glimmers of hope -- of all the great apes we are the most adaptable and unpredictable. By illuminating the biological imperatives underlying our most unattractive behaviors, the book adds to our self-knowledge and, we can dimly hope, may even help our flawed species alter its violent trajectory.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Simon Anglim on Jan. 10 2004
Format: Paperback
I would refer you all to a recent documentary in the BBC "Horizon" series investigating the whole "demonic male chimp" controversy, based on comparing the chimp colony at Gombe with others. Suffice to say, it told a disturbing story of inductive research, extensive intervention by the researchers themselves, affecting the apes' behaviour and ditching of evidence which refuted the "demonic" hypothesis. The alternative hypothesis presented was that the Gombe chimps are unusual, and their aggression owes more to overcrowding within a shrinking area of forest than to any natural "demonic" streak; other chimp colonies apparently show far lower levels of mutual aggression, if any at all. The scariest moment came not from learning that the legendary Frodo had killed and partially eaten a human baby, but from Dr Goodall's apparent coldness towards this incident. Had a tiger or crocodile done this, it would have been shot within days, but tigers and crocs don't have glamourous young women anthropomorphising them in bestselling books or on primetime TV.
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By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 21 2004
Format: Paperback
What drives humanity to engage in its incessant wars? Why do men fight over apparent inconsequentials? Is rape a "natural" and "sex-driven" event, or merely the consequence of human cultural demands? These questions and a host of others are addressed in this superb survey of primate behaviour studies. Ever since Jane Goodall discovered chimpanzees sought colobus monkeys for dinner treats, new studies of primates have revealed arresting behaviour patterns. Like humans, other primates murder, rape and even make war. The authors have scoured a wealth of primate studies to derive a picture of our heritage. They suggest we learn what our cousins do in order to better understand what we do. Otherwise, we will continue to make bad decisions based on flawed assumptions.
Our fellow primates are avid territorialists, argue the authors. Borders unseen by us are clearly delineated by chimpanzees, orangutans and monkeys. These defined areas are hotly defended. The other side of the coin produces invasions. Opportunism, failing resources, or just spite, drives chimpanzee groups to stealthily scout and enter another band's range. Rarely, an individual will stage a foray, but only if he thinks success likely. Too often, the raids appear to have no particular purpose. A sally may lead to injuries or even death, but the attacking troop is just as likely to withdraw to its original range with neither captives nor booty. What prompts these seemingly mindless assaults? Are they inevitable among primates?
The latter question was answered, according to the authors, with the discovery of the "pygmy chimpanzee" or bonobo. This species contrasts sharply with its common chimpanzee cousins, who live in bands beset by tension.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a valuable piece of analysis (albeit popular-based) on the evolutionary biology involved with aggression from one of the top figures in the field of biological anthropology. Seeing as that Wrangham is an anthropologist, this work is much more valuable than a strict work of biology because he integrates and addresses, with the biology, themes from literature, philosophy, and critical theory. For the most part, this is a solid piece of work that is extremely enjoyable to read. For one that tends to enjoy reading mostly philosophy and theory, I certainly was pleased with DEMONIC MALES.
DEMONIC MALES is about a whole lot more than "just" violence/aggression. It provides a general introduction to the evolutionary thinking involved with biological anthropology and evolutionary psychology. However, I do disagree with him on much of his analysis/'refutation' of critical theory. Nevertheless, the viewpoints and the evidence presented in this book are important for anyone that works or studies in the social studies and even the humanities. Human evolutionary heritage does have a major impact on our current behavior, even if it is not as simple as strict biological determinism. The claim of "male-bashing" is simply absurd.
And, finally, Richard Wrangham is great. I am currently taking his "Evolution of Human Nature" course at Harvard. He's spent a great deal of his life working at various African sites studying the chimpanzee, and in this book he takes on the bonobo (a seemingly paradoxical great-ape, since it shows little aggression). Wrangham is very knowledgeable in the field, and his engaging personality shines through his work.
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