10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Halfway best
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...
Published on Sept. 4 2003 by Bob Fancher
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting, but a good book anyway.
I expected the book to keep with the subject of pure humans. The book, instead, shifts to aspects of all other animals and compares the human to them to create a foundation. Since I didn't know much about animals, and past societies, the book was very apealing to me. However, if I had already known about these things I would have been disapointed with the book. In any...
Published on May 22 2001 by Dan Kessler
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Halfway best,
This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)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. Science supports the kind of other-oriented, community concern that all ethics, through all of human history--unlike allegedly "enlightened" egoism--codifies. (See also the wonderful anthology, "The Evolutionary Origins of Morality," LeonardD. Katz, editor.)
Beginning in chapter eleven, the book becomes progressively more speculative, more of a presentation of Diamond's own theories, some about things outside his area of professional expertise--e.g., the effects of continental differences in flora, fauna, and climate on differential developments of civilizations. Here, we lose the critical comparative attitude of the first ten chapters. If you think carefully, you finish each of these latter chapters with a lot of, "Yes, but . . . " questions. Thus, in the first ten chapters, you rightly come away with confidence that you've acquired a fair understanding of the state-of-the-art in evolutionary studies. In the latter chapters, that simply isn't so.
I agree with most of the political and ideological principles underlying Diamnod's speculations, and I appreciate that--unlike many leading "lights" in studies of human evolution--he never resorts to name calling and acting as if those who differ are nefarious fools. But I wish he'd either stopped writing after ten chapters, or made the latter chapters more like the first ten. Each of these latter chapters is intelligent and interesting, and each deserves further condieration; but Diamnond's shift in standards of assessment and style of presentation makes the second half of the book far less authoritative, and therefore makes the book as a whole something one can less enthusiastically recommend--or use in teaching.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Work,
This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)I read this book just after I finished GGS and at some aspects, I liked it even more than the much celebrated GGS.
At each chapter of the Third Chimpanzee we learn a totally new subject in the Jared Diamond style: a well-thought synthesis, a simple and organized presentation. Every other twenty pages was a new adventure for me.
Obviously, this might not be the case for other readers that are more acquainted with evolution readings, and obviously I need a lot to learn before I can decide their authenticity but I found his ideas on subjects like extraterrestrial life and evolution of drug abuse very original and provoking. I also found his narration of the issues of Indo-European Languages spreading, mate selection, animal art and genocide very moving and comprehensive.
A surprise for me was that this book tells the main concept of GGS thoroughly in just two chapters. Given the occasionally criticized redundancy and large volume of GGS, I might humbly suggest a prospective reader of Diamond who has limited time to read this book instead of GGS. For sure, GGS gives a much better and extensive treatise of the concept and it is also a must read book for anybody who wants to put a perspective to human history. Third Chimpanzee also gives a perspective to human psychology and I sincerely recommend it to anybody interested in these two subjects.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Third Chimpanzee,
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This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)Ordered this book the same time as Natural Experiments was ordered. Was very happy with service and how fast we received them
5.0 out of 5 stars This book should be. Mandatory reading!,
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This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)probably the most important book I read after - GUNS GERMS AND STEEL.
If you haven't read either of these, get them both! You won't regret it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)This is a very worthwhile read for anyone interested in how man differs and does not differ from the rest of the animal kingdom (particularly the great apes). Since the book is already over ten years old, it is a bit weak on new advances in genetics and does not seem to be up-to-date on the Clovis debate about the peopling of the Americas (new genetic data showing that the entrance was probably earlier than the assumed 12,000 years ago). However, the bulk of the book is a very mind-broadening, timeless view of homo sapiens and this species conquest of the entire planet. The history that Diamond portrays does not augur well for mankind: habitual destruction of the environment; mass extinctions of other species; increasingly limited genetic diversity in the human species; the propensity for genocide. In short, Diamond shows that man has a history of selfishly expanding its population to the detriment of the very environment upon which he depends and that this proclivity could someday spell the end of the species as our numbers continue to rise. Some sobering facts are offered here; and open minds should recognize them and heed them.
I only give the book four stars for two reasons:
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book,
This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)I picked this up from the bookstore after reading Guns, Germs, and Steel earlier this year. I expected another book that was well written, where the author could explain the material to a novice on this subject like myself. I was not disappointed.
How did humans become human, and how did we evolve so differently so quickly from our primate relatives? Those are the questions he tries to answer in this book. Readers of GG&S will be familiar with a couple of the chapters in this book that touch on the same subject matter. However, don't let that stop you from looking at this book. Diamond looks at many aspects of humanity-both good (art, language) and bad (drug abuse, murder/genocide, destruction of environment) and tries to figure out how they developed or where they came from. I particularly enjoyed his treatment of language developement as well as his discussion of murder and genocide. We are not as different from animals as I thought regarding those topics. Plus, he explains everything very well. I had no problems following his logic or explanations. I would recommend this book for all to read.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evolution as applied science,
This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)There is a similarity between books of Mr. Diamond and some heavy-duty programming manuals I have to read due to specifics of my occupation: both leave a strange feeling of emotional insight after reading is completed (even though for computer books such completion is quite a relative notion). But there is a great difference too. Computer books is generally hard, if not exhausting, reading while reading of Mr. Diamond’s books is so easy and all-consuming you can hardly believe that this is a truly scientific book. Not every scientist has an ability to write on science of her/his specialization the way it can be easy to grasp and fascinating to read at the same time. Mr. Diamond has definitely succeeded in the latter.
There are many interesting points discussed in the book and I was very surprised (sometimes shocked) to learn some of the author’s ideas regarding artworks produced by elephants and chimps, why woodpeckers are so alone in their ecological niche, how we come to overwhelming and often problematic consumption of various chemicals, about enigma of concealed ovulation and (one of the most striking) gazelle’s mysterious “stotting” when attacked by lion - to name few. But the most important chapter of the book, in my view, was dedicated to human’s strange unwillingness to act in accordance with clearly calculable data to achieve ecological balance. The questions raised by Mr. Diamond in that regard are especially important today when the world started feeling Nature’s wrath in full scale – everybody knows about hurricane Katrina devastation as well as multitude of other examples directly linked to that feature of human’s behavior.
Mr. Diamond very eloquently and convincingly describes “environmental holocaust”, as he calls it, caused by penetration of nomadic hunter-gatherers into North America via isthmus Alaska-Siberia 11000 years ago, when 73% of all large mammals species became extinct within stunningly short period of time. Even though it is pretty much impossible to find out for sure whether or not Siberian migrants were direct or indirect cause of it, I find it very plausible. However, here are a couple of details, which Mr. Diamond does not investigate in depth.
1. Mr. Diamond mentions total unpreparedness of North America large mammals like mammoth, sloth, camel, etc to face human hunting skills. Suggested reason for it is also understandable – those mammals simply never seen humans before. Therefore, they were not able to evolve defensive behavior. The key question is: Why humans were killing them off en-masse so passionately? One of the reasons Mr. Diamond mentions briefly is "machismo". I think this "machismo" was prime reason for those killings. In my opinion humans were highly restricted in their ways to manifest their ego in those preliterate days. There was no literacy, not much of art (not in America), not much of trade, even not much of other people to fight. Today any person can find herself/himself in science, business, politics, military service, writing as Mr. Diamond himself, etc – a great deal of activities are available to single oneself out of the crowd. It is really hard to think of anything else than hunt to achieve the same objective for first humans in America 11000 years ago.
2. Mr. Diamond says first migrants to America, Madagascar, Australia and New Zealand were not able to assess possible consequences of overhunting due to lack of knowledge. I don’t think it is a prime reason for that (moreover, how hard is it to see that animals disappear in direct link with hunting?). In my opinion it is something much deeper in our psyche that prevents us from acting in the right direction. Just a small example – how many of us are getting credit card and indulge themselves in shopping spree perfectly understanding that sooner or later the time to pay interest, late fees as well as principle amounts will come? Nevertheless, we are getting credit cards, exhaust credit limit and in many cases end up with bankruptcy. Even though we know at the very beginning all terms and conditions. Or take bigger example – global warming. The link between fuel burning and some unpleasant events like deadly hurricanes is scientifically established and it is not a secret. But look how hard it is to make sure that humans would act the way so emissions are reduced. Mr. Diamond does not explore this topic either.
But in general the book of Mr. Diamond is a great reading for any person interested in evolution of Homo Sapiens. Chances are the world could be a much better place for both humanity and its neighbors on evolutionary tree if this book is a mandatory reading for high school students. Some of those students when grown up could be making right decisions in business and politics so the fragile ecological balance could be sustained for future generations of humans and the rest of living nature.
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative & Insightful,
This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee: Evolution and Human Life Tip: Mr. Diamond's most similar book (aside) is nearly identical to this. Buy one or the other but not both.
I have enjoyed many of Diamond's books. This text is, of course, related to the same topics as his others -- most similar would be "Why Is Sex Fun?" and "The Rise And Fall of the Third Chimpanzee" (which is identical plus a few tidbits).
His account of anthropological history is so rich with imagery and so well informed that I'm inclined to accept it as fact. Perhaps future study will shed brighter light on the details of human history but I believe Mr. Diamond has captured the essence of our ancestry and evolution.
And it's fun to read!
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely FASCINATING!!!,
This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)Jared Diamond has to be one of my favorite authors. I could hardly put this book down! After reading "Guns, Germs and Steel," and "Why is Sex Fun?", "The Third Chimpanzee" has also proven to be yet another brilliant work by the author. He asks questions and looks at angles that are fascinating and provide almost endless food-for-thought. He approaches his subjects with open-mindedness and a true desire to uncover the truth.
Human evolution and early human history is a mysterious subject with much of the pieces missing, simply because of how long ago it happened and the lifestyle of those early humans. Yet it is such an important subject-- to understand WHAT homo sapiens really are, how we fit in with the other members of our family tree, how we got to be the way we are. Mr. Diamond applies his experience with hunter-gatherer New Guinian peoples to try to fill in these gaping holes. For thousands of years, all humans lived as hunter-gatherers, yet today it is a lifestyle that is becoming increasingly rare. He also provides insight into our physical evolution, sexual and reproductive evolution, the evolution of language and communication, and how our closest current relatives --the chimps and gorillas-- differ from and are similar to us. He also discusses what he terms "our Great Leap Forward"-- the point were we stopped being pre-human and started being (mentally and behaviorly) modern.
If you are at all interested in early human history and the "whys" and "hows" of many of our "human" characteristics, then this book is for you. You'll find Mr. Diamond's open, honest approach refreshing and easy to follow. Excellent book on understanding what it means to be human, and how we got that way.
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing puzzle of a book,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (Paperback)Challenges the intellect and provokes deep thought.
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The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond (Paperback - Dec 21 2005)
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