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The Human Zoo: A Zoologist's Study of the Urban Animal Paperback – Mar 15 1996

4.4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha Amer Inc; Reprint edition (March 15 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568361041
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568361048
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 2 x 14 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #383,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

"Compelling and absorbing...Morris is concerned with the tension between our biology and our culture, as it is expressed in power, sex, status and war games" New York Times "Having startled, amused, and in some cases infuriated his fellow-men by his bestseller The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris now proceeds to contemplate Homo sapiens as he has transformed his environment. He has offended some people with entrenched views, but he has made millions wonder about themselves. Exceedingly well written, with never a dull moment" Observer "I defy you to stop reading it" Liverpool Daily Post --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author


Desmond Morris is the author of more than thirty books, including The Naked Ape, Intimate Behavior, and Human Animal. He lives in Oxford, England.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Like Desmond Morris's _The Naked Ape_, this book is an old friend of mine. The second volume in his well-known trilogy (the third is _Intimate Behavior_), this one makes a compelling case that modern cities are less like "jungles" and more like zoos.
Other animals, Morris says, don't behave in the wild the way humans do in cities. But the sort of erratic violence and heightened self-stimulation in which we find modern humans engaging _does_ have a counterpart in the rest of the animal world: animals do act that way . . . in zoos.
Essentially, Morris's claim is that many millions of years of evolution have equipped us for life in small communities in which everybody knows everybody else and there's enough room for us to move around without klonking into each other all the time. We are not, in short, adapted to the modern metropolis, and that's why "city folk" are so danged weird. And our misattribution of our maladaptive behavior actually gives the jungle an undeserved bad name.
So what's a naked ape to do? I don't know that the intervening years since this book was first published have generated a whole lot of solutions. I guess that's, um, life in the big city.
But as with so many problems, just being aware of the problem is at least half the solution. As with Morris's other books (especially _The Naked Ape_), it's profoundly helpful to step back and see ourselves as one biological species among others (whether or not that's _all_ we are).
Okay, maybe that's not all we are; maybe the fact that we _can_ thus step back from ourselves is the single most important fact about our species. If so, that makes this book more valuable, not less.
So think of this book (and Morris's others) as a way to give your "I" a little distance on your "me," if you know what I mean. And yes, that does mean that I'm recommending a couple of books on evolutionary anthropology as helpful to your spirituality.
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Format: Paperback
The Naked Ape is Desmond Morris' controversial best-selling book that studies human beings not as exalted creationary exceptions, but rather as creatures very much beholden to our evolutionary primate origins.
Morris, a brilliant zoologist with expertise in the field of primates (amongst other things), uses his profound academic and professional knowledge about primates to shed light on the human experience. Backed with an enormous quantity of scientific evidence, Morris explains the what, why and how of human behavior by stripping away man's "civilized veneer" and examining the animalistic and evolutionary origins of our behavior.
Morris walks us through the evidence in a logical and interconnected fashion. His chapters are organized thematically and begin with the "basics" of human behavior (sex, child rearing) and then move through the more complex and higher order behaviors (fighting, communication). Throughout these chapters, Morris uses a wide breadth of biological, psychological, sociological and zoological evidence to demonstrate the connection between man and our animal cousins.
Though an academic, Morris writes in a simple and direct manner that is accessible to all. The book is jargon-free and has no footnotes, though Morris does provide helpful lists of related readings at the end the book.
This book was first published in 1967 and its no-nonsense view of humanity's animalistic origins caused quite a stir. Even though more than 30 years have passed since its publication, this book remains thought-provoking and enlightening throughout. Due to the book's age, several of Morris' theories have been updated and refined over the years. Therefore, this book should not be read as an infallible account of our current understanding of man.
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Format: Paperback
Desmond Morris is one of the most acute thinkers to come out the field of biology (more specifically zoology) in the last 50 years. THE NAKED APE is a text that forces the reader to confront his or her own animalistic origins. Beginning with, literally, origins, the reader is lead through the interconnectedness of humanity's mammalian heritage in relation to sex, (child) rearing, mental and physical exploration, fighting, feeding, and comfort. Morris makes it evident that humanity is the product of evolution and posts fluorescent signposts along the way in the form of irrefutable evidence by connecting theory with fact. Whether Dr. Morris is outlining how humans have replaced their innate tendency to groom with the familiar greeting smile or that the pair bond replaces the parental void after sexual maturation, the author breeches all areas of thought along the way: linguistics, psychoanalysis, as well as evolution and semiotics. This is a dense text that is free of cumbersome jargon that anyone with an interest in sociology, philosophy, biology, psychology, or linguistics will come away without regret.
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Format: Paperback
Morris is an entertaining and engaging writer, and most things he writes about are plausible at first glance. However, when you really start to analyze it, he's really just another humanochauvinist working from the assumption that the human form is the pinnacle of perfection and that it represents some sort of "advancement" over the "lower" species.
In fact, the human body is a real mess from a bioengineering point of view. The idea that bipedalism is somehow "superior" to other modes of locomotion just doesn't stand up, if you'll excuse the pun. It has caused us as a species untold health problems. Hypertension, headaches, bad backs, bad knees, indigestion, hemhorroids, the list of ailments attributable to our frankly bizarre posture goes on and on. The idea that an essentially quadripedal animal would one day just decide to get up and walk because someday he might want to use tools is just too pat for my taste. Evolution has no crystal ball. Lest you think I'm just hand-waving here, the savannah hypothesis Morris bases most of his assumptions upon has been largely demolished as of late in the face of new fossil and genetic findings. The foundation is rapidly washing out from under his argument.
Enjoy the writing but take its conclusions with a grain of salt. Read Elaine Morgan's work for a theory which I think holds water. (If you get it, please excuse the pun again. If you don't get it, please read her work...)
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