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The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (1992)

by Jared M. Diamond

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3,743363,368 (3.92)123
Science. Nonfiction. HTML:

The Development of an Extraordinary Species
We human beings share 98 percent of our genes with chimpanzees. Yet humans are the dominant species on the planet -- having founded civilizations and religions, developed intricate and diverse forms of communication, learned science, built cities, and created breathtaking works of art -- while chimps remain animals concerned primarily with the basic necessities of survival. What is it about that two percent difference in DNA that has created such a divergence between evolutionary cousins? In this fascinating, provocative, passionate, funny, endlessly entertaining work, renowned Pulitzer Prize--winning author and scientist Jared Diamond explores how the extraordinary human animal, in a remarkably short time, developed the capacity to rule the world . . . and the means to irrevocably destroy it.

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» See also 123 mentions

English (32)  Danish (1)  Hungarian (1)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Interesting study of how much we have in common with our nearest relatives, and how much we don’t. And how it all came to be. A good read, but I will always measure Diamond by guns germs and steel, a book that I was absolutely affected to the core by. ( )
  BBrookes | Dec 12, 2023 |
An important environmental perspective of our species. It reminded me a lot of Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel. I hope as a species we can learn from our past and reign in our destructive powers to prevent our demise. ( )
  bsmashers | Aug 1, 2020 |
This one looks at humans as animals and compares them to our wild counterparts. It looks at evolution, culture, genocide, language, sex, art, and more. It also looks at how we are affecting the planet and other species.

This might be my favourite Diamond book. I think the closer look at other species is what did that for me. I listened to the audio. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jun 3, 2020 |
The roots in our evolution of what we can be proud of as a species and of what we should be ashamed of as a species.

I found the first part rather heavy going, partly because I suspect at least some of has been outdated by discoveries in the field of genetics since the book was written in 1990. The author has explored many of the themes of the rest of the book in greater detail in his other popular works, though his overview of the history of genocide was new to me. Given his knife-edge between optimism and pessimism about our species's future in the epilogue, there seem to be depressingly more grounds for pessimism looking back at the 30 years since then. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Jun 26, 2019 |
Very early on Diamond sets his stall. He's not interested in intricate molecular insights, but an overarching evolutionary basis for human lifecycle and behaviour. Sometimes he digresses, like when he talks for no obvious purpose about how the relatively large size of the male penis is unexplained, when really it might just be chance: there may be no direct impact to passing one's seed and it's really not a driver of natural selection.

Ageing, bizarrely in my view, is described as many unconnected factors (deteriorating senses, brittle bones, weakening heart) converging over time so that they fail optimally around the same time. Why maintain one feature when others are failing? More likely, shortening telomeres at the ends of our chromosomes cause most if not all these conditions. The notion that one underlying cause can be expressed in many different ways is dismissed offhandedly.

Language gets some treatment. I feel as though Diamond makes too much of minor aspects such as word order. Apparently, subject-verb-object is the "natural" order of human language, yet many precursors to English such as Latin, Greek and Sanskrit (the last especially) have no such restriction. There's too much emphasis on how Old English got to English, when really we should looking at how these more ancient languages developed.

Diamond believes races exist due to sexual selection rather than natural selection. In other words, natural selection explains only some variation in skin colour across climates. A much more potent driver, according to Diamond, is people are attracted to those who look like people they are raised around. I'm not sure about this. I wouldn't put it beyond ancient humans to want to keep genes in tight communities for other purposes, e.g. trust within a clan when sharing resources. Diamond does, however, give a convincing explanation for maladaptive traits, e.g. a peacock who is fast even with a plethora of useless but eye-catching tail feathers is deemed attractive to peahens.

One point where I agree wholeheartedly with Diamond is the importance of multi-generational knowledge, made possible (via a positive feedback loop?) by improved life expectancy, in advancing a preliterate society. There's no archaeological evidence for this, but Diamond's own experience living with "traditional" New Guinean societies adds colour and indicates the importance of studying these traditional societies today to understand better our distant past.

The last third is an accessible overview of Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse. If you have the time or interest to read only one or a couple of Diamond's books, choose these over The Third Chimpanzee as they cover Diamond's views on natural history and chance driving society in greater depth. ( )
1 vote jigarpatel | May 13, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
To this day, those who see our species as part of the animal kingdom continue to lock horns with those who see us as separate. While zoologists treat humans as mere animals -- and not even particularly unusual ones given the incredible diversity of life -- many social scientists still place us somewhere between heaven and earth. What is particularly attractive about Jared Diamond's book, "The Third Chimpanzee," is that he tries to strike a balance.
 
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wie sich der Mensch innerhalb kurzer Zeitvon einer Säugetierart unter vielenzu einem Eroberer der Welt aufschwang ;und wie wir die Fähigkeit erwarben,all jenen Fortschritt über Nacht auszulöschen.
Dedication
Dedicated to my sons Max and Joshua, to help them understand where we came from and where we may be heading
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It's obvious that humans are unlike all animals. (Prologue)
The clues about when, why, and in what ways we ceased to be just another species of big mammal come from three types of evidence.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Published in the UK in 1991 as The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee, and in the USA in 1992 as The third chimpanzee.
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Science. Nonfiction. HTML:

The Development of an Extraordinary Species
We human beings share 98 percent of our genes with chimpanzees. Yet humans are the dominant species on the planet -- having founded civilizations and religions, developed intricate and diverse forms of communication, learned science, built cities, and created breathtaking works of art -- while chimps remain animals concerned primarily with the basic necessities of survival. What is it about that two percent difference in DNA that has created such a divergence between evolutionary cousins? In this fascinating, provocative, passionate, funny, endlessly entertaining work, renowned Pulitzer Prize--winning author and scientist Jared Diamond explores how the extraordinary human animal, in a remarkably short time, developed the capacity to rule the world . . . and the means to irrevocably destroy it.

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