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.
©2006 Jared Diamond (P)2012 Random House Audio
A very compelling listen.
The story sucked me in and I found myself listening much longer than I had meant to several times.
Fascinating topic that is well researched, backed up with logical thought, and presented in a fashion that is easy for an non expert to understand.
If you have any interest in evolution and the effects that it had on making who we are now, I would highly suggest this book to you.
This book anticipates some of the great ideas developed further in his Guns, Germs, and Steel. But in part 3, chapter 11, I think his explanation of the animal precursors of drug abuse and its links to displays of fitness are way off.
One paragraph neatly captures all the flaws in this book. To quote:
"Have we already killed off all big animals that we might kill off? Obviously not. While the low numbers of whales led to an international ban on whaling for commercial reasons, Japan thereupon announced its decision to triple the rate at which it kills whales 'for scientific reasons'. We have all seen photos of the accelerating slaughter of Africa's elephants and rhinos, for their ivory and horns respectively. At current rates of change, not just elephants and rhinos but most populations of most other large mammals of Africa and Southeast Asia will be extinct outside game parks and zoos in a decade or two."
Some of the main conclusions of the book rest on the arguments of this paragraph, and yet it is so weak and sloppy that you can't help but question how weak the rest of Diamond's arguments and conclusions are. Take the whale number argument - Japan takes about 1000 minke whales a year, and the global population is somewhere around 500,000. Japan's commercial whaling is totally repugnant, but based on all the figures I can see, it in no way risks any extinctions.
Similarly, the elephant and rhino extinction hypothesis rests on "we've all seen pictures". Ouch. Maybe the author and his editors were tired once they got to this stage of the book, but to not even try to mingle a bit of science with the hearth-wrenching photos, Diamond lost me totally at this point. 23 years after publication, the rhinos and elephants are still there. According to Wikipedia: "According to the World Wildlife Foundation the population of African elephants in Southern Africa is large and expanding with an estimated 300,000 now roaming the sub-region. Overall, the total population of African elephants is estimated to be around 700,000 compared to the Asian elephant population of 32,000. Large populations of elephants are confined to well-protected areas. However, less than 20% of African elephant range is under formal protection."
Anecdotal evidence is fine, but needs to be backed up by hard science.
No, this book is boring at times, which makes it seem like a very long book.
Made it shorter.
I don't see how it could be a movie, maybe some sort of history channel show.
This book does have a few good points. But overall it is a very lengthy discussion on diamond's theories. Some of them have a good foundation, some of them have no foundation. In all this is a very tiring book, and it is out of date to boot, which doesn't do it any justice.
I don't regret the time or money I spent on this book, but I can certainly see why it's not as famous as his _Collapse_ or _Guns, Germs and Steel_. Part of the problem is that some of his points here are also made, more convincingly and intriguingly, in those other books.
Another problem is that some of his arguments here seem shaky even to a non-expert like me. For example, Diamond suggests that menopause evolved to help women survive to care for their first few children by preventing death in childbirth later on. If so, why does menopause not occur until AFTER most of a women's children are old enough not to need care by the mother? He also argues that the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances arose from the desire to show off one's strength and health by poisoning oneself and surviving. This is not convincing either: why wouldn't most societies use more toxic and less enjoyable chemicals if showing toughness was the main result?
His chapters that focus on comparing humans to other animals are much stronger, and the sections on language and art are the high points of the book. The section on the advantages of hunter-gatherer over agricultural societies will be nothing new to anyone who knows ancient archaeology or the "paleo diet", but is still enjoyable.
Bottom line: If you haven't read or heard Diamond's other books first, start with _Collapse_ (the unabridged version) and then _Guns, Germs, and Steel_. They're much, much better. But this one is still better than most of what's out there.
It's not a science work, it's a political one. Humans are evil and destroying the planet, we must act quickly to reverse the damage we're causing to our planet, yadda yadda yadda. If you like Al Gore's horse dung book
After buying this book based solely on the editor's review, I have learned a lesson. Specifically, I wish I'd read the prologue too, which I will do in the future. In addition, I will hesitate to buy any more books without reader reviews.I thought this would be an interesting book about evolution and our genetic similarity to chimps. Don't be fooled, that's not really the subject.
The reader was good, no complaints about the presentation, just the content.
Shouldn't be in the science category at all. If there were a Junk Science category however, it would fit right in.
I think this is only the second book I quit listening to before it's over in 10 years. The author is a bleed heart activist, who seems to prefer homo cro-magnon to homo sapien. His goal wasn't to teach us about evolution but instead to convert us into chimp lovers and depressed humans. The tone was overall sadness about the way homo sapiens treated Neanderthals, large mammals, and more recently chimpanzees. He spends a lot of time discussing our homo sapien short comings and likens zoos to prisons instead of teaching about evolution and past. I didn't finish the book, and never will. I've listened to at least 5 other books on evolution that were all science, good books. I'd even recommend the Modern Scholar lecture series. But I don't recommend this book for people interested in evolution. There's nothing new in the book, and the tone is bent.
Naked Human's in a Zoo... reminded me of a cartoon strip I liked.
There is nothing new in this book, makes we wonder how long ago it was written.
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