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
This book is the compelling story of the rise and possible fall of humanity. Well thought out and articulately written, this. Book brings together many facts from a surprising diversity of disciplines to bare the the side of human progress that we would rather not see.
One of the best I have listened to so far. Rob does an outstanding job delivering Jared's book.
Other books by Jared. Guns, Germs and Steel but I like this one more
His own personal tone driven by the content keeps you focused and interested
Yes, this book covers interesting new ground, and has a summary of Diamond's views
The Moral Animal by Robert Wright has a similar theme, it has less original insights, but goes further along the evolutionary line of thinking. If you like this book and it s viewpoint, you'll love the Moral Animal
Some of Jared Diamond's character comes out in this, a slightly more personal book.
I'm such a chimp
Diamon tells us why we know what we know (or think we know).
Too long for that, but it's good for long stretches (like a road trip)
Originally written in 1991 but still a great read.
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.
interesting but disappointing
probably not. Author mixes science (which is the interesting part) with politics, such as global warming, green movement, etc. which is not.
Also some of the chapters contain re-hashing of material from other books by the author. Maybe not such a big deal, but just be informed.
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.
The genre not at all. This guy, yes.
Frustration. This is just a thesis and not well thought out. I couldn't finish it.
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.
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