Book Review – The Third Chimpanzee: by Jared Diamond

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal
by Jared Diamond

The Third Chimpanzee

 

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.

Diamond explores concepts relating to the animal origins of human behavior, including cultural characteristics and those features often regarded as particularly unique to humans. It further explores the question of how Homo sapiens came to dominate its closest relatives, such as chimpanzees, and why one group of humans (Eurasians) came to dominate others (Indigenous peoples of the Americas, for example).

One of the interesting things I learned from this book: there is a field of study called “Linguistic Paleoentology”. It is a linguistic and subsidiary historical discipline that uses linguistic data to derive information about the history and geographical location of the speakers of a particular language. Linguistic paleontology also aims to obtain information about the material and spiritual culture of the speakers in the preliterary period.

Overall, this book is a facinating read and recommended to anyone interested in the anthropological history of our species. Over five major sections, Diamond educates the reader on the core issues of evolutionary biology, explores these issues as they related to timeless moral questions, and examines the role our biology plays in determining our future.

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