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
Diamond's treatise on the evolution of man is a compelling presentation. Repeatedly citing how minimal the percentage difference in the genes from which ourselves and our closest primate cousins are made (it has been since proven that the difference is larger than Diamond thought - this doesn't impact on the thrust of his argument, however), he argues that so much of what makes us different is, in fact, so little of what we are. In his attempt to highlight the similarities he introduces lucid and persuasive arguments about sexual behaviour, language, other forms of communication, agriculture and conquest, all of which serves to provide the reader/listener with an good holistic understanding of the factors that influenced our development.
This title is a good precursor for his superior later work Guns, Germs and Steel.
Good narration, easy to listen to - though the quality of what's being said really helps the actor along.
An interesting read about our beginnings as humans and possible future for our species and Earth. Read by an engaging and clear narrator.
"Up to the usual high standard"
Jared Diamond is one of my favourite writers, and in 'Guns Germs and Steel' and then 'Collapse' he transformed my views of the history and future of civilisation, respectively.
This is an earlier book (1991), containing themes to be expanded in both of his later books, in addition to the main topic; how modern man emerged from being just another animal.
Because the book is 20 years old, you always worry that some more recent evidence may have arisen to strengthen or weaken his arguments, but if you can ignore this relatively minor qualm, and you enjoy popular science, then this is an absolutely fantastic listen.
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.
"A book that will get you talking..."
The Third Chimpanzee was first published in 1992 although the audio version dates 10 years after publication. It is important to take note of this fact as even prof. Jared Diamond might have changed his mind on some things he wrote in the book.
One thing I found very peculiar when I listened to the book, was his side-line comment that South Africa is one of the countries that runs the real risk of genocide. I only understood his pessimism after I realised that in 1992 things really looked bleak in South Africa.
The reason I highlight the above-mentioned point, is that there might be quite a few things that he says, especially predictions that he makes that are already dated and might feel very dark and pessimistic, while he really tries to advocate a positive approach to the future of homo sapiens on this planet.
Diamond begins with the story of the evolution of humans. He describes what makes us genetically different and where we fit into the evolutionary chain. He proposes an intriguing idea, namely, that the two chimpanzee species are genetically nearer to humans than to other apes. They should according to him be classified under the homo genus.
This can be seen as the starting point of a lot of issues that he raises with ethics as the thin line that motivates each of his subject matter discussions.
The book is structured as follows: 1) Part 1 ??? Just another big species of mammal. 2) Part 2 ??? A animal with a strange life cycle. 3) Part 3 ??? Uniquely human. 4) Part 4 ??? World Conquerors. 5) Part 5 ??? Reversing our Progress overnight.
I found especially Part 1-3 fascinating. Ideas like, ???the evolution of genes does not explain human progress??? and ???Neanderthals dying at the age of 30-35 and how homo sapiens??? life cycle adapted to ensure further aging??? are just mesmerising. Part 4 and 5 became more sober and even doomsday-like. Especially in part 5 we hear Diamond???s emotional language. He doesn???t beat around the bush about the way we do things today that might cause destruction.
This book contains a vast array of subject-matter starting with evolution and ending in the dangerous human. It is well-structured and mostly well thought through. Yet some ideas might have gathered some dust since the book was published in 1992. However this is the type of book that gets people to talk and reflect on the world around them. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Rob Shapiro???s reading of the book is fair and easy to follow.
I think Diamond???s book is worth the listen and raises important topics that need to be taken seriously by any listener of the audio book. This book will probably get you talking about what matters.
"Exceptional piece from an intellectual omnivore."
This is but one of many fantastic books that reveal Jared Diamond's omnivorous intellect. Like the others, he has a message, and that message is conveyed through researched arguments and tempered by his own experiences. The message is: We stand at the edge of change, one way leading to disaster of a scale that could mean destruction of the human species, but there is hope.
Hope lies in recognising our special past and understanding how it has led us to where the human animal is now. By understanding this past, learning lessons from those who have come before us, we can understand where our choices will lead our species and the only planet we inhabit.
Topics include what makes us unique among animals and what, after careful investigation, reveals to be not unique. Language, sex, art, culture, agriculture, natural selection, sexual selection; the list is a smorgasbord of informative research.
Not a good book for those with closed minds, nor for those who are blinkered by dogma or literal translations of holy texts. However, for those of us who are willing to listen, willing to challenge old ideas, this book illustrates the many disciplines that, when woven together, show us hope for the future.
Shapiro's voice bring these topics to life, enhancing the character found in Jared's work, revealing the importance of the author's words and his heartfelt appeal to us all.
"Fascinating & Thought Provoking"
I remember picking up this book when it first came out years ago. I was instantly captivated. It really is a first run at some of his later works (Guns Germs and Steel is pretty much covered in the first couple of chapters, likewise you can see the ideas behind his book Collapse). Therefore if you have read GGS a lot of this book will be familiar to you, but this is not abridged and not narrated in a monotone!
This book does have an environmental leaning, which I believe upset another reviewer, but it also covers evolutionary biology, ornithology, geography, agriculture, ancient history, anthropology, music, art, literature, sexual anthropology, xenophobia, physiology, and the development of language (my favourite section). The many and varied topics in this book are dealt with in a very easy to understand manner. Some of his theories are a tad far fetched, but most are just so brilliant, and his insights explained so clearly it is easy to get caught up with his expositions.
I was surprised that I did not notice the lack of the maps and other graphics. Like the printed book I did find the first 2/3rds of the book is the best.
I did wish the narration could have been a bit more varied. However, the narration was clear.
"Jared Diamand is nearly always amazing..."
Transformative, illuminating, provocative.
....This is an excellent book.
I am only in part 2, but... I am writing this review to vent a little. There is one theme that is being proposed regularly in explaining traits in modern humans. That is the presumptions that human beings by culture or personal preference choose their evolution. Like a bad movie that makes you fill in the plot holes, or accept it's misses this book has many inferences to the behavior of primal / pre-human tribes and how those behaviors effected evolution. Maybe it is the lack of detail, but the theories cited by Jared Diamond to explain hidden female ovulation is presented as a tool they chose to evolve for various reasons, or as something they evolved so that...
This isn't how evolution works. Evolution works that a biological feature is selected out. That is the ones that don't survive are killed by nature, or circumstance. It isn't that the creatures themselves choose to evolve subtle variations. To some degree in mating there is some suppression of less desired traits that would occur, but over all death of a feature, ie: complete homogeneity of a feature in the human population means alternatives were wiped out. For instance in reasoning why humans have much larger penises than other primates, the notion of the small penis babies not getting bred at all seems to be very significant. Perhaps in females walking upright the vaginal canal is stretched and therefore the smaller penis genes didn't get passed on due to insufficient penetration.
That women don't ovulate and display there dripping or inflamed genitals seems more likely to be due to reasons of disease and is certainly not an evolutionary choice or planned behavior.
If I stand on my tippy toes my future children wont be effected by that.
Also where genetic trade offs are concerned, for example Diamond talks about the life length gene being a trade off for many offspring. The reader is left to fill in the gap, I presumed there maybe some shared proteins or other genetic resources that are rationed somehow between creating a new baby and extending the life regenerating functions of the mother. But that is me filling in the gap.
But it is easy to criticize. And to it's credit the topics that are being presented here are thought provoking, interesting and in some cases really turning over some fresh ground. So that that ground isn't being perfectly seeded ( to stretch the metaphor ) isn't necessarily as important as to uncover it.
And for all it's prejudices and blind spots, there are many things in this book that are adding to my world view of people and the way they behave and why. So well worth listening to / reading.
"Diamond's books are wonderful"
I love Jared Diamond's writing. Every time I read one of his books, it resonates so clearly that I can't help but enjoy his thoughts tremendously. In The Third Chimpanzee, Diamond ranges widely in his thoughts of this odd third chimpanzee (us) and sometimes goes in rather unexpected places.
Some highlights include how testes correlate with number of partners in sex and how public/private sex is, and the arts are a social method of sexual selection.
The migration of some of human kind can be studied by the transformation of proto-Indo-European language, but he includes a fervent discussion of the loss of human languages as the few powerful languages consolidate their power and their populations on the world.
He includes wonderful comments on genocide in chimps and genocide in humans across time. How we have permission to kill "them," but we must attempt to refrain from killing "us."
Most disjointed was his theories of life on other worlds, which covers a part of a chapter.
What is most interesting is the echoes of his other writings you can hear in this book. Echoes in the sense that it doesn't matter if the book came before or after this 2006 publication. His themes have remained constant: Ecological collapse, success of an area and the people controlling that area based on resources, and domesticate-able plant and animal species.
"Completely fascinating and absorbing"
This was the second Jared Diamond I've read and the first in his series of three. It was written in the early 90's and while some things have changed, the overall message is very much the same and of course the history is the same history.
The conclusions he draws are pessimistic and a cause for worry in the 90's, and they still are, but I do think that more people are hearing the ecologists warnings and taking heed - I sure hope so for his forecast of doom for half our species worldwide is a hell of an inheritance to hand over.
Its a book that makes you stop and think and hopefully react too - it has me and I hope it does you too. Highly recommended and should be compulsory reading for leaders of nations and corporate decision makers!
"Finally on Audible! Awesome Book."
A good book by Diamond finally on Audible. This covers some familiar topics like those in his books Collapse and Steel, Guns and Germs. It traces human's rise, spread across the planet and effects on species and environment (worse than you think). It also discusses clashing cultures (Europeans vs natives) and how genocide is a repeating behavior of human cultures. Chimpanzees exhibit similar behaviors. As the name implies, we are the third ape. Great narrator. The author frankly states a sad truth: many species have gone extinct since the rise of humans and there are many more to go (and a lot sooner than we'd like to admit.) And of course our population is out stripping the earths resources (which is rather obvious.)
I have listened to it twice now. There are certain things I think that require a second review, also it gives you a chance to completely understand certain aspects of the book. I think it does a great job of explaining certain aspects of our evolution that is overlooked or not talked about in other books, or at least it makes the information understandable to someone like me, that is someone who is not in academia.
I found the portion of the book discussing the differences between the neanderthals and the homo sapiens was the most interesting to me, as I knew hardly anything about it and it really stood out to me.
I don't believe I have, but he did a great job of making this type of book a great listen. I think that can make a world of difference.
I am not sure the question applies to this book, but as I wrote above he part about the neanderthals was, I suppose moving, as it speculates on whether or not we share any DNA with them, as well as goes into how little we know about their culture and if they had any.
I think it could use a bit of updating, but still a very solid book which anyone who wants to have an opinion on the subject should read. Highly recommended.
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