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Anthony Campbell

Jared Diamond

The third chimpanzee

The small genetic distance between humans and chimpanzees means that they should all be classified together in the genus Homo. It is with this thought that Jared Diamond starts this book. He then goes on to look at many aspects of humanity, how they evolved, and how they fit in with the rest of the animal kingdom. Human sexuality, language, agriculture, war (and genocide) and art are examined from this point of view as well as drug use and environmental crises. The result is a highly readable book with interesting answers to some of the questions which humans pose for themselves.

Diamond uses his experience of life in Papua New Guinea to good effect. His friendships with people who remember a stone-age like existence before their meeting with the rest of the world add several interesting anecdotes.

The subject of evolution of human behaviour is a controversial one, and indeed sometimes Diamond seems to be being controversial just for the sake of it. On the question of environmental damage, he sometimes seems to be supporting a 'back to nature' approach, but in the end his conclusion is that it is our innate behaviour that is causing the problem and that a change from old ways is required for the future.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews