Apr 24 2014
The acclaimed UCLA Geography professor Jared Diamond is best known for his 1997 work Guns, Germs, and Steel, in which he explained the history of Eurasian conquest. But, years earlier he wrote a masterful treatise on human evolution called The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee: How Our Animal Heritage Affects the Way We Live. In subsequent editions, the book was renamed The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal.
Today, 23 years after the original book was published Diamond has reissued a special edition aimed at young adults. Adapted with the help of Rebecca Stefoff, The Third Chimpanzee for Young People incorporates much of the latest research on human evolution to paint an increasingly intricate picture of how we as humans evolved to our current state and what lessons there are for the future of our species.
The title of Diamond’s book suggests that perhaps we ought to look at ourselves simply as an animal, specifically The Third Chimpanzee. It turns out that we humans are so genetically similar to chimpanzees – with only 1.5% difference between our genes – that in purely genetic terms we could be considered a third species of chimps, after the common chimpanzee and the bonobo.
In the book Jared Diamond explores how humans fit among other animal species and also what sets us apart. He explains how we have evolved in our behaviors to perpetuate our genes to future generations, how and why we developed language, culture, and art, and what the future holds for the human race given our evolutionary past.
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