The Third Chimpanzee.
For an artist, I like to read a lot of science nonfiction. It’s easier than y’know, going back in time and taking science courses in college. Fewer headaches too. I’m really specifically into human biology/anthropology (ok, that last one’s not a “hard science” but it comes into play a lot in any historical account as to biological things humans may or may not have been up to).
Also: I’ve tried really hard to like Jared Diamond. I’ve given it my best shot. I thought Guns, Germs, and Steel was a fascinating idea for a book and I wanted to love it, especially given my many hours spent raising humanity up by its bootstraps playing Civ. I got 2/3 of the way through it and it was indeed fascinating, but also so dry that I entered a coma. I tried again. Same problem. I will never know what’s in the last 1/3 of that book, but I’ve lost my ability to care.
So, I tried again. Perhaps foolishly. I bought this book a long time back when I was still working for a bookstore and just now read it while I’m doing a mass clearing of my “to read” shelf. Why now, I don’t know, but the time had to come eventually. Unread books stare me down from the shelves and it’s unnerving. I can’t let the unread books win! I must vanquish them!
Yes. So I read this book.
My determination is that Jared Diamond can write 2/3 of a book. The first approximately 1/2 of this book was awesome. And then… it was like we ventured into “Jared’s Crackpot Land.” I don’t know why he’s so hung up on spending chapters describing why humans get addicted to drugs. Dude. You know want to know why monkeys don’t smoke pot? It’s because they haven’t figured out how to light it on fire. Dogs would totally become literal booze-hounds if they could ferment grain. Elephants have been known to bury fruit until it’s fermented and then dig it up again and get drunk. Elephants. And yet, he dwells on this “uniqueness” of ours like he’s a one man Anthropologists Against Driving Drunk show or something.
Mysteriously, he dwells on our abilities to kill each other, but he never mentions that we are the ONLY species to kill ourselves. I guess for our “uniqueness” among animals, in terms of our self-destructive faults, ACTUAL self-destruction just wasn’t sexy enough for Mr. Diamond. Or something.
So, yes, the bits about how we went from chimp to human, great. The bits about actually being human… not so awesome. Lukewarm at best. I fully recommend reading 2/3 of this book.