The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee: How Our Animal Heritage Affects the Way We Live
Diamond (Jared)
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Back Cover Blurb

  1. ‘Some biologists are just scientists; but some truly are thinkers. Jared Diamond is one of the latter. Whatever he applies himself to, his contribution is original and worthwhile.’
    → Colin Tudge, Zoologist and science writer
  2. Human genes differ by only 2% from those of the ‘other’ two chimpanzees. The ‘third chimpanzee’ is man. This book is about the ways in which we are uniquely human, yet still influenced by our relatively recent animal origins.
  3. The animal in us ...
    → How we pick our lovers
    → The animal origins of art
    → Why we grow old and die
  4. Our astonishing rise ...
    → Our acquisition of language and technology
    → The agricultural revolution
    → The destruction of our nearest rivals
  5. And threatened fall ...
    → Our capacity for self-abuse
    → Ecological disaster
    → Mass extinction of other species

Inside Cover Blurb
  1. How has our animal heritage affected the way we live? And what effect does our behaviour have on thousands of other species now on the verge of extinction?
  2. In this book one of the world’s most outstanding zoologists explores what he calls the “rise of the third chimpanzee” - and its potential fall. As is now well known, we differ in our genes by only 2% from the “other” two chimpanzees (the common and the pygmy chimp). Jared Diamond surveys our life-cycle, our culture, our sexuality, and our history to explore the ways in which we are still influenced by our recent animal origins.
  3. Why do we pick our mates and sex partners in the often irrational ways that we do? What accounts for our sexual physiology and practices, which we take for granted as normal but which are utterly bizarre by animal standards? How have peoples from different parts of the world come to look different? Diamond also explains why we inevitably grow old and die, despite our bodies’ capabilities for self-repair. The ways in which we are animals, yet not animals at all, have rarely been more clearly and more intelligently addressed.
  4. But The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee is about much more than this. Diamond goes on to look at the effects of humanity’s “great leap forward” around 40,000 years ago, when we developed our technology, our art, and our ability to communicate far beyond the level of any other species. Diamond examines what makes us uniquely human, different from the chimpanzees and all other animals. In a series of chapters he traces the animal origins of human language, art, and agriculture. He analyses the roles of geography and animal biology in the rise of the West and of Indo- European languages. On the darker side, he also traces our capacities for drug abuse, genocide, and ecological destruction.
  5. Humanity’s rise is now overshadowed by its potential to fall, reversing its progress almost overnight. Jared Diamond closes the book with a sober look back into the “Golden Age that never was”: the long history of our assault on other species and their habitats now being revealed by archaeological evidence. Wherever we have gone, we have indulged our power to exploit the nature of which we are a part. This inability to overcome our more destructive instincts forms what Diamond calls the “second cloud” over humanity, rivalling the nuclear threat: the risk of mass extinction of other species, with potentially lethal consequences for ourselves.
  6. ‘Drawing on his varied experience, from laboratory research on physiology to romantic exploration of remotest mountains in Irian Jaya, Diamond has given us a remarkable account of the living world of plants and animals, and of our relation to it. In a vivid and engaging way, this distinguished scientist takes us on a varied journey from our evolutionary past (and the extent to which it may explain some aspects of current behaviour) to the futures among which our actions will choose.’
    → Robert M May, Oxford University
  7. The author is Professor of Physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Trained in physiology, he later took up the study of ecology and has made fundamental contributions to both disciplines. He is among the world’s leading zoologists and experts on birds. He has made many trips to the mountains of New Guinea to study their unique birds, rediscovered their long-lost bowerbird, and advises New Guinea governments on conservation. As well as writing technical articles in his many fields of interest, Jared Diamond writes regularly for popular science journals. He is married, and has twin sons.


Radius, Random Century Group, London 1991. Nice hardback.

"Diamond (Jared) - The Third Chimpanzee"

Source: Cavalieri & Singer - The Great Ape Project - Equality Beyond Humanity

  • A useful chapter which - while it mentions the "animal rights" of - in particular - chimpanzees and gorillas - doesn't major on that topic.
  • Two things I found particularly interesting. Firstly, that humans are genetically between gorillas and chimpanzees, so that chimpanzees are closer to as than they are to gorillas.
  • Secondly, that - given (it is claimed) most of our DNA is "junk" - might not the percentage genetic difference between species be greater than is suggested if the junk is excluded? Since (at least in 1991, when this Chapter was published) differences are deduced from differenced in melting points of pure DNA (which was news to me) this must include the "junk".
  • This deserves further research to see if the contentions in the book are still agreed upon (if they ever were).

COMMENT: This is a slightly abridged version of Chapter 1 of "Diamond (Jared) - The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee: How Our Animal Heritage Affects the Way We Live".

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