All Our Uncles Are Monkeys: A #DarwinDay Review of The Third Chimpanzee

November 24, 2015 Uncategorized 10 ★★★★

All Our Uncles Are Monkeys: A #DarwinDay Review of The Third ChimpanzeeTitle: The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal
Author: Jared Diamond
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: This was a fascinating book that, despite being older, included some new information and made me think about things in new ways.

Happy Darwin Day everyone! Since today is the anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species, it seemed like the perfect day to talk about Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee. The third chimpanzee, of course, is us and in this book Diamond explores both the things we have in common with (the other two) chimps and the things that we typically think make us unique.

In addition to the obvious topical connection, this was the perfect book for Darwin Day because of the author’s dedication to answering even potentially touchy questions with science. As the author points out, answering questions such as why Europeans invaded the Americas, rather than the other way around, doesn’t have to lead to racist answers. It can, in fact, replace racist assumptions with far more politically correct, scientifically accurate, fascinating facts.

Happily, even though this book was published in 1991 and sometimes posed open questions I’m know we’ve answered now, I still learned some new things. The author also did a great job sharing information I knew in ways that made me think about things differently. For instance, although it’s become common knowledge that chimps are our most closely related species, I thought it was interesting to think about the fact that we’re their most closely related species too.

The author did occasionally came across to me as trying really hard to be politically correct but falling just a little short on issues of gender, race, or, in one case, weight. In general though, I was impressed by how the author handled the touchy subjects he addressed. He also did what I thought was a great job with the science, explaining concepts clearly and engagingly. Overall, I’d recommend Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel over the The Third Chimpanzee, but this was also an interesting read.

10 Responses to “All Our Uncles Are Monkeys: A #DarwinDay Review of The Third Chimpanzee”

  1. Naomi

    I wish I had known about Darwin Day – it would have been fun to read something Darwin-related. Maybe next year… if I remember, which I probably won’t. 🙂
    Anyway, I’m glad you were able to get something out of this book even though it was published in 1991. I find it endlessly fascinating to read about how we are related to other animals, or even to read about animal behaviour of any kind. I wonder why I don’t read about it more often… I need some good book suggestions in this area. I will have to go hunting (always a fun activity)!

    • DoingDewey

      There is actually another Darwin Day coming up, Feb 12th! Some websites I found listed this date in November based on when he published his book, but the bigger day seems to be his birthday/death day in February.

      Even though this didn’t quite live up to my fond memories of reading Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel in high school, I’d definitely recommend it if it’s a topic you’re interested in.

  2. susan

    Yeah I’ve never got around to reading Jared Diamond, but I think I should. I think I would like Guns, Germs, & Steel. I didn’t know about this book of his. Definitely a good book for Darwin Day!

  3. Brona

    I wish I had known about Darwin Day – for some strange reason to do with his birthday being just 2 days after mine, I’ve always like he & I were kindred spirits or something very unscientific and irrational like that!

    Curiously I have been reading a book this week that featured quite a bit of Darwin’s theories – The Reef. All about corals and climate change and human contact with The Great Barrier Reef. The reviews not quite ready though.

    I’ve read a few of Diamond’s book over the years but haven’t always finished them. I find his style quite dry even though many of the ideas are fascinating/interesting/curious.

    • DoingDewey

      You’re not too late! I found some sites that listed this date in November as the Darwin Day, but others count February 12th instead 🙂

      I’ll be excited to check out your review! That sounds like a fascinating read.

      I really like his writing style, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone. His ideas have definitely stuck with me more though.

  4. Masanobu

    This sounds tempting. I’ve only tried reading Jared Diamond once and he bored me to death, so I’m a little weary of his writing style. The book in question was Collapse. Have you read it? If so, are they in any way similar?

    • DoingDewey

      This covered a little of the same material as in Guns, Germs, and Steel, but I didn’t notice any content overlap with Collapse. I think his style over the three books is pretty similar though, so I’d guess you wouldn’t enjoy this much more than Collapse.

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