Author: Jared Diamond
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |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.