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The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  23,680 ratings  ·  871 reviews
At some point during the last 100,000 years, humans began exhibiting traits and behavior that distinguished us from other animals, eventually creating language, art, religion, bicycles, spacecraft, and nuclear weapons—all within a heartbeat of evolutionary time. Now, faced with the threat of nuclear weapons and the effects of climate change, it seems our innate tendencies ...more
Paperback, 407 pages
Published January 3rd 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published May 2nd 1991)
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Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: our-past
Another great book from Jared Diamond. I found this to be just as engaging as Guns, Germs, and Steel, and also an easier read. I find that his books have so much information that it is helpful for me to outline them as I go. Here are my favorite bullet points from The Third Chimpanzee. Not at all a comprehensive outline, but may be of interest to some people.

Chapter 1
- Our ancestors diverged from other apes around 7 million years ago.
- We share 98.4% of DNA with common chimps.
- Chimps are more c
Mario the lone bookwolf
A confrontation with the often forgotten stations of incarnation.

The author tackles a variety of topics in his first work and shows similarities with human norms in the animal kingdom in state formation, social and sexual behavior, drug use and rudimentary agriculture by using evolutionary development. The origins and history of communication, xenophobia, art, and warfare are also illuminated in detail.

The influence of environmental conditions can be well explained by the differences between bon
Riku Sayuj

Original review: The audience called for an encore and Jared obliged. The rewind was not as much fun.


The Homosexual Chimpanzee?

However, this book has some great explanations on human sexuality but does not address one which I was not able to find a satisfactory explanation for, evolutionarily speaking: Homosexuality.

The following is an explanatory excerpt from The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins. I am adding this here for my own reference, but I am sure you will find it damn intere
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fic
If you've read Guns, Germs and Steel or Collapse you know what to expect from Jared Diamond- a blizzard of fascinating facts, insights and theories that will spark tens of conversations among your like minded friends and colleagues.

Diamond is a master of spinning hard fact and intriguing theory into readable books, and he does so again in The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal,
exploring the link between humans and the beings we call apes (Diamond argues against such a
This is a wonderful book by a great author. In fact, I prefer this book to the other books that I've read by Jared Diamond. It is entertaining, informative, and every page is interesting. The book covers a vast range of topics, such as how are humans qualitatively different from other animals, why do men do stupid things to impress women, why do people practice adultery, why do humans practice genocide, how did languages evolve, why do some people become addicted to drugs, why do humans produce ...more
SJ Loria
May 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Funny that I read this book in Mexico, a country where more people believe in creation than evolution. For the record, I think we evolved from apes. For the record, that doesn't bother me in the least.

I am going to do two things, first, I will talk about what I learned from this book, secondly I am going to go on a rant about anthropology. While this book was interesting, there were parts where the author stepped far beyond his area of expertise, leading to some very weak chapters. Further, this
Diamond packs a lot of interesting information into this book & it flows well, but it's old (1992) so a lot of his information is outdated. Worse, his conclusions shouldn't be trusted. In several cases, I knew enough about the subject to catch him completely misunderstanding it & making his points based on cherry-picked data. That's bad science which he hides fairly well behind parts of conflicting views. Read this only for the interesting trivia (much of which is repetitive) but don't be swayed ...more
Having been on a evolutionary biology and history trip of late, I couldn't resist revisiting this 1991 classic by Jared Diamond. It is a good introduction to his favorite subjects that get fuller treatment in Guns, Germs & Steel and Collapse.

Part One (Just Another Species of Big Mammal) focuses on the evolutions of primates and the split between apes and monkeys and the further splits down the line between gorillas, chimpanzees, and finally homo habilus, homo erectus, and homo sapiens. This is
Excellent. I'm giving it four stars instead of five only because from the vantage of 2014 its age shows, mainly in the absence of some information learned since it was written about the Neanderthals and the similar but then-unknown Denisovan people - specifically, the presence of small amounts of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in the modern human gene pool - and in the absence of that knowledge, the author makes some assumptions about our history with those other peoples that are incomplete at be ...more
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Jared Diamond should be required reading. He has influenced my view of humanity and history more than probably anyone except maybe a history professor in college, where I was a history minor. No, I think I Diamond has influenced me more.

I stumbled across a 3 part series on PBS based on Guns, Germs and Steel a couple of years ago and was floored. I bought and read the book immediately and was even more blown away. Since then I have read Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Why i
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
We are all 98% chimp. By that I mean that we share 98% of our genes with our closest animal ancestors. Diamond patiently explains what that means and explores what makes us human.

People say that humanity is differentiated by the use of tools and language, but also by murder and genocide. Actually the animal kingdom has examples of rudimentary tools, complex language, murder and genocide. Perhaps it is the degree to which we indulge that makes us human - no bonobo or aardvaark has a red button wh
Feb 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Jared Diamond is a mostly sensible anthropologist. However, he's a lousy evolutionary biologist.

For example, he presents multiple theories of the reason for homo sapiens concealed ovulation. These are presented with false balance i.e. he doesn't share the consensus view, or the quality (and lack thereof) for each theory. Some have laughably low plausibility, in my opinion. He should have done the research and presented the reader with the likely truth, not a list of mostly bad ideas. Worst of al
Sheng Peng
Aug 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
I will show below why I think Jared doesn't know what he is talking about, why he is an abysmal science writer, and why he is as much of a drama queen as Gladwell.

Firstly, most people would put this book on the "evolutionary biology" shelf. So Jared better know something about evolution and biology. He does. But not nearly enough. For example, I noticed at least five times where he had used group selection, by which a gene propagates because it's beneficial to the group rather than to the indivi
May 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I've read Diamond's Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel and had never heard of this book before, so when I saw it at the bookstore I picked it up because I thought it was his new book. It wasn't. It was his first book, and it shows. This is basically a primer for the rest of his books, since all his other books are expansions of chapters/sections in this one. Why is Sex Fun? is Chapter 3, Guns, Germs and Steel is Part 4 and Collapse is Part 5.

My problem with this book, besides the fact that I'd r
Erica Clou
This book was both very interesting and entertaining. It precedes Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel. It ties in pretty well with some other books I've recently read including The Sixth Extinction and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and even Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History.

It's a little out-of-date. For example, our ancestor Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals co-existed approximately 100,000 years ago. New research shows that many modern humans contain a little Neanderthal DNA showing that
Bart Everson
Feb 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Homo spaiens
I first became aware of Jared Diamond while having lunch in Tampere in the summer of 2001. I was there in Finland for a conference, and one of my lunch companions was raving about Guns, Germs, and Steel. A quick glance at other reviews indicates that's his most revered book; it seems to be an expansion of a single chapter in The Third Chimpanzee. Indeed many if not all of his subsequent books seem to expand on themes he first addressed here. That says a lot about the scope and ambition of Third ...more
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jared Diamond has an amazing talent for connecting facts one after the other, leading to surprising insights. His books are full of things that make you go “Hmm.” In The Third Chimpanzee the reader will learn of humanity’s evolutionary past and the social and cultural adaptations that led to the modern world.

We start with a common ape-like ancestor from whom both humans and chimpanzees/bonobos diverged some 3,000,000 years ago, and progress through the various human ancestors until we arrive at
simon aloyts
Jun 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Dr. Diamond’s first book for which he won nothing but the admiration of some pathetic, lifeless losers like yours truly. But he should have. It was excellent. True that Chimpanzee is the Salieri to Guns’ Mozart, but what it lacks in breadth it makes up in simplicity and erudition. I breezed through this book with nary a trip to Wikipedia unlike GGS, which sent me there virtually every day. And yet I still learned a ton.

The chapter titled “The Golden Age That Never Was” was a delightful decimati
If I could have a brain transplant, I'd choose to have Jared Diamond's. Loved the whole book! If you have a curious bent, it will blow the doors of your mind wide open. Loved loved loved the disquisition on the Kurgan hypothesis - brilliant to find out where the two disparate languages that I speak came from! ...more
Dov Zeller
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Hmmm. This one is a bit dated and he goes off on some not terribly impressive tangents. But also a lot of interesting stuff.

Here is an outline of the book:

And here is a great critical review
Kara Babcock
As I began reading The Third Chimpanzee, a little voice in my head told me that I should stop reading books by Jared Diamond. His subsequent three popular science books all have their origins in this one; I began with Guns, Germs, and Steel and then read Collapse. So reading The Third Chimpanzee was sort of like getting a summary of those two books, plus the one I haven't read yet. Thus, I sought out to determine if the latter books suffered because they were too long an exploration of Diamo ...more
Nandita Damaraju
A few weeks ago, a bunch of us were talking about the origins of our species, Homo sapiens and I was astonished at how little my friends and I knew about our ancestors. Going back to the roots of our development can provide a lot of insights into our present. So after scouting around for some recommendations, I picked up this brilliant book to learn more about our past, present, and future.

The book begins with the deviation of homo sapiens and our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, and the bon
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Were you a visitor to Earth from outer space, you'd want a handbook about the dominant kind of life on the planet. The Third Chimpanzee would be perfect for you!

Jared Diamond has published several books, all of them a pleasure to read. In this one he first presents the themes that he develops in the others. You hear about the factors that favored Europeans in their rise to domination of other people which is greatly expanded upon in Guns, Germs and Steel. You also learn of the common human socia
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the third "textbook" I have read by Jared Diamond. Guns, Germs, and Steel continues as a must read for anyone remotely interested in the history of mankind. The Third Chimpanzee refers to Diamond's views that Homo Sapiens evolved from chimpanzees some 6 million years ago. The other "two" chimpanzees refer to a not well understood "third man" and robust australopithecines. In any event, homo sapiens first emerged as homo erectus 1.7 million years ago and evolved into homo sapiens about 50 ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I read this the first time more than 25 years ago. At least, possibly more time ago even than that.

Then it was a 4 star read going on 4.5 stars. It just isn't anymore. Some parts of it are excellent but dated. Some parts are beyond dated- they no longer are considered viable theory. Some sections are pure hogwash, although stated in a strongly logical and respectful tone. This is primarily his whole universe "picture" to life and intelligent life, in particular. What that issue of compatible num
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jared Diamond writes lucidly and engagingly about the rise of the human race as the dominant species on the planet, as he documents the contribution of our animal heritage towards what we consider uniquely human achievements like language, art, agriculture and use of tools.

He also pointedly argues for us as a species to change our ways as he paints a vivid picture of our fall from grace, demonstrating how easy it is to reverse our hardwon progress - through our destruction of our environment, o
Nov 24, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, science
Good book but not quite as good as Guns, Germs, and Steel. This book was written before that one and you can tell that Jared Diamond becomes a more polished and focused writer. The Third Chimpanzee focuses on how many of the characteristics the we consider uniquely "human" (language, art, murder) really aren't as unique as we think. He makes good arguments but maybe takes on more than he should. Still, it sets the stage for Diamond's later works (including Collapse which I still haven't read. ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: society, body, history
I was unimpressed as I had read so many other books on the same, or on similar topics, nevertheless, this book can serve well as good framing for those interested in anthropology in its lens of human evolution.

The one idea I saw discussed here which is often neglected is the idea of human cultural elements existing within animals. That is really freaking cool and I would love to see a book handle that topic in more depth. If you have any recommendations lemme know.

I recommend this for those who
Daniel Hageman
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, owned
This will probably be my go-to recommendation for human evolution from now on. The anthropological view, unlike the biological one covered by Dawkins, keeps things interesting by addressing questions related to our every day lives, yet still having a scientific foundation to provide scaffolding for the content. If you've read Diamond's GG&S prior to this, as I'm sure many will have, there may be a few chapters you can skip, but the content remains as fascinating as when you read it the first tim ...more
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, history, nonfiction
Interesting look at where we have come from, and a powerful message of conservation for a society that needs to hear it. Slightly dated, but still a very good read for anyone interested in anthropology and biology
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Jared Diamond is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. He is Professor of Geography at UCLA and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He has dedicated this book to his sons and future generations.

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