Brian's Reviews > The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal

The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris
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's review
Feb 25, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: biology, anthropology
Recommended for: people who want to remember a time when the aquatic ape hypothesis was taken seriously

I suppose all reviews of this book must open up with the fact that it is dated - considerably. Many of the speculations and theories put forward in the text have since fallen out of favor or been outright dismissed. But as with all science books from an older era, this is not the important part! The questions and insights raised about human nature far outweigh any omissions due to the inadequate science of the times.

What one can find fault with is several arguments and generalizations made about culture that the author roots in 'historical' evidence. During the chapter on sexual practices and habits of humans, the author essentially shrugs and assumes that pair bonding, sexual behavior, and all the quirks that we have today has always been practiced the way our parents and their parents had done it. This is untrue, as the family unit and gender roles have changed throughout history. The author ascribes changes in sexual practices and gender roles as something modern - a sign that we have outgrown our biology. This simply is not true. Our environment has changed and our biology is simply shifting into a gear not visited for generations. The idea of family planning and restricted birth is not a product of the industrial revolution, but something that can be traced back (both as a popular and detested idea depending on the environment) all the way back to ancient Egypt.

That one gripe aside, the remainder of the book succeeds in keeping major cultural biases out of its attempt to do most of us avoid: viewing human beings as an animal. While certainly not the definitive text on the subject, for someone who wants a quick introduction to a combination of human biology and anthropology, I would highly recommend this book.
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