The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal (Anglais) Broché – 31 octobre 2005
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Revue de presse
"Thought-provoking...Morris has introduced some novel and challenging ideas" (Natural History)
"Fascinating" (Sunday Times)
Présentation de l'éditeur
Zoologist Desmond Morris's classic takes its place alongside Darwin's Origin of the Species, presenting man not as a fallen angel, but as a risen ape, remarkable in his resilience, energy and imagination, yet an animal nonetheless, in danger of forgetting his origins.
With its penetrating insights on man's beginnings, sex life, habits and our astonishing bonds to the animal kingdom, The Naked Ape is a landmark, at once provocative, compelling and timeless.
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Much of Morris's conjecture has been turned into solid research in more recent years. For example, studies have found that males are sexually attracted to females having a waist/hips ratio of 0.7. This is universal among contemporary societies including primitive societies. When shown diagrams of women having different waist/hips ratios, male members of the primitive societies chose the 0.7 ratio and specifically indicated child bearing ability being linked to it. Females universally are attracted to males having a waist/hip ratio of 0.85.
The argument between nurturing versus evolution is likely to continue. This book started the argument. It is certainly a serious argument. Some readers may prefer not to think as humans as being animals. Some readers, particulary those interested in newer cultural trends such as feminism, may find certain of Morris's arguments objectionable. The material is oriented towards understanding how biological evolution of Homo Sapiens has affected their social behavior. It is not directly related to how to get along with your lover or spouse. However, the book was as thought provoking today as when it was written. It is an excellent introduction to the field of evolutionary anthropology.
Human evolution toke place over millions of years. During most of the time we lived in small tribes as hunters and gatherers. Civilization is new. We are not fine tuned to it yet. As the author states "In a village all the neighbors are personal friends or, at most, personal enemies; none are strangers. In a large city many people do not even know the names of their neighbors."
This impersonal environment fosters all kinds of negative attitudes towards our peers such as violence or indifference as if someone who you don't know walking down the streets were from a different species, some kind of an animal, or, what's worse, not alive at all; an object or one more number to be added to the statistics.
In a gigantic community the odds of anyone becoming a dominant individual are too dim. Almost everywhere with the new political atmosphere any individual can reach a very high position in his community just based on his merits. But democratization of access to power also democratizes the frustration of not getting there. For one dominant individual on a human zoo there are millions of frustrated would be leaders lost in the rat race. And they all know that they failed because they didn't have what it takes.
To alleviate the frustration we subdivide our community in intricate overlapping sub communities of the approximate size of the primeval tribes. This sub communities offer new opportunities for leadership. You can see uniformed tribes going around on their Harley Davidsons, playing golf or listening to Rap music on their boom boxes. What is important in those cases is not the sport, music or transportation but the chance to belong to a small, well defined and regulated group in which the chances of becoming a dominant individual are bigger.
The human zoo is a superb book that analyses one by one the many aspects of urban life such as the paradox of solitude on an overcrowded place, dominance mimic versus status symbol, and of course the rewards of living in an exciting environment where just about everything is possible. Desmond Morris background in zoology allows him to draw many parallels between human and other animals' behavior like he ten commandments of dominance valid for baboons and presidents or the hazard mimic used by harmless black and yellow insects that look alike dangerous wasps.
Desmond Morris' human behavior trilogy: The Naked Ape; The Human Zoo; and Intimate Behavior is a must read for anyone interested in human nature. They are all 5 star books.
Leonardo Alves - January 2001
Other animals, Morris says, don't behave in the wild the way humans do in cities. But the sort of erratic violence and heightened self-stimulation in which we find modern humans engaging _does_ have a counterpart in the rest of the animal world: animals do act that way . . . in zoos.
Essentially, Morris's claim is that many millions of years of evolution have equipped us for life in small communities in which everybody knows everybody else and there's enough room for us to move around without klonking into each other all the time. We are not, in short, adapted to the modern metropolis, and that's why "city folk" are so danged weird. And our misattribution of our maladaptive behavior actually gives the jungle an undeserved bad name.
So what's a naked ape to do? I don't know that the intervening years since this book was first published have generated a whole lot of solutions. I guess that's, um, life in the big city.
But as with so many problems, just being aware of the problem is at least half the solution. As with Morris's other books (especially _The Naked Ape_), it's profoundly helpful to step back and see ourselves as one biological species among others (whether or not that's _all_ we are).
Okay, maybe that's not all we are; maybe the fact that we _can_ thus step back from ourselves is the single most important fact about our species. If so, that makes this book more valuable, not less.
So think of this book (and Morris's others) as a way to give your "I" a little distance on your "me," if you know what I mean. And yes, that does mean that I'm recommending a couple of books on evolutionary anthropology as helpful to your spirituality.