The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal by Jared DiamondAnother 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.
- Our ancestors diverged from other apes around 7 million years ago.
- We share 98.4% of DNA with common chimps.
- Chimps are more closely related to humans than to gorillas. We are really a third kind of chimp.
- We descended from Cro-Magnons, not Neanderthals.
- Hunter-gatherers were probably poor hunters.
- Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals co-existed 100,000 years ago (from 130,000 years ago until 40,000 years ago).
- The Great Leap Forward occurred 40,000 years ago with the emergence of spoken language. Progress no longer depended on genetic evolution but cultural evolution.
- Across primate species, degree of polygyny is correlated with sexual dimorphism in body size and other physical features, and also testis size of males.
- Humans have exceptionally large penises and breasts for our body sizes.
- Roughly 10% of babies are adulterously conceived.
- Unlike most mammals, human ovulation is concealed and sex is done in private.
- Also unlike most mammals, humans have sex all the time and its purpose is largely social rather than merely for reproduction.
- Couples tend to have a high degree of correlation (+.9) in religion, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, age, and political views; (+.4) for personality and IQ; (+.2) for physical traits; (+.61) for middle finger length.
- Incest taboo is probably genetic rather than cultural. We avoid people we grew up with between birth and 6 years, but then as adults we seek out partners similar to those people.
- Racial variation can be explained only partly by natural selection (correlation between skin darkness and latitude - which is nevertheless noisy); but it is also probably due largely to sexual selection which results from the mating preferences reviewed in the previous chapter.
- Body is like a car. Scheduled maintenance and unscheduled repair. When do you scrap it? When everything breaks at once. But its not a conscious decision to scrap it. The evolutionary reasoning is this: the body is only as strong as the weakest part. So given that its going to fail, its ideal/optimal if they all fail at the same time.
- If you are likely to get in a crash that totals the car in the near future, then its not worth investing in a lot of repair and maintenance.
- Rate of aging across species is correlated with age of first reproduction.
- Turtles live long because its worth repairing their bodies because they have good protection (shell) and so are unlikely to die a sudden violent death.
- Menopause is a solution to the risk taking behavior of having more kids. Human childbirth is particularly dangerous. Having a fourth kid could kill the mom and put the other three at risk.
- Most sophisticated animal language studied to date is the vocalizations of vervet monkeys.
- Vervets have at least ten words: leopard, snake, unfamiliar human, etc. They are truly words, not just stimulus-response grunts, because they sometimes use them in a lie to confuse rival troops.
- There is no correlation between linguistic and social complexity. (Really?)
- Children in a community of pidgin-speaking parents spontaneously add grammar to make the next generation a full creole language.
- Chomsky said we have universal grammar, with switches that can be set for different word orders and specifics; Bickerton went further to say those switches have a default value (a default word order that emerges spontaneously unless overridden by the linguistic environment).
- Babies start to say single words; then at two they can make multi-word phrases; then at four they can make complete sentences. That stage may have enabled the Great Leap Forward.
- First human (Cro-Magnon) art emerged around the Great Leap Forward 40,000 years ago in the form of cave paintings and flutes.
- Bowerbirds use their art to woo mates. It is as if women put each of their suitors in sequence through a weight-lifting contest, sewing contest, chess tournament, eye test, and boxing tournament, and finally went to bed with the winner.
- In humans, dance and music and poetry are common preludes to sex.
- In summary, art is about sex. And now that we have lots of free time, our art can get very elaborate and serve other functions (such as aesthetics) as well.
- No other primate practices agriculture. Closest thing is ants, which grow fungus and use insects such as aphids like cattle, drinking their honeydew.
- Hunter-gatherers are taller, work as many hours or fewer than farmers, have healthier bones, fewer diseases, fewer cavities, have a more diverse diet, are better nourished, are less susceptible to famine because of the diverse diet, and have lower rates of mortality at every age.
- Today just three plants - wheat, rice, and corn - provide more than 50% of calories consumed by the human species.
- American and European civilized society are elites, and their lives are better in large part because of oil and other resources. The elite became healthier, but at the expense of the majority who became worse off.
- Agriculture allowed for specialists and for class divisions.
- Agriculture allowed for birth intervals to shorten from 4 years to 2 years, and increased calories per unit area of land tenfold, thus dramatically increasing population density.
- Agriculture was not a conscious choice. It spread largely because it could support a population density 10x of hunter-gatherers, and 10 malnourished warriors can still beat 1 healthy bushman.
- We drink and use drugs as a sexual advertisement that says, look how much of a handicap I can give myself and still be superior. Like birds of paradise with long tails that make it susceptible to attack. It says, look how long and heavy my tail is but I can still get away from predators.
- but in humans drugs and alcohol are addicting and also genuinely harm the user.
- An important consideration in guessing whether intelligent life exists elsewhere is the degree of convergent evolution (inevitably).
- Woodpeckers exploited an extremely rewarding niche, but only evolved once. On the other hand, eyes and flight evolved multiple times independently.
- Europe has about 50 languages, but New Guinea has one hundredth of the population but 1,000 languages.
- New Guinea included lots of small societies completely isolated from one another by the terrain.
- We are becoming culturally homogenized; there are very few places where alternative models for society can exist.
- Of the many plants and animals available as candidates for domestication, only a few are actually domesticable, and those happened to be in Europe and the Near East.
- In addition to that head start, the east-west axis of Eurasia allowed the spread of farming more easily than the north-south axis of the Americas did.
- Rise of civilization brought disease and the people evolved immunity; but not hunter-gatherers.
- Language evolves over time, and languages diverge to become mutually unintelligible when a group becomes isolated, just like speciation.
- Glottochronology is like a genetic clock; languages replace 20% of their words every one thousand years, but its noisy.
- Invention of wheel about 3,000 BC (or about 5,000 years ago).
- Domestication of horses about 4,000 BC (6,000 years ago).
- Indo-European languages probably had a common ancestor around 3,000 BC north of the Black Sea. The package of agriculture and technology there allowed rapid waves of expansion, then another expansion into the Americas, and now half the world speaks Indo-European languages.
- Chimps are xenophobic. They recognize members of other bands and treat them differently. They practice genocide.
- Many species practice murder, and some genocide.
- Stalin and Hitler were better at genocide because of technology, communications, and high population density.
- Humans practice a dual standard of behavior: strong inhibitions about killing one of us, but a green light to kill them.
- Our early American heroes were outspoken supporters of Native American genocide.
- Tells the story of three ancient civilizations that collapsed due to environmental exhaustion: Easter Island, Anasazi, and Petra.
- Humans basically live in harmony with nature when conditions are stable, but sudden changes such as acquisition of a new technology or discovery of a new island realizes conditions for species extermination and environmental collapse.
- While courses in the history of civilization often dwell on kings and barbarian invasions, deforestation and erosion may in the long run have been more important shapers of human history.
- To get to the Americas, you gotta cross Siberia, then Bering Straight, then coast-to-coast ice sheet of Canada. Humans crossed the latter during an opening 12,000 years ago.
- Those early people are called Clovis people. They reached Tierra del Fuego within 1,000 years.
- Clovis people probably killed all the large mammals except bison.
- The Clovis culture then rapidly changed to the Folsom culture about 11,000 years ago, with different spear tips optimized for bison.
- Four mechanisms of species extermination: overhunting, species introduction, habitat destruction, and ripple effects.
- Dismissing the extinction crisis on the grounds that extinction is natural would be just like dismissing genocide on the grounds that death is the natural fate of all humans.
Helen Keller and the Big Storm Comprehension Questions
Saint Francis of Assisi school was opened in We presently occupy three buildings, with the Pre-School classes held in the building adjacent to Conway Hall. I just want to keep you updated with some reminders. The students will be coming home with their test from last week on Monday. If you could please sign each test and send them back on Tuesday that would be great. Please continue signing homework copybook and looking over the students behavior chart in their homework books. Next week I will be sending home Scholastic magazines.