There are several errors in this book. As was true of Morris’s earlier book, The Naked Ape, most can be attributed to the lack of scientific data available at the time that The Human Zoo was published (1969). However, I can find no reason for his constantly comparing humans to monkeys and never comparing them to chimpanzees. Chimpanzees, not monkeys, are the closest relatives of homo sapiens. As far as I know this was well known long before the book’s 1969 publication.
The most notable error due to lack of scientific data was the claim that our species began its differentiation from the other apes because we were forced to transition from herbivores to omnivores. He claims that the need for the meat of other animals required males to hunt in packs and this in turn had two extremely consequential effects upon our ancestors. First, the hunt required greater coordination of effort among the males which probably enhanced brain size. Second, since the hunt required males to be away from the remainder of the community, the male needed to be certain that the female was attached to him and not mating with another male and producing an infant that was not his; hence, the development of monogamous relationships. At that time it was not known that chimpanzees, our closest relatives, are omnivores. Jane Goodall’s observations proved that chimps eat meat as well as plants and that they organize hunting parties to capture prey. The males being away on hunting trips did not result in monogamous relationships among chimps. Female chimpanzees are notoriously promiscuous.
A second notable error due to lack of scientific data is his assertion that homosexuality is due to mal-imprinting. An example of mal-imprinting is a duck emerging from an egg and seeing a human instead of its mother. The duck henceforth follows the human as it would its mother. He is unaware of the biological evidence that, although homosexuality can be the result of experience, it can also be the result of a different biochemisty.
A third notable error is related to the first error cited above. It is the claim that homo sapiens are a monogamous species. Even if one denies that monogamy is the result of our ancestors’ progression from herbivore to omnivore, we can still assert that homo sapiens are monogamous; however, the data does not indicate that. Polygyny is still the norm in many parts of the non-Western world. It did not become the norm in the Western world until a few centuries before Christ, but even then, concubinage and sex with slaves was acceptable. If one looks at current Western societies, almost 50% of marriages result in divorce, and while married, sexual relations outside of marriage are frequent.
Lastly, he sees sexual symbols almost everywhere. He states that the Christian cross is a phallic symbol. Does the man not know that tying or nailing a person to a cross or stake was a common form of Roman execution!
Despite these errors I think the author discussed several important and valid ideas. First, it warned of the disastrous consequences of over population. It is literally putting the survival of our species at risk.
Second, he discusses how animals act erratically and destructively in the unnatural setting of an enclosed area such as a zoo. He analogizes the problems present in animal zoos to the problems present in large cities. He states that although the cramped cities are unnatural to our species and create a multitude of problems, they still are a hub of creativity and that we must develop some means of reducing their destructive qualities. I agree with his analysis. I am not a fan of large cities. They are unfriendly and indifferent places, but I still see in them an energy and a hunger to create that is not present in my small, caring, albeit complacent community. Although I would never want to live in New York City or Los Angeles, I appreciate that this is where the movers and shakers of society reside.
Third, he discusses how humans are tribal creatures. They contrive a set of practices to which members of the group must adhere in order to be accepted. I am acutely aware of this trait because I have never been a part of a click or a group and have been ostracized by the various groups because of it, in particular, with regards to what I believe to be good public policy. My beliefs in this area do not adhere strictly to Democratic Party policies or to Republican Party policies. Republicans castigate me as being a liberal Democrat and Democrats castigate me as being a conservative Republican. But beyond my personal experiences the need to adhere to a tribal identity has profound consequences, particularly in the realm of foreign policy. Both Montesquieu and Tocqueville warned that people adhere to the mores and institutions to which they have grown accustomed and when one society attempts to introduce its form of government to another society, that new form of government, no matter how noble or just, will most likely be rejected, particularly, if that society has a very different history and different values. We saw this tragically manifested in the Middle East when we attempted to implement democracy. Now these countries are in a state of anarchy.
Lastly, I greatly appreciated his emphasis on our being of the animal kingdom and that the powerful animal urges are still present within us. When I argue with people that the tendency for males to dominate and for females to submit is not only present in the vast majority of the great apes, the family of which we are a member, but still present in the homo sapien biology and that it is a tendency which both genders must fight against, people resent it, saying such tendencies are merely a creation of society. I say, as does the author, Desmond Morris, on the last page of The Human Zoo “we tend to forget that we are animals with certain specific weaknesses and certain specific strengths. We think of ourselves as blank sheets upon which anything can be written. We are not. We come into the world with a set of basic instructions and we ignore or disobey them at our peril.”
- Capa comum: 256 páginas
- Editora: Delta (13 de abril de 1999)
- Idioma: Inglês
- ISBN-10: 0385334303
- ISBN-13: 978-0385334303
- Dimensões do produto: 13,3 x 1,7 x 20,3 cm
- Peso de envio: 227 g
- Avaliação média: Seja o primeiro a avaliar este item
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