Demonic Males

Demonic Males

by Richard W. Wrangham, Dale Peterson
     
 

Whatever their virtues, men are more violent than women. Why do men kill, rape, and wage war, and what can we do about it? Demonic Males offers startling new answers to these questions. Drawing on the latest discoveries about human evolution and about our closest living relatives, the great apes, the book unfolds a compelling argument that the secrets of a peaceful… See more details below

Overview

Whatever their virtues, men are more violent than women. Why do men kill, rape, and wage war, and what can we do about it? Demonic Males offers startling new answers to these questions. Drawing on the latest discoveries about human evolution and about our closest living relatives, the great apes, the book unfolds a compelling argument that the secrets of a peaceful society may well be, first, a sharing of power between males and females, and second, a high level and variety of sexual activity, both homosexual and heterosexual. Dramatic, vivid, and sometimes shocking, but firmly grounded in meticulous scientific research, Demonic Males will stir controversy and debate. It will be required reading for anyone concerned about the spiral of violence undermining human society.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Contradicting the common belief that chimpanzees in the wild are gentle creatures, Harvard anthropologist Wrangham and science writer Peterson have witnessed, since 1971, male African chimpanzees carry out rape, border raids, brutal beatings and warfare among rival territorial gangs. In a startling, beautifully written, riveting, provocative inquiry, they suggest that chimpanzee-like violence preceded and paved the way for human warfarewhich would make modern humans the dazed survivors of a continuous, five-million-year habit of lethal aggression. They buttress their thesis with an examination of the ubiquitous rape among orangutans, gorilla infanticide and male-initiated violence and hyenas' territorial feuds, drawing parallels to the lethal raiding among the Yanomamo people of Brazil's Amazon forests and other so-called primitive tribes, as well as to modern "civilized" mass slaughter. In their analysis, patriotism ("stripped to its essence... male defense of the community") breeds aggression, yet, from an evolutionary standpoint, they reject the presumed inevitability of male violence and male dominance over women. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Rape, murder, warthese savage acts of extreme violence are a part of "human nature" and separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Or are they? Wrangham, a Harvard anthropologist, and Peterson (Chimpanzee Travels, LJ 12/94), an experienced chimpanzee observer, relate the evidence of similar acts of aggressionraiding parties, beatings, killing another member of one's own speciesin human's closest relative, the common chimpanzee. The authors consider ways to tame the demon, showing by contrast the altruism exhibited by the bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee. This examination of the dark side of human and nonhuman primate social behavior is an interesting and well-presented counterbalance to Frans de Waal's Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals (LJ 2/15/96). For all science collections.Raymond Hamel, Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Ctr. Lib., Madison
Booknews
Draws on the latest discoveries about human evolution and the behavior of the great apes, especially bonobos, to explain why men are more violent than women. Thought-provoking reading for general readers and students. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
Forget Rousseau. Forget Konrad Lorenz. Wrangham and Peterson say that after 40 years of gorilla and chimpanzee watching, it is hard not to conclude that human males are but evolutionary heirs of male ape aggression.

Our primate male cousins gang up to murder and rape, expand their territory (and genes), and fight to get to the top. But at the same time that MacArthur fellow Wrangham (Biological Anthropology/Harvard) and Peterson (Jane Goodall's coauthor on Visions of Caliban) present overwhelming (and depressing) evidence of male mayhem from observations in the wild, from history, from ethnography and politics, they are not die-hard biological determinists. Bigger brains and the development of language, moral codes, justice systems, and democratic governments can be countervailing elements. Very importantly, so can females. Indeed, the most hopeful chapter in the book documents 20 years of watching bonobo chimpanzees of Zaire. Male-female equality is the rule among bonobos, and life appears to be positively tranquil—no raids and murders, no rapes or sexual jealousies, no in-group-out-group aggression. Doubting Thomases may well take a wait-and-see attitude, but the authors suggest ecological reasons favoring development of these "gentle" apes: better food supplies enabling movements of larger parties, for example, leaving fewer chances to gang up on isolated individuals. They particularly credit strong mother-son bonds and powerful female cooperation. Is there a lesson there, too? The authors suggest there could be a hopeful future if democratic governments can evolve away from patriarchal dominance to greater shared power. But poised as we are on the technological brink of self-destruction, the authors argue that we will need all the powers of human intelligence to counter the demonic urges.

To their credit, they have presented a powerful and moving account of the human condition that is as absorbing as it is sobering. It deserves a wide audience.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780395690017
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Publication date:
10/03/1996
Pages:
350
Product dimensions:
5.91(w) x 8.57(h) x 1.22(d)

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