Demonic Malesby 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 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.
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 tranquilno 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.
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.91(w) x 8.57(h) x 1.22(d)
Meet the Author
Dale Peterson is the coauthor with Jane Goodall of Visions of Caliban (a New York Times Notable Book and a Library Journal Best Book) and the editor of her two books of letters, Africa in My Blood and Beyond Innocence. His other books include The Deluge and the Ark, Chimpanzee Travels, Storyville USA, Eating Apes, and (with Richard Wrangham) Demonic Males. They have been distinguished as an Economist Best Book, a Discover Top Science Book, a Bloomsbury Review Editor's Favorite, a Village Voice Best Book, and a finalist for the PEN New England Award and the Sir Peter Kent Conservation Book Prize in England. He resides in Massachusetts.
Wrangham ia a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University.
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