Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War

Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War

by David Livingstone Smith
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Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow.Finally, a completely unbiased viewpoint of humankind's tendancies to war. And oddly enough, the skill the book is written with dosen't make it any harder to understand. Although, to be honest, i think he could've taken a little more time with his explanation on the three parts to dehuminization of an enemy. Great if you're wondering about what the weight that going to war imposes on (or should impose on)our world leader's today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the very beginning The Most Dangerous Animal is a compelling read. The author begins by reminding us of the certain fact that as we read his words ¿someone, somewhere, is planning a war¿ -- a truth confirmed by our history. This is a book that speaks to the zeitgeist. It is carefully researched, the arguments are nuanced but sound, and it is clearly and beautifully written. One does not need to be well versed in the topic or its constituent topics to appreciate the force of the arguments and the ultimate story that the author weaves. If you are interested in understanding humans¿ disposition to war and peace (as surely we all are) then you need to read this book. This is not just another book on war no, Smith has done something new, responsibly using the resources of evolutionary psychology as well as those of other disciplines to make the case that the most dangerous animal is among us. It is us. The book calls us to observe the facts of human nature: we are creatures fashioned through evolution to be both prey and predators. And understanding this duality of our nature will aid us in curbing our appetite to harm and kill our own. Smith¿s focus in the book is not on the moral aspect of war. Rather, he focuses on the fact that the capacity to wage war lives in us, all of us. He notes that the reality of war is not pretty, nor is it heroic war is scary and brutal beyond just the killing. War tears human flesh, and it destroys human lives. In Chapter One, Smith argues, convincingly, that because war is ¿a bad taste business¿ we turn away from it. We create stories about it: ¿our women and men are heroes¿, ¿they gave their lives¿. Our media, rightly or not, censor the images of war. Our leaders triumphantly exclaim our ¿victories¿ over the evildoers. Our enemies are described as ¿madmen¿ with psychological problems. They are evil and we need to protect ourselves from them. Against all the hyperbole though, the author reminds us that some of history¿s most horrific killers had no discernible psychological problems. In other words, men who wage and fight wars are like the rest of us, they have families, they have jobs, and they are every bit as human as the rest of us. In Chapter Two, two of history¿s most influential geniuses discuss the question of ¿why war?¿ Smith argues that we can do better than Freud did when he attempted to answer Einstein¿s question. In the 21st century scientists have more sophisticated tools to address the question of why we war. We can build on Freud¿s answer, Smith argues, that indeed war is in our nature. When one reads Chapter Three, one cannot help but acknowledge that the penchant for war is rooted in our history ¿ our evolutionary history. Here, Smith draws on various disciplines to make the case forcefully that war has been waged by humans from the beginning of time. It is in our nature, because it works. Throughout the book the case for war in human nature is made, but in Chapters Eight, Nine and Ten Smith deals with our inhibition against killing. Chapter Ten is the most novel. Anyone who ascribes to an evolutionarily account of human nature will find it compelling and insightful. Smith¿s idea is that we override our disinclination to kill through self-deception ¿ we ¿see¿ the enemy as other than human: they are vermin rife with disease, or deadly predators, or game to be slaughtered for sport. Nature has fashioned in us the ability to deceive ourselves, and this is an indispensable feature of humans' ability to wage war. I very clearly, strongly recommend this book. If you are open to the possibility that there is something to the author¿s thesis, then you will have benefited, and the book will have done its job. Anyone who wants to understand why we wage war needs to understand that war is a fact of our nature. It is only then, Smith notes, that we have a chance of curbing our appetite to kill.