Review – The Naked Ape

Cover of The Naked Ape by Desmond MorrisThe Naked Ape, Desmond Morris

I think the concept of this approach to humans as an animal like any other is a brilliant one. We are prone to thinking of ourselves as a species apart, when we’re not, and even if we were, we could do with putting back in our places sometimes — being human doesn’t mean we’re more worthy than any other creature, all of which have their own adaptations to deal with the environment they find themselves in. We’re particularly versatile, yes, but because we evolved that way, not because of some special merit.

Anyway, while the approach is interesting, and Desmond Morris’ writing is engaging, this is definitely out of date. He keeps a few too many of his human expectations kicking around, like expectations of gender roles and sexuality. It is a really old book, which explains it, and it could undoubtedly do with some updating.

If you’re particularly attached to notions of humans as being sacred, set apart, etc, you won’t want to read this. And if you have any sexual hangups, you won’t want to read this, either — there’s a whole chapter on sex. Granted, it’s a very old view of sex, considering it only in terms of adaptations (dare we whisper to Morris that homosexual behaviour could persist in a population simply because it feels good and only strict monogamy would mean that any ‘gay gene’ would die out?), but still, it can be fairly explicit.

I don’t agree with Morris on many aspects, but his attempt to study humans as animals must be commended.

Rating: 3/5

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One thought on “Review – The Naked Ape

  1. I agree with you. At the time I read this soon after it first came out I was largely convinced by his central tenet, but I would hesitate to read it again now because so much else has emerged and that argument — for rationalists anyway — is a battle that has long been won.

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