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(9/10) The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal    by Desmond Morris      Here is the Naked Ape at his most primal - in love, at work, at war.  Meet man as he really is: relative to the apes, stripped of his veneer as we see him courting, making love, sleeping, socialising, grooming, playing.  Zoologist Desmond Morris's classic takes its place alongside Darwin's Origin of the Species, presenting man not as a fallen angel, but as a risen ape, remarkable in his resilience, energy and imagination, yet an animal nonetheless, in danger of forgetting his origins. With its penetrating insights on man's beginnings, sex life,  habits and our astonishing bonds to the animal kingdom, The Naked Ape is a landmark, at once provocative, compelling and timeless. *You only need to read the first two paragraphs of The Naked Ape to  understand why it was so controversial when it debuted in 1967 and why it wound up on lists of banned books deemed “anti-Christian” by school boards. Morris, a zoologist, defines humans as hairless apes; he explores the conflict between our animal impulses and our loftier aspirations as matters of biology, not morality. We are the most sexual of primates, he says, and that sexuality has shaped modern civilization — not the other way around. Sure, no other animal creates art, nor do they obsessively analyze themselves. But thanks to our unique upright  posture, we’re also the only primate whose secondary sex  characteristics are on display whenever we interact, as Morris explains in detail. And we’re also unusual in that we mate to bond with each other as well as to procreate. All that makes for some serious biological tension, and Morris’ landmark views on why we evolved this way are fascinating — even in an age when the idea that we’re not all that different from our animal cousins isn’t quite so revolutionary.     
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This book had quite impact, apparently, when it was first published in 1967, and it is not difficult to see  why. It basically describes mankind as “just another species” – a somewhat strange type of ape without a  fur coat….the naked ape so you will. In some parts of the world the book was banned and illicit copies were  burned by the church according to the book’s Introduction. About fifty years on however, we are of course  familiar with the argument and the science (although, to be fair, there are probably still whole groups of  people who would like to see it banned), and as such the book does not describe anything new (anymore;  not surprisingly). It is still a good book to read though; the language is a bit dated, but all the material is  still relevant and accurate – as far as I can judge. Apparently Desmond looked at all the material again for  the revised version I read, but there were only some minor details to update.  Despite the somewhat dated language I really did enjoy reading it. It only has 164 pages and flows really  well, so you will not be bored for a second. In a bit of whirlwind we rush, wearing our zoology/biology  goggles, through the origins of the naked ape, sex, rearing, exploration, fighting, feeding, comfort, and its  dealing with other animals. I really do believe that after finishing this little book, one does understand the  peculiarities of mankind a bit better. Take, for example, a discussion of taste and by extension ‘sugar’,  which fits in nicely with current public health discussions on a ‘sugar tax’ and the role of the food industry  in obesity problems (and note that this was written in 1967):  “…there is one aspect of our true tasting that requires special comment, and that is our undeniably  prevalent ‘sweet-tooth’. This is something alien to the true carnivore, but typically primate-like.  As the natural food of primates becomes riper and more suitable for consumption, it usually  becomes sweeter, and monkeys and apes have a strong reaction to anything that is strongly  endowed with this taste. Like other primates, we find it hard to resist ‘sweets’.    …… when we  occasionally (NOTE: 1967…this has changed!) take small, inter-meal snacks (and thereby revert, to a  slight extent, to an ancient, primate scatter-feeding pattern), we nearly always choose primate-  sweet food objects, such as candy, chocolate, ice-cream, or sugared drinks.   So powerful is this tendency that it can lead us into difficulties. The point is that there are two  elements in a food object that make it attractive to us: its nutritive value and its palatability. In  nature, these two factors go hand in hand, but in artificially produced foodstuffs they can be  separated, and this can be dangerous. Food objects that are nutritionally almost worthless can be  made powerfully attractive simply by adding a large amount of artificial sweetener. If they appeal  to our old primate weakness by tasting ‘super-sweet’, we will lap them up and so stuff ourselves  with them that we have little room left for anything else: thus the balance of our diet can be  upset. This applies especially in the case of growing children……The juvenile weakness for  sweetness can be easily exploited, and frequently is.”      Amazing. It took us 50 years to go through the fat story, to now more recently return to sugars… So anyway, great little book that will definitely make you understand mankind better, but (for obvious  reasons) a little dated.