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DEMONIC MALES: APES AND THE ORIGINS OF HUMAN VIOLENCE (Wrangham and Peterson) INTRODUCTION Violence ubiquitous All to frequently we are disturbed and concerned with multitude of cases of various forms of violence reported in the news media. Often it seems that aggression is ubiquitous and accordingly inevitable and inescapable within and between human groups (e.g., Wrangham and Petersen 1996:84). Is there a terrible, evil demon lurking inside each of us humans, and especially in adult males? This is the serious and pivotal question addressed by Wrangham and Petersen (1996) in their recent book Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence. The basic idea is not new, but some of the arguments and much of the evidence is new. Killer apes The "killer ape" argument extends back to the works of Dart (1953), Ardrey (19 ), Tiger (19 ), and others at least to the 1950s. It argues that humans inherited from their evolutionary ancestry a killer instinct in which hunting by early humans was applied not only to other species but also to their own species, in particular outgroup members. (See Wrangham and Petersen 1996:216-219). Sociobiology This argument has been revived with the development of sociobiology since the 1970s (Chagnon and Irons 1979, Wilson 1975). Its most recent expression is found in Wrangham and Peterson (1966). Wrangham is an authority on the chimpanzees from extensive fieldwork, and the bibliography reflects a thorough coverage of most of the pertinent literature. Peterson is a popular writer who has written various books including two on chimpanzees, one of them with Jane Goodall. (or a good introductory overview of sociobiology see Gray 1996). Demonic Males is an extraordinary book with an extraordinary thesis. It is as captivating as it is disturbing. It is well researched and well written, and the authors hold the reader's attention not only by the fascinating contents but also by regularly asking questions within and at the end of chapters as a way of introducing new sections and new chapters. There is no preface or introduction which outlines the argument and the organization of the book. While this would have expedited the delivery of the main thesis, the lack of it results in the book reading almost as a mystery novel as the pieces of the argument are gradually put in place until the puzzle is completed. The primary questions the authors explore with regard to the origins of human violence in relation to the chimpanzee are similar to Paul Gauguin's famous painting: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? (Wrangham and Peterson 1996:90). The closest thing to a concise statement of the primary argument is on pages 167-168: (See also pp. 4-5). THESIS
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This note was uploaded on 04/28/2011 for the course PACE 345 taught by Professor Brucebarnes during the Spring '10 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

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