The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War

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Almost 200 million human beings, mostly civilians, have died in wars over the last century, and there is no end of slaughter in sight.
The Most Dangerous Animal asks what it is about human nature that makes it possible for human beings to regularly slaughter their own kind. It tells the story of why all human beings have the potential to be hideously cruel and destructive to one another. Why are we our own worst enemy? The book shows us that war has been with us---in one form or another---since prehistoric times, and looking at the behavior of our close relatives, the chimpanzees, it argues that a penchant for group violence has been bred into us over millions of years of biological evolution. The Most Dangerous Animal takes the reader on a journey through evolution, history, anthropology, and psychology, showing how and why the human mind has a dual nature: on the one hand, we are ferocious, dangerous animals who regularly commit terrible atrocities against our own kind, on the other, we have a deep aversion to killing, a horror of taking human life. Meticulously researched and far-reaching in scope and with examples taken from ancient and modern history, The Most Dangerous Animal delivers a sobering lesson for an increasingly dangerous world.
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About the author

Dr. David Livingstone Smith is the author of Why We Lie as well as a professor of philosophy and cofounder and director of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of New England. He and his wife live in Portland, Maine.

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Additional Information

Publisher
St. Martin's Press
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Published on
Aug 7, 2007
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781429994637
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / General
Science / Life Sciences / Biology
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Hundreds of thousands of children are forced or legally recruited combatants in no fewer than 70 warring parties across the world. In addition to these child soldiers, thousands of youth voluntarily participate in politically related conflict. Why, how, and in what capacities are such large numbers of teenagers involved in war and how are they affected? Adolescents and War brings together world experts in an evidence-based volume to thoroughly understand and document the intricacies of youth who have had substantial involvement in political violence. Contributors argue that the assumption that youth are automatically debilitated by the violence they experience is much too simplistic: effective care for youth must include an awareness of their motives and beliefs, the roles they played in the conflict, their relationships with others, and the opportunities available to them after their experiences with war. The book suggests that the meaning youth make of a conflict may protect them from mental harm. For example, Palestinian teens who were actively engaged in the first Intifada have fared better than Bosnian teens who were virtual sitting ducks to the sniper and grenade launches of the hidden forces during the siege of Sarajevo. Covering youth involvement in conflicts in Afghanistan, Angola, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, and Bosnia, the volume will be of interest to psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists and should be adopted for courses in social psychology, crisis intervention, and international conflict.
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A Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg

From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.

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