Sunday, June 30, 2019

On Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee

Depiction of the Stone Age
by Viktor Vasnetsov
Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal is on human evolution and human behavior— but a significant chunk of the book, especially the final chapters, are focused almost entirely on promoting the modern ideology of environmentalism. Sounding like a fanatic environmentalist, Diamond blames mankind for all kinds of environmental destruction and mass extinction of animal species. In one passages, he contemplates if things on this planet could improve if every human were to die tomorrow.

Here’s an excerpt:
There are many grounds for pessimism. Even if every human now alive were to die tomorrow, the damage that we have already inflicted on our environment would ensure that its degradation will continue for decades. Innumerable species already belong to the 'living dead', with populations fallen to levels from which they cannot recover, even though not all individuals have died yet. Despite all our past self-destructive behaviour from which we could have learned, many people who should know better dispute the need for limiting our population and continue to assault our environment. Others join that assault for selfish profit or out of ignorance. Even more people are too caught up in the desperate struggle for survival to be able to enjoy the luxury of weighing the consequences of their actions. All these facts suggest that the juggernaut of destruction has already reached unstoppable momentum, that we too are among the living dead, and that our future is as bleak as that of the other two chimpanzees. 

This pessimistic view is captured by a cynical sentence that Arthur Wichmann, a Dutch explorer and professor, penned in another context in 1912. Wichmann had devoted a decade of his life to writing a monumental three-volume treatise on the history of New Guinea's exploration. In 1,198 pages he evaluated every source of information about New Guinea that he could find, from the earliest reports filtering through Indonesia to the great expeditions of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. He grew disillusioned as he realized that successive explorers committed the same stupidities again and again: they showed the same unwarranted pride in overstated accomplishments, refused to acknowledge disastrous oversights, ignored the experience of previous explorers, repeated previous errors, and hence blundered into unnecessary suffering and death. Looking back on this long history, Wichmann predicted that future explorers would continue to repeat the same errors. The bitter last sentence that concluded Wichmann's last volume was, 'Nothing learned, and everything forgotten!
You may find some useful insights in the book's earlier chapters, but its overall pessimistic view of humanity is difficult to digest if you are not an environmentalist. Diamond sees every progress that men have achieved, including the rise of agriculture based societies thousands of years ago, as an attack on earth’s environment. He frets about the ways by which the human beings could extinguish all life on earth: Over exploitation of the natural resources, nuclear holocaust, climate change, food and water running out due to overpopulation, rise of new kind of germs, etc. But he does not offer evidence to show that mankind is responsible for the past environmental disasters—and his predictions of future disasters are nothing more than his "predictions". I can safely predict that none of Diamond’s predictions will ever come true.

I think this is a bad book—it's full of lies and false predictions.

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