The Most Dangerous Animal by David Livingstone Smith
Human Nature and the Origins of War

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Synopsis

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.
 
 

About David Livingstone Smith

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DAVID LIVINGSTONE SMITH is founding director of the New England Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Studies at the University of New England. He is the author of Why We Lie and The Most Dangerous Animal and lives in Portland, Maine.
 
Published August 7, 2007 by St. Martin's Press. 288 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Nature & Wildlife, War, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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The way we overcome this aversion to killing other human beings, Smith asserts, is by persuading ourselves that they are not truly human.

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Publishers Weekly

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The human need for war is based on two powerful evolutionary factors: an innate aggressiveness born of a need to fight for food, shelter and the right to breed, and the human craving to belong to a group.

Apr 09 2007 | Read Full Review of The Most Dangerous Animal: Hu...

BC Books

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He combines two sharply polarized historical views — that war is, behind the layers of artificial civility, our base nature and conversely, that war is a corruption of an otherwise gentle, kind, pure nature — to argue that war is caused by both "forces working in tandem;

Sep 18 2007 | Read Full Review of The Most Dangerous Animal: Hu...

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