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216 × 138 × 20 mm
152 pages
15 Jul 2019

The Selfish Ape Human Nature and Our Path to Extinction Nicholas P. Money

Weaving together stories of science and sociology, The Selfish Ape offers a refreshing response to common fantasies about the ascent of humanity. Rather than imagining modern humans as a species with godlike powers, or Homo deus, Nicholas P. Money recasts us as Homo narcissus, paragons of self-absorption. This exhilarating story takes in an immense sweep of modern biology, leading readers from earth’s unexceptional location in the cosmos, to the story of our microbial origins, and the workings of the human body. It explores human genetics, reproduction, brain function and ageing, creating an enlightened view of humans as a brilliantly inventive, yet self-destructive animal.

This is a book about human biology, the intertwined characteristics of human greatness and failure, and the way that we have plundered the biosphere. Written in a highly accessible style, it is a perfect read for those interested in science, human history, sociology and the environment.

‘This Dawkins-inspired book is a tour de force of life on Earth. Money eloquently describes the dynamics of life and the quite insignificant place of humans in the grand scheme of existence. Charting important biological discoveries, he describes life from all angles, including our molecular complexity and our genetic makeup . . . the book brings together many perspectives on human existence to create a beautiful but damning picture of humankind.’ — The Biologist

‘if you enjoy an apt reference to Paradise Lost – then you will find much to admire in The Selfish Ape, as I did . . . Early chapters unleashed waves of nostalgia for my undergraduate biology courses. It is a real achievement to have condensed so much material into so few words, and to have made each chapter such a pleasure to read . . . Money’s big claim, however, is not just that human beings are cosmically deluded. It is that human nature – the “essence” of humanity – resides in our genes, and that this essence makes the demise of our species “natural and inevitable”.’ — Metascience

‘Money mostly takes the reader on a tour of human biology to show how we are little different from our fellow creatures, spicing up his writing with bleak observation . . . Money takes the reader on a brief tour through deep time, charting how our planet became habitable and how life evolved, before settling on human biology. These chapters see him explain our physiology, neurobiology, genetics, reproduction, embryology, ageing, and dying. He does so with admirable brevity and sometimes exquisitely compact definitions and metaphors . . . Money livens up his writing with quotes from literature and poetry, such as Shakespeare’s work and Milton’s Paradise Lost, and seemingly revels in casting humans back amongst the animals.’ — NHBS.com

‘So what can we do? Usually I’d save discussion of an author’s conclusion for the end of a review, but Money’s solution is so striking it’s worth discussing up front. Though Money seems fairly sceptical about the value of religion, his conclusion isn’t that far removed from a Christian credo: because our time as a species is limited, the important thing is for us to be nicer to each other. If we are nicer, Money suggests, the universe may survive longer than we expect.’ — Catholic Herald

‘I learned much from Nicholas Money’s book. I love his vivid, prose-poetic imagery. Reading him is pure literary pleasure. He knows what to say and, more importantly, he knows how to say it.’ — Professor Richard Dawkins FRS, author of The Selfish Gene and Outgrowing God

‘Nicholas Money’s The Selfish Ape delivers much more than its title promises. It is a wide-ranging reflection on humans and humanity: how we, both as individuals and as a species, came to be, how we function, and how we (will) cease to be. Professor Money presents scientific, literary and philosophical insights into these questions. He does so with clarity, honesty and good humour.’ — David Benatar, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cape Town

‘This entrancing and sobering collection of thoughts is a worthy successor to The Amoeba in the Room, which opened our eyes to so much.’ — Robin Hanbury-Tenison, explorer

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Nicholas P. Money is Professor of Biology and Western Program Director at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of many books on science including Mushrooms: A Natural and Cultural History (Reaktion, 2017) and The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization (2018).


How Life Lends Itself to Earth
How We Arrived
How Our Bodies Work
How We Are Programmed
How We Are Born
How We Think
How We Die
How We Make Things Better
How We Make Things Worse
How We Should Leave