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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.
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).
"[...] Overall, the book brings together many perspectives on human existence to create a beautiful but damning picture of humankind. However, the solutions Money offers might not be well received by everyone."
– Rebecca Muir, The Biologist 66(5) October/November 2019
"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
"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