May 31st, 2007 by David
The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War is my most recent book. Here are some reviews:
“Given the fact that war and revulsion against war and killing are inescapable facts of human nature, Livingstone Smith makes a strong case for his explanation of the paradox this represents. By bringing together so many relevant threads of evidence he offers a highly valuable synopsis of the problem, which future discussions will not be able to ignore….As a result it has to be the most cogent and convincing theory of the war-peace paradox.” — A. C. Grayling, The Australian
“An original approach to examining the causes of war” — Randy Masden, Military Review“In The Most Dangerous Animal, David Livingstone Smith illuminates an exceedingly dark subject: humankind’s deep-seated penchant for war. The result is a discerning, insightful, highly original, and very disturbing book.” – Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.
“This is the most important post-9/11 analysis of war and it comes none too soon, as hundreds are daily dying and commentators continue to ask why. David Livingstone Smith has provided a cogent answer to the deeper why question of war; not why Iraq? or why Afghanistan? or why Darfur?, but why war at all? Smith’s answer–that war is buried deep in our evolutionary past–will be controversial, but his case is irrefutable. We have seen the enemy in the mirror, and until we gather the courage to accept our true nature, men will fight and people will die. Every politician should read this book before deciding on war.” – Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, author of The Science of Good and Evil and Why Darwin Matters
“Smith writes clearly for the lay reader, so a background in the sciences is not required – though a strong stomach is.” – Kirkus Reviews
“If you have the intestinal fortitude to confront the horrors of war, as well as the intellectual fortitude to confront its basis in human nature, then you are ready for The Most Dangerous Animal. David Livingstone Smith knows evolutionary biology, and history, and psychology, and philosophy, and anthropology, and has put them together to produce a riveting, unflinching and disturbingly accurate account of human warfare, from the ‘commanded wars’ of the Old Testament to Bush’s Blunder in Iraq.” – David P. Barash, professor of psychology, University of Washington and author of Madame Bovary’s Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature, Understanding Violence and Approaches to Peace.
“Here is the unvarnished tale of human gangs, driven by built-in survival mechanisms and an uncanny ability for self-deception, romping through history–raiding, pillaging, terrorizing, waging wars, and committing large-scale atrocities in the name of abstract gods, holy lands, master races, and political systems. David Smith’s rapid-fire account of our uniquely lethal nature makes a mockery of our dreams for peace. We could always try, though, but seeing ourselves as we truly are is a necessary first step. This book shows us how.” – Anouar Majid, author of Freedom and Orthodoxy: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World.
“‘Right now, as you read this, somebody, somewhere, is planning a war’: from its opening sentence, Smith’s book demands the reader’s attention . . . a stark study of human nature, examining how we are biologically wired to fight. Smith’s writing, reinforced by one grim example after another, is crisp and sobering, never blunting the fact that we are ‘our own worst enemy.’”
“Deftly combining concepts and analytical skills from traditional philosophy with an impressive grasp of contemporary science in several disciplines, Smith has produced a unique work that is at once chilling, invigorating, enlightening, and ultimately hopeful. Believing that truth is the best medicine, I recommend for every thinking person a full dose of this fiercely argued and deeply insightful book.”
–Dale Peterson, author of Jane Goodall, The Deluge and the Ark, and co-author of Demonic Males
“Smith writes in clear prose that makes complex concepts understandible even to a non-scientific mind.” — Mark Dunkelman, The Providence Journal
“A remarkable and accessible book that provides original and compelling insights into the human capacity for war. Professor Smith’s keen psychological analysis reveals how we unconsciously deploy self-deceptive strategies to override our horror at human bloodshed in order to indulge our universal penchant for inter-group violence. A must read for anyone interested in the psychological depths of human nature. ”
–Barbara S. Held, Barry N. Wish Professor of Psychology and Social Studies, Bowdoin College, author of Psychology’s Interpretive Turn: The Search for Truth and Agency in Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
“This is a brilliant book. It weaves together a wealth of insights from science, history, literature, philosophy and contemporary affairs into an accessible, lucid, and cogently argued defense of the role of human nature in war.”–Robert L. Holmes, Professor of Philosophy, University of Rochester, and author of On War and Morality
” An exceptionally well-written work that’s as intelligent and compelling (albeit often appallingly so) as it is accessible.” — Dan Nerhaugen, The 48er
“THE question usually asked when considering the origins of war is, are humans essentially peaceful or violent? This is not how David Livingstone Smith frames his well-researched and broad-ranging study, and for that reason alone his ideas on war are worth reading.”
— Michael Bond, New Scientist
“David Livingstone Smith (WHY WE LIE: THE EVOLUTIONARY ROOTS OF DECEPTION AND THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND) continues his exploration of the human animal’s less savory qualities. THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL is a disquieting blend of philosophy and anthropology that demonstrates that murder and war have been part of humans’ genetic and psychological makeup since our early hominid days.” — Stand Bookstore