The Naked Ape
by Wayne Wilson
Desmond Morris first published The Naked Ape in 1967. Morris, a professional zoologist, wrote this book for mass consumption. He explains, in lay terms, the biology of humans. As Morris writes in the introduction: "There are 193 living species of monkeys and apes. 192 of them are covered with hair. The exception is a naked ape self-named Homo sapiens. This unusual and highly successful species spends a great deal of time examining his higher motives and an equal amount of time studiously ignoring his fundamental ones. He is proud that he has the biggest brain of all the primates, but attempts to conceal the fact that he also has the biggest penis, preferring to accord this honor falsely to the mighty gorilla. He is an intensely vocal, acutely exploratory, over-crowded ape, and it is high time we examined his basic behavior."
The book is an exposition of human habits, patterns and behaviors as seen from the eye of a scientist. Insights into our past, with predictions of the future, are thoughtfully presented: "We have practiced death control and now we must balance it with birth control. It looks very much as thought during the next century or so, we are going to change our sexual ways at last. But if we do, it will not be because they failed, but because they succeeded too well."
Morris' explanation of the source of religion is very interesting. He notes that groups of people, and sometimes the groups are quite large, congregate regularly and display submissive responses (closing the eyes, lowering the head, clasping the hands together in a begging gesture, kneeling, kissing the ground, or even extreme prostration) that are often accompanied by wailing or chanting vocalizations. The dominant individual is usually referred to as a god. Morris traces these strange behaviors to dominant males of our far past that evolved into an all-powerful individual that could span generations. "At first sight, it is surprising that religion has been so successful, but its extreme potency is simply a measure of the strength of our fundamental biological tendency, inherited directly from our monkey and ape ancestors, to submit ourselves to an all-powerful, dominant member of the group."
Humanists often profess to believe that the "Scientific Method" is the best means to discover truth. The Naked Ape is a simple application of scientific methodology to study our species.