ROGUE PRIMATE by John A. Livingston

ROGUE PRIMATE

An Exploration of Human Domestication

KIRKUS REVIEW

 This Canadian naturalist's polemic shows humanity as abandoning a holistic natural order for a self-centered life as a rogue species. Humanity's initial step toward separating itself from wild nature was, in effect, to remake itself into the first domesticated species, argues Livingston (Environmental Studies/York University, Ontario; One Cosmic Instant, 1973, etc.). Just as domestic animals can no longer live the way their wild ancestors did, humans have interposed technology between themselves and nature. The price of this insulation from nature is high: a loss of sensory detail (especially in senses other than sight), homogenization of the human environment, and a sense of life as a competitive enterprise rather than a cooperative one. Citing the primate studies of Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall, Livingston contends that, in the natural world, aggression between members of the same species is so rare as to be pathological. He goes to some length to point out Darwin's (unconscious) adoption of the paradigms of market capitalism as the basis for his theory of natural selectioncreating a picture of nature that fit all the preconceptions of Victorian Englishmen. Livingston stresses the evidence for self-awareness in animals, removing the last barrier between ``higher'' and ``lower'' intelligence. But he also presents the evidence for a form of ``group consciousness'' in natureas in the simultaneous changes of direction of the members of a flock of birds. While Livingston takes potshots at a wide array of easy targets (colonialism, vivisection, fur hunters), he saves the heavy ammo for ``zero-order humanism'': the belief that any action can be justified if it serves the ultimate good of humanity. This way lies the destruction of what remains of the natural world. The problems Livingston sees are real enough, and he articulates them powerfully; but at the end, he has no answers other than somehow getting back in touch with our innate ``wildness.''

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-57098-058-6
Page count: 228pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1995




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