• The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve

  • By: Steve Stewart-Williams
  • Narrated by: Tom Lawrence
  • Length: 15 hrs and 32 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (189 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Ape That Understood the Universe is the story of the strangest animal in the world: the human animal. It opens with a question: How would an alien scientist view our species? What would it make of our sex differences, our sexual behavior, our child-rearing patterns, our moral codes, our religions, our languages, and science? The book tackles these issues by drawing on ideas from two major schools of thought: evolutionary psychology and cultural evolutionary theory.

The guiding assumption is that humans are animals, and that like all animals, we evolved to pass on our genes. At some point, however, we also evolved the capacity for culture - and from that moment, culture began evolving in its own right. This transformed us from a mere ape into an ape capable of reshaping the planet, travelling to other worlds, and understanding the vast universe of which we're but a tiny, fleeting fragment.

©2018 Steve Stewart-Williams (P)2019 Steve Stewart-Williams

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Seven Evolutionary Theories U Can't Say On Campus

So this book will obviously ruffle some feathers. And the writer acknowledges that. He explains throughout the book how his science is misrepresented by the general public, by detractors to the evolutionary psychological sciencies, etc. That out of the way this is an fascinating book about our species and the sexual dichotomy and hard-wiring we all have without realizing it. Looking at our species from an alien perspective isn't new, and the way the writer imagines a theoretical alien species is painfully typical, but when the known science is attached to the information it makes for an interesting self reflection of our species. There are some 'one might suppose' moments which can mostly be chalked up to pure speculation being professed as proven science, but he does go out of his way to say when something isn't known or is still being studied. I think most people will like this book and the people that will have a problem with it will stop an hour into it and explain everything they think the book 'must have been about'. It's similar to the book from a few years ago "Who We Are and How We Got Here" in how others could misuse the information (or use a misunderstood/falsified version of the data) for whatever agendas or manifestos they desperately want to be true.

So are we the first animal on Earth to have no prior wiring whatsoever, a being of pure free will? Or are we preprogrammed just following a script? Or something else? Give the book a listen and see what you think.

4 people found this helpful

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  • K
  • 02-17-20

Wrong chapters.

The chapters are completely wrong. chapter 4 is strangely in the section "Chapter 6". I dont understand why someone wouldn't review it before posting it.

3 people found this helpful

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wonderful!

great read! could definitely read again and again.
would recommend this book to anyone interested in such subjects

2 people found this helpful

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FANTASTIC!! EVERYONE SHOULD EAR/READ

No more dogmas after reading this one! What began as a simply exercise of imagination, turned out to be so much more! Thank so much to Steve Stewart-Williams for this book!

4 people found this helpful

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powerful ideas brillliantly communicated

this is exactly what I was looking for: a starting point for memetics and evolutionary psichology that is both accessible and engaging

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Long and thorough

At times a tad tedious ("in other words" is a dead giveaway), the arguments are nevertheless thorough and mostly convincing. I found the extraterrestrial approach somewhat silly, but it might just be me, and the catchy song at the end almost made up for it. Recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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Very Interesting!

This may be the best thing to come out of Cambridge since Douglas Adams.

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  • KA
  • 06-14-22

excellent review of meme gene co evolution

must read for any one interested to learn how we became humans. a very insightful journey in to our ancient past to explain our complex present

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So cool!!

Went down so smooth. A fine balance of solid pertinent info that isn't muddled, oversimplified or overly expert. loved it!

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Sophomoric

The reasoning, explanation and thought process seemed sophomoric and sometimes silly. When describing humans the Spock-like alien matter-of-factly said the baby was”cute”. How did he as an alien know what cute was to him and to the humans. It was out of character to use that term. The structure of sentences and explanations were difficult listen to and didn’t flow easily. While the idea for this book was creative it missed its mark in emplaning the concept.

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  • Eoin Brennan
  • 07-29-22

explains a lot.... nearly everything

really interesting.. brilliant...
author is convincing and never shoves the information down your throat
but there is a lot of information. I will be going again from the start.

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  • Lee
  • 06-29-22

Wow...

Anyone harbouring doubts as to evolutionary theory should hear this; those that retain those same doubts after listening to this should give up upon and all further research, because nothing short of divine intervention will sway them 😏

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  • Bryan
  • 05-31-22

Great if you haven’t read the books referenced

There isn’t anything new in here but if you have read the main material referenced (the selfish gene, the rational optimist, anything by David Buss) then this is a fantastic filter of those ideas. If I read it 6 years ago, it would be a 5 star review but I didn’t actually learn anything new but that’s not the authors fault. The book is very well written and is much more digestible than something like The Selfish Gene for example.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-08-22

Complex Biology & Memology for Dummies

If, like me, you are a layman who does badly with scientific techno babble but still wants to know what's up, this audio book is fantastic.