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A book by Daniel Quinn.

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Evocative Evolution

  • Jun 17, 2010

  Years ago, when my 9th grade biology teacher recommended that we read Ishmael over the summer, I was perplexed as to the reason why. Wouldn't a biology teacher recommend we read something like Hawkin's Selfish Gene or Darwin's Origin of Species? It seemed odd to pick up a nonfiction book that had no obvious surface issues related with biology. 
  Of course, as teachers always do, he had a valid point to his suggestion. Ishmael centers around Ishmael, a philosophizing gorilla teacher and his pupil, a man he finds through a newspaper ad that simply reads: TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.

  The man who reads this ad in both disgust at the idea of being able to "save the world" and goes to prove the person who posted this ad wrong. Upon arrival to the location, the man finds himself in a room with only a gorilla present. After asking out loud, not expecting a response, if this gorilla is the teacher, Ishmael telepathically replies, I am the teacher. From here, Ishmael begins his lesson to the student about the big-picture actions of humans since the beginning of time and how their actions have evolved negatively with regards to the other species of the world. 

  I don't necessarily agree with some people who say this story is supposed to have an environmental tone that shows how humans are destroying the world but rather it is supposed to present a way for humans to understand that the evolutionary process which made us the most intelligent beings should not warrant us free reign of the world but rather an understanding that we still need to work in harmony with the other parts of the world. In a way, it reminds me of a quote I once heard that states "I'm not young enough to know everything."
Utilizing a form of Socratic Dialogue, Ishmael shows his student how to see past the basic assumptions he has internalized and to start to understand the world from a new perspective. 

  I recommend this book to anyone who even has a tiny bit of curiousity about the theories and ideas between human evolution/psychology and how it has affected the world around us. Although I love the book, I'm not as crazy about it as others who call it the ultimate look into how things need to be changed in the world, but it is a smartly written book that asks many thought-provoking questions. In this day and age of what seems like dwindling intelligence among the "superior" human species, it is a way to get the gears in people's heads turning and maybe revisiting ideas and concepts that we all assume as concrete and immovable. 


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June 17, 2010
Looks like a great read, thanks for the review!
More Ishmael reviews
review by . June 24, 2010
     Ishmael by Daniel Quinn is a story that explains a new paradigm of human history through the eyes of the student of a gorilla. The adventure begins when the pupil responds to Ishmael’s, the gorilla’s, newspaper add seeking a pupil with an earnest desire to save the world. Through a series of discussions, the pupil learns how to do just that.           Daniel Quinn did a fabulous job writing this book. Using a gorilla as the mentor …
review by . May 19, 2010
WITH MAN GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR GORILLA?       So posits Daniel Quinn's novel that uses Socratic dialog to discuss society, nature, culture, morality, and mythology, an questioning of humanity's relation to nature.  The ambiguous meaning of the question perfectly epitomizes the philosophical nature of the novel; is man the destroyer or conservator of nature?       Naturally, the answer is a resounding …
Quick Tip by . August 15, 2010
A highly recommended book that helps the reader to better understand modern human psychology. The method in which this message is developed is a bit strange at first, but becomes important as the novel goes on. A book that really changed the way I think about the world!
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
i want a husband like this
Quick Tip by . June 27, 2010
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
A great book that will really shake your paradigm and make you think about humans' place in the world.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
Awesome insight into modern society.
review by . June 03, 2010
It may be that Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael" is tainted for me because of the context in which I had to read it: an introductory social science class at university.  That said, I remember feeling that the idea of an ape sermonizing about the litany of deficiencies and arrogance in the human race to be very heavy-handed and rife with liberal guilt.        There are many other, superior texts out there which point out the interconnectedness of the human, animal and …
Quick Tip by . May 25, 2010
Perfect Book for a Recent Grad
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Amy ()
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Road-tripping through thetumultuous mid-twenties with a roaring V-8, soothing chai tea, awakening bottle of Jameson and a rotating door of passengers who've shared a little bit of the road with me … more
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Author: Daniel Quinn

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