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Too Smart for our Own Good


  • 60 b/w illus. 2 tables
  • Page extent: 546 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 1.07 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521757690)

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 (Stock level updated: 02:09 GMT, 28 November 2015)


We are destroying our natural environment at a constantly increasing pace, and in so doing undermining the preconditions of our own existence. Why is this so? This book reveals that our ecologically disruptive behaviour is in fact rooted in our very nature as a species. Drawing on evolution theory, biology, anthropology, archaeology, economics, environmental science and history, this book explains the ecological predicament of humankind by placing it in the context of the first scientific theory of our species' development, taking over where Darwin left off. The theory presented is applied in detail to the whole of our seven-million-year history. Due to its comprehensiveness, and in part thanks to its extensive glossary and index, this book can function as a compact encyclopædia covering the whole development of Homo sapiens. It would also suit a variety of courses in the life and social sciences. Most importantly, Too Smart for our Own Good makes evident the very core of the paradigm to which our species must shift if it is to survive. Anyone concerned about the future of humankind should read this groundbreaking work.

• This book provides the first theory of humankind's development • Provides the first classification of human instincts: into the survival, sexual and social instincts • Explains the importance of the anthropological, archaeological and economic findings of the past 50 years to understanding humankind's development


Preface; Introduction; 1. Scientific ground rules; 2. The new views in anthropology, archaeology and economics; 3. Theoretical background to the vicious circle principle; 4. The vicious circle principle of the development of humankind; 5. The development of humankind; 6. The vicious circle today; 7. … and too dumb to change; Conclusion; Glossary; Notes; References; Index.


'Dilworth's book is very interesting, well written, and based on an incredible amount of research. It provides a thoroughly novel view of extremely important issues, one which will add considerably to the discussion concerning limits to growth.' Dennis Meadows, co-author of Limits to Growth

'[Dilworth's] economics discussions are on target. I congratulate him on his very comprehensive undertaking.' Herman Daly, author of Steady-State Economics

'An impressive volume - comprehensive and scholarly. The book's central ideas are of critical importance for humankind.' Tony McMichael, author of Human Frontiers, Environments and Disease (Cambridge University Press, 2001)

'[Dilworth] writes extremely well, is widely read, and has a unique wealth of knowledge. This book is unique in its coverage and presentation; and the examples it provides are excellent.' David Pimentel, Food, Energy and Society

'… a very fine piece of work, and most welcome as we humans careen toward crisis and disaster. I hope the book gets widely discussed and perhaps even starts to change the extraordinarily ignorant, fantasy-driven media discussions of contemporary problems that seem to focus on aspects of ideology and belief to the neglect of the underlying processes that, I increasingly fear, are driving us to ruin. … I like the book very much. It is a piece of first-rate scholarship written in a clear and engaging style. … I would like to see this book widely read by a literate general audience. It could also serve as the basic text for upper division courses in human ecology in departments of anthropology, sociology, geography (and maybe even economics).' Allen W. Johnson, co-author of The Evolution of Human Societies

'Dilworth's book is an exceptionally 'good read' and is a synthesis of many important components (ecological, social, and technological) that are commonly treated in isolation from each other. Information is provided in a systematic and orderly way, and the flow from one idea to the next is almost seamless. The book also has a wealth of useful references. … is well written and should be important to anyone interested in the future of civilization and homo sapiens. Such breadth and depth in a single book are rare.' The Journal of Environmental Conservation

'I would honestly have to say that this is one of the most important books I've ever read. Let me warn you though that it will not leave you all warm and fuzzy and filled with hope, as the author's conclusion is that, along with the title, we are 'too dumb to do anything about it'. All evidence so far would indicate that he is correct, and if you read the book you will know why.' Ronnie Wright, World Change Café

'In general, Dilworth makes it clear that throughout history, population control has been integral to functioning societies, and he goes to a lot of effort to document that. He shows how we have ignored that history in the past 200 years, to the point where population is hardly mentioned, despite its being the basic cause of everything going wrong … This is an excellent, scholarly work. Cherry pick and you'll get the gist, although spending a few days on the book would be somewhat more rewarding.' Harold Welch

'Dilworth has done as much, I believe, as any one person can be expected to do in this kind of project, especially considering that he worked on it over a [fifteen]-year period without any funding or staff support. Moreover, it is possible that this invaluable kind of multidisciplinary broad thinking can only be done by one person working alone, as was the case with Charles Darwin.' Sam B. Hopkins

'Too Smart [for our Own Good] has [a] great advantage over the regular scaremongers; it presents a properly formulated scientific theory to explain why we so consistently ruin our environment in the pursuit of making a living. The book's vicious circle principle (VCP) explains why the introduction of each new technology is invariably a response to vital need rather than greed, as is commonly believed. Moreover the vital need that the advance hopes to meet has been caused by the overuse of a previous technology. This is clearly illustrated with many examples over a 100,000-year period!' Damon Dane

'This book is well written and should be important to anyone interested in the future of civilization and Homosapiens. Such breadth and depth in a single book are rare!' John Cairns, Jr, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

'… this is an important book, which effectively challenges the conventional view of the nature of human development.' Mick Common, Ecological Economics

'This is a comprehensive and thought-provoking text, describing the early evolution and historical development of humans in relation to the increasing use of natural resources and consequent environmental change … The text would undoubtedly be useful in stimulating debate, particularly in providing a comprehensive historical context in which to place current uncertainties surrounding human responses to climate change and loss of biodiversity … this book offers a fascinating overview of human history and evolution from the point of view of a specific philosophical perspective.' Area

'… an excellent resource for students … The history of evolution, the glossary, the illustrations, and the persuasive arguments backed up by the comprehensive literature review add to the quality of the book. An impressive and informative undertaking. This book is a must read for those concerned about the future of the human race and hoping for lessons from the past.' Environments

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