From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2003:
Monster of God:
The man-eating predator in the
jungles of history and the mind
by David Quammen
W.W. Norton & Co. (500 5th Ave., New York, NY 10110), 2003.
384 pages, hardcover. $26.95.
Certain to be classified by most librarians as “natural
history,” Monster of God has already been mistaken by many reviewers
as a screed in defense of “sustainable use.”
Monster of God is actually a book mostly about faith,
exploring the influence of the human evolutionary role as prey upon
concepts of religion, and of the more recent human ascendance as a
top predator on our ideas about conservation.
David Quammen is profoundly skeptical that humans and
predators capable of eating us are capable of coexisting for longer
than another 150 years. He presents a strong circumstantial case
that the protohuman concept of God evolved as a psychological
response to swift and seemingly random predator strikes. Sacrifice,
Quammen suggests, began as appeasement of predators, and in some
remote places continues as such.
Others have written extensively about the emergence of
sacrifice as the ritual sustenance of a learned priestly class,
coinciding with the rise of animal husbandry, and have discussed
especially the role of religion in rationalizing slaughter. Without
taking much note of of this, Quammen explores the role of the
earliest monarchs in recorded history as lion-slayers, pointing out
that the dawn of civilization coincided with the emergence of humans
as quasi-apex predators, able at last to do with weapons what
natural predators do with tooth and claw.