The idea of a missing link between humanity and our animal ancestors predates evolution and popular science and actually has religious roots in the deist concept of the Great Chain of Being. Yet, the metaphor has lodged itself in the contemporary imagination, and new fossil discoveries are often hailed in headlines as revealing the elusive transitional step, the moment when we stopped being “animal” and started being “human.” In The Accidental Species, Henry Gee, longtime paleontology editor at Nature, takes aim at this misleading notion, arguing that it reflects a profound misunderstanding of how evolution works and, when applied to the evolution of our own species, supports mistaken ideas about our own place in the universe.
Gee presents a robust and stark challenge to our tendency to see ourselves as the acme of creation. Far from being a quirk of religious fundamentalism, human exceptionalism, Gee argues, is an error that also infects scientific thought. Touring the many features of human beings that have recurrently been used to distinguish us from the rest of the animal world, Gee shows that our evolutionary outcome is one possibility among many, one that owes more to chance than to an organized progression to supremacy. He starts with bipedality, which he shows could have arisen entirely by accident, as a by-product of sexual selection, moves on to technology, large brain size, intelligence, language, and, finally, sentience. He reveals each of these attributes to be alive and well throughout the animal world—they are not, indeed, unique to our species.
The Accidental Species combines Gee’s firsthand experience on the editorial side of many incredible paleontological findings with healthy skepticism and humor to create a book that aims to overturn popular thinking on human evolution—the key is not what’s missing, but how we’re linked.
When did the human species turn against the planet that we depend on for survival? Human industry and consumption of resources have altered the climate, polluted the water and soil, destroyed ecosystems, and rendered many species extinct, vastly increasing the likelihood of an ecological catastrophe. How did humankind come to rule nature to such an extent? To regard the planet’s resources and creatures as ours for the taking? To find ourselves on a seemingly relentless path toward ecocide?
In After Eden, Kirkpatrick Sale answers these questions in a radically new way. Integrating research in paleontology, archaeology, and anthropology, he points to the beginning of big-game hunting as the origin of Homo sapiens’ estrangement from the natural world. Sale contends that a new, recognizably modern human culture based on the hunting of large animals developed in Africa some 70,000 years ago in response to a fierce plunge in worldwide temperature triggered by an enormous volcanic explosion in Asia. Tracing the migration of populations and the development of hunting thousands of years forward in time, he shows that hunting became increasingly adversarial in relation to the environment as people fought over scarce prey during Europe’s glacial period between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. By the end of that era, humans’ idea that they were the superior species on the planet, free to exploit other species toward their own ends, was well established.
After Eden is a sobering tale, but not one without hope. Sale asserts that Homo erectus, the variation of the hominid species that preceded Homo sapiens and survived for nearly two million years, did not attempt to dominate the environment. He contends that vestiges of this more ecologically sound way of life exist today—in some tribal societies, in the central teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, and in the core principles of the worldwide environmental movement—offering redemptive possibilities for ourselves and for the planet.
Apes and Human Evolution
Russell H. Tuttle Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress QL737.P9T86 2014 | Dewey Decimal 599.938
In this masterwork, Russell H. Tuttle synthesizes a vast research literature in primate evolution and behavior to explain how apes and humans evolved in relation to one another, and why humans became a bipedal, tool-making, culture-inventing species distinct from other hominoids. Along the way, he refutes the theory that men are essentially killer apes--sophisticated but instinctively aggressive, destructive beings.
Situating humans in a broad context, Tuttle musters evidence from morphology and recent fossil discoveries to reveal what early primates ate, where they slept, how they learned to walk upright, how brain and hand anatomy evolved simultaneously, and what else happened evolutionarily to cause humans to diverge from their closest relatives. Despite our genomic similarities with bonobos, chimpanzees, and gorillas, humans are unique among primates in occupying a symbolic niche of values and beliefs based on symbolically mediated cognitive processes. Although apes exhibit behaviors that strongly suggest they can think, salient elements of human culture--speech, mating proscriptions, kinship structures, and moral codes--are symbolic systems that are not manifest among apes. This encylopedic volume is both a milestone in primatological research and a critique of what is known and yet to be discovered about human and ape potential.
In Banquet at Delmonico’s, Barry Werth draws readers inside the circle of intellectuals, scientists, politicians, businessmen, and clergymen who brought Charles Darwin’s controversial ideas to post-Civil-War America. Each chapter is dedicated to a crucial intellectual encounter, culminating with an exclusive farewell dinner held in English philosopher Herbert Spencer’s honor at the venerable New York restaurant Delmonico’s in 1882. In this thought-provoking and nuanced account, Werth firmly situates social Darwinism in the context of the Gilded Age. Banquet at Delmonico’s is social history at its finest.
We think of medical science and doctors as focused on treating conditions—whether it’s a cough or an aching back. But the sicknesses and complaints that cause us to seek medical attention actually have deeper origins than the superficial germs and behaviors we regularly fault. In fact, as Jeremy Taylor shows in Body by Darwin, we can trace the roots of many medical conditions through our evolutionary history, revealing what has made us susceptible to certain illnesses and ailments over time and how we can use that knowledge to help us treat or prevent problems in the future.
In Body by Darwin, Taylor examines the evolutionary origins of some of our most common and serious health issues. To begin, he looks at the hygiene hypothesis, which argues that our obsession with anti-bacterial cleanliness, particularly at a young age, may be making us more vulnerable to autoimmune and allergic diseases. He also discusses diseases of the eye, the medical consequences of bipedalism as they relate to all those aches and pains in our backs and knees, the rise of Alzheimer’s disease, and how cancers become so malignant that they kill us despite the toxic chemotherapy we throw at them. Taylor explains why it helps to think about heart disease in relation to the demands of an ever-growing, dense, muscular pump that requires increasing amounts of nutrients, and he discusses how walking upright and giving birth to ever larger babies led to a problematic compromise in the design of the female spine and pelvis. Throughout, he not only explores the impact of evolution on human form and function, but he integrates science with stories from actual patients and doctors, closely examining the implications for our health.
As Taylor shows, evolutionary medicine allows us think about the human body and its adaptations in a completely new and productive way. By exploring how our body’s performance is shaped by its past, Body by Darwin draws powerful connections between our ancient human history and the future of potential medical advances that can harness this knowledge.
Bones of Contention is a behind-the-scenes look at the search for human origins. Analyzing how the biases and preconceptions of paleoanthropologists shaped their work, Roger Lewin's detective stories about the discovery of Neanderthal Man, the Taung Child, Lucy, and other major fossils provide insight into this most subjective of scientific endeavors. The new afterword looks at ways in which paleoanthropology, while becoming more scientific
in many ways, remains contentious.
"[An] un-put-downable book."—John Gribbon, Times Educational Supplement
"Not just another 'stones and bones' account of human evolution. It is Lewin's thesis, amply demonstrated, that paleoanthropology is the most subjective of sciences because it engages the emotions of virtually everyone; and since the evidence is scrappy, interpretation is everything. . . . A splendid, stirring, and eye-opening account, to be devoured."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"[Lewin shows] 'how very unscientific the process of scientific inquiry can be.'. . . Bones of Contention is . . . serious intellectual history."—Edward Dolnick, Wall Street Journal
"[Lewin] documents his thesis in persuasive detail. . . . The reader is carried along by the power of Mr. Lewin's reporting."—Robert Wright, New York Times Book Review
One of the most shocking realizations of all time has slowly been dawning on us: the earth's climate does great flip-flops every few thousand years, and with breathtaking speed. In just a few years, the climate suddenly cools worldwide. With only half the rainfall, severe dust storms whirl across vast areas. Lightning strikes ignite giant forest fires. For most mammals, including our ancestors, populations crash.
Our ancestors lived through hundreds of such abrupt episodes since the more gradual Ice Ages began two and a half million years ago—but abrupt cooling produced a population bottleneck each time, one that eliminated most of their relatives. We are the improbable descendants of those who survived—and later thrived.
William H. Calvin's marvelous A Brain for All Seasons argues that such cycles of cool, crash, and burn powered the pump for the enormous increase in brain size and complexity in human beings. Driven by the imperative to adapt within a generation to "whiplash" climate changes where only grass did well for a while, our ancestors learned to cooperate and innovate in hunting large grazing animals.
Calvin's book is structured as a travelogue that takes us around the globe and back in time. Beginning at Darwin's home in England, Calvin sits under an oak tree and muses on what controls the speed of evolutionary "progress." The Kalahari desert and the Sterkfontein caves in South Africa serve as the backdrop for a discussion of our ancestors' changing diets. A drought-shrunken lake in Kenya shows how grassy mudflats become great magnets for grazing animals. And in Copenhagen, we learn what ice cores have told us about abrupt jumps in past climates.
Perhaps the most dramatic discovery of all, though, awaits us as we fly with Calvin over the Gulf Stream and Greenland: global warming caused by human-made pollution could paradoxically trigger another sudden episode of global cooling. Because of the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the oceanic "conveyor belt" that sends warmer waters into the North Atlantic could abruptly shut down. If that happens again, much of the Earth could be plunged into a deep chill within a few years. Europe would become as cold and dry as Siberia. Agriculture could not adapt quickly enough to avoid worldwide famines and wars over the dwindling food supplies—a crash from which it would take us many centuries to recover.
With this warning, Calvin connects us directly to evolution and the surprises it holds. Highly illustrated, conversational, and learned, A Brain for All Seasons is a fascinating view of where we came from, and where we're going.
Knowledge of wild chimpanzees has expanded dramatically. This volume, edited by Martin Muller, Richard Wrangham, and David Pilbeam, brings together scientists who are leading a revolution to discover and explain human uniqueness, by studying our closest living relatives. Their conclusions may transform our understanding of human evolution.
Scientific breakthroughs have led us to a point where soon we will be able to make specific choices about the genetic makeup of our offspring. In fact, this reality has arrived—and it is only a matter of time before the technology becomes widespread.
Much like past arguments about stem-cell research, the coming debate over these reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) will be both political and, for many people, religious. In order to understand how the debate will play out in the United States, John H. Evans conducted the first in-depth study of the claims made about RGTs by religious people from across the political spectrum, and Contested Reproduction is the stimulating result.
Some of the opinions Evans documents are familiar, but others—such as the idea that certain genetic conditions produce a “meaningful suffering” that is, ultimately, desirable—provide a fascinating glimpse of religious reactions to cutting-edge science. Not surprisingly, Evans discovers that for many people opinion on the issue closely relates to their feelings about abortion, but he also finds a shared moral language that offers a way around the unproductive polarization of the abortion debate and other culture-war concerns. Admirably evenhanded, Contested Reproduction is a prescient, profound look into the future of a hot-button issue.
Flannery and Marcus demonstrate that the rise of inequality was not simply the result of population increase, food surplus, or the accumulation of valuables but resulted from conscious manipulation of the unique social logic that lies at the core of every human group. Reversing the social logic can reverse inequality, they argue, without violence.
Sacrifice—ranging from the sacrifice of virgins to circumcision to giving up what is most valued—is essential to all religions. Could there be a natural, even biological, reason for these practices? Something that might explain why religions of so many different cultures share so many rituals and concepts? In this extraordinary book, one of the world’s leading authorities on ancient religions explores the possibility of natural religion—a religious sense and practice naturally proceeding from biological imperatives.
Because they lack later refinements, the earliest religions from the Near East, Israel, Greece, and Rome may tell us a great deal about the basic properties and dynamics of religion, and it is to these cultures that Walter Burkert looks for answers. His book takes us on an intellectual adventure that begins some 5,000 years ago and plunges us into a fascinating world of divine signs and omens, offerings and sacrifices, rituals and beliefs unmitigated by modern science and sophistication. Tracing parallels between animal behavior and human religious activity, Burkert suggests natural foundations for sacrifices and rituals of escape, for the concept of guilt and punishment, for the practice of gift exchange and the notion of a cosmic hierarchy, and for the development of a system of signs for negotiating with an uncertain environment. Again and again, he returns to the present to remind us that, for all our worldliness, we are not so far removed from the first Homo religiosus.
A breathtaking journey, as entertaining as it is provocative, Creation of the Sacred brings rich new insight on religious thought past and present and raises serious questions about the ultimate reasons for, and the ultimate meaning of, human religiousness.
The rapid evolutionary development of modern Homo sapiens over the past 200,000 years is a topic of fevered interest in numerous disciplines. How did humans, while undergoing few physical changes from their first arrival, so quickly develop the capacities to transform their world? Gary Tomlinson’s Culture and the Course of Human Evolution is aimed at both scientists and humanists, and it makes the case that neither side alone can answer the most important questions about our origins.
Tomlinson offers a new model for understanding this period in our emergence, one based on analysis of advancing human cultures in an evolution that was simultaneously cultural and biological—a biocultural evolution. He places front and center the emergence of culture and the human capacities to create it, in a fashion that expands the conceptual framework of recent evolutionary theory. His wide-ranging vision encompasses arguments on the development of music, modern technology, and metaphysics. At the heart of these developments, he shows, are transformations in our species’ particular knack for signmaking. With its innovative synthesis of humanistic and scientific ideas, this book will be an essential text.
How do biological, psychological, sociological, and cultural factors combine to change societies over the long run? Boyd and Richerson explore how genetic and cultural factors interact, under the influence of evolutionary forces, to produce the diversity we see in human cultures. Using methods developed by population biologists, they propose a theory of cultural evolution that is an original and fair-minded alternative to the sociobiology debate.
There has always been a mystery surrounding Darwin: How did this quiet, respectable gentleman come to beget one of the most radical ideas in the history of human thought? It is difficult to overstate what Darwin was risking in publishing his theory of evolution. So it must have been something very powerful—a moral fire, as Desmond and Moore put it—that helped propel him. That moral fire, they argue, was a passionate hatred of slavery.
In opposition to the apologists for slavery who argued that blacks and whites had originated as separate species, Darwin believed the races belonged to the same human family. Slavery was a “sin,” and abolishing it became his “sacred cause.” By extending the abolitionists’ idea of human brotherhood to all life, Darwin developed our modern view of evolution.
Drawing on a wealth of fresh manuscripts, family letters, diaries, and even ships’ logs, Desmond and Moore argue that only by acknowledging Darwin’s abolitionist heritage can we fully understand the development of his groundbreaking ideas.
The book is divided into seven chapters. The first discusses general anthropological principles and theories pertaining to human adaptation and development in cold environments. The second outlines the environmental conditions of the specific area under study in the book.
The next two chapters focus on Neanderthal finds in the area. The following two chapters discuss the replacement of the local Neanderthal population by the Cro-magnons, and the development of their way of life in the cold Loess Steppe environment. The final chapter summarizes the discussion and is followed by an extremely valuable and extensive bibliography, more than half of which consists of non-English (primarily Russian) sources.
The Domesticated Penis challenges long-held assumptions that, in the development of Homo sapiens, form follows function alone. In this fascinating exploration, Loretta A. Cormier and Sharyn R. Jones explain the critical contribution that conscious female selection has made to the attributes of the modern male phallus.
Synthesizing a wealth of robust scholarship from the fields of archaeology, cultural anthropology, evolutionary theory, and primatology, the authors successfully dismantle the orthodox view that each part of the human anatomy has followed a vector of development along which only changes and mutations that increased functional utility were retained and extended. Their research animates our understanding of human morphology with insights about how choices early females made shaped the male reproductive anatomy.
In crisp and droll prose, Cormier's and Jones’s rigorous scholarship incorporates engaging examples and lore about the human phallus in a variety of foraging, agrarian, and contemporary cultures. By detailing how female selection in mating led directly to a matrix of anatomical attributes in the male, their findings illuminate how the penis also acquired a matrix of attributes of the imagination and mythical powers—powers to be assuaged, channeled, or deployed for building productive societies.
These analyses offer a highly persuasive alternative to moribund biological and behavioral assumptions about prehistoric alpha males as well as the distortions such assumptions give rise to in contemporary popular culture. In this anthropological tour de force, Cormier and Jones transcend reductive gender stereotypes and bring to our concepts of evolutional biomechanics an invigorating new balance and nuance.
In humanity’s more than 100,000 year history, we have evolved from vulnerable creatures clawing sustenance from Earth to a sophisticated global society manipulating every inch of it. In short, we have become the dominant animal. Why, then, are we creating a world that threatens our own species? What can we do to change the current trajectory toward more climate change, increased famine, and epidemic disease?
Renowned Stanford scientists Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich believe that intelligently addressing those questions depends on a clear understanding of how we evolved and how and why we’re changing the planet in ways that darken our descendants’ future. The Dominant Animal arms readers with that knowledge, tracing the interplay between environmental change and genetic and cultural evolution since the dawn of humanity. In lucid and engaging prose, they describe how Homo sapiens adapted to their surroundings, eventually developing the vibrant cultures, vast scientific knowledge, and technological wizardry we know today.
But the Ehrlichs also explore the flip side of this triumphant story of innovation and conquest. As we clear forests to raise crops and build cities, lace the continents with highways, and create chemicals never before seen in nature, we may be undermining our own supremacy. The threats of environmental damage are clear from the daily headlines, but the outcome is far from destined. Humanity can again adapt—if we learn from our evolutionary past.
Those lessons are crystallized in The Dominant Animal. Tackling the fundamental challenge of the human predicament, Paul and Anne Ehrlich offer a vivid and unique exploration of our origins, our evolution, and our future.
For 200 million years before humans developed a capacity to reason, the emotional centers of the brain were hard at work. Stephen Asma and Rami Gabriel help us understand the evolution of the mind by exploring this more primal capability that we share with other animals: the power to feel, which is the root of so much that makes us uniquely human.
The Evidence for Evolution
Alan R. Rogers University of Chicago Press, 2011 Library of Congress QH361.R64 2011 | Dewey Decimal 576.8
According to polling data, most Americans doubt that evolution is a real phenomenon. And it’s no wonder that so many are skeptical: many of today’s biology courses and textbooks dwell on the mechanisms of evolution—natural selection, genetic drift, and gene flow—but say little about the evidence that evolution happens at all. How do we know that species change? Has there really been enough time for evolution to operate?
With The Evidence for Evolution, Alan R. Rogers provides an elegant, straightforward text that details the evidence for evolution. Rogers covers different levels of evolution, from within-species changes, which are much less challenging to see and believe, to much larger ones, say, from fish to amphibian, or from land mammal to whale. For each case, he supplies numerous lines of evidence to illustrate the changes, including fossils, DNA, and radioactive isotopes. His comprehensive treatment stresses recent advances in knowledge but also recounts the give and take between skeptical scientists who first asked “how can we be sure” and then marshaled scientific evidence to attain certainty. The Evidence for Evolution is a valuable addition to the literature on evolution and will be essential to introductory courses in the life sciences.
A comprehensive survey of the evolutionary science of human sexual behavior, Evolution and Human Sexual Behavior invites us to imagine human sex from the vantage point of our primate cousins, in order to underscore the role of evolution in shaping all that happens, biologically and behaviorally, when romantic passions are aroused.
Dan Lieberman has written an innovative, exhaustively researched and carefully argued book dealing with the evolution of the human head. In it he addresses three interrelated questions. First, why does the human head look the way it does? Second, why did these transformations occur? And third, how is something as complex and vital as the head so variable and evolvable? This book addresses these questions in three sections. The first set of chapters review how human and ape heads grow, both in terms of individual parts (organs and regions) and as an integrated whole. The second section reviews how the head performs its major functions: housing the brain, chewing, swallowing, breathing, vocalizing, thermoregulating, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and balancing during locomotion. The final set of chapters review the fossil evidence for major transformations of the head during human evolution from the divergence of the human and ape lineages through the origins of Homo sapiens. These chapters use developmental and functional insights from the first two sections to speculate on the developmental and selective bases for these transformations.
Creation versus evolution: What seems like a cultural crisis of our day, played out in courtrooms and classrooms across the county, is in fact part of a larger story reaching back through the centuries. The views of both evolutionists and creationists originated as inventions of the Enlightenment—two opposed but closely related responses to a loss of religious faith in the Western world.
In his latest book, Michael Ruse, a preeminent authority on Darwinian evolutionary thought and a leading participant in the ongoing debate, uncovers surprising similarities between evolutionist and creationist thinking. Exploring the underlying philosophical commitments of evolutionists, he reveals that those most hostile to religion are just as evangelical as their fundamentalist opponents. But more crucially, and reaching beyond the biblical issues at stake, he demonstrates that these two diametrically opposed ideologies have, since the Enlightenment, engaged in a struggle for the privilege of defining human origins, moral values, and the nature of reality.
Highlighting modern-day partisans as divergent as Richard Dawkins and Left Behind authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Ruse’s bracing book takes on the assumptions of controversialists of every stripe and belief and offers to all a new and productive way of understanding this unifying, if often bitter, quest.
As Peter Gray and Kermyt Anderson reveal, fatherhood actually alters a man’s sexuality, rewires his brain, and changes his hormonal profile. This book presents a uniquely detailed picture of how being a parent fits with men’s broader social and work lives, how fatherhood evolved, and how it differs across cultures and through time.
"Many topics of interest to health professionals, such as vegetarianism, dietary fibers, lactose intolerance, favism, cannibalism and changes in nutritional status wrought by the decline of hunter-gathering and the rise of horticulture. Many sections will appeal to the general reader."
--Journal of Applied Nutrition
The old adage "you are what you eat" may be more accurate than anyone could have ever imagined. This unprecedented interdisciplinary effort by scholars in primatology, biological anthropology, archaeology, nutrition, psychology, agricultural economics, and cultural anthropology suggests that there is a systematic theory behind why humans eat what they eat.
Includes discussions ranging in time from prehistory to the present, and from the most simple societies to the most complex, including South American Indian groups, African hunter-gatherers, and countries such as India, Bangladesh, Peru, and Mexico.
"Exceptionally well-edited. High quality individual papers are of comparable scope and are uniformly well referenced and detailed in presentation of supporting data Introductory and concluding chapters as well as section overviews create an integrated whole."
--Science Books & Films
"Should be of value to all nutrition educators who have an interest in the social, cultural, and international aspects of foods and nutrition."
--Journal of Nutrition Education
Vegan, low fat, low carb, slow carb: Every diet seems to promise a one-size-fits-all solution to health. But they ignore the diversity of human genes and how they interact with what we eat.
In Food, Genes, and Culture, renowned ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan shows why the perfect diet for one person could be disastrous for another. If your ancestors were herders in Northern Europe, milk might well provide you with important nutrients, whereas if you’re Native American, you have a higher likelihood of lactose intolerance. If your roots lie in the Greek islands, the acclaimed Mediterranean diet might save your heart; if not, all that olive oil could just give you stomach cramps.
Nabhan traces food traditions around the world, from Bali to Mexico, uncovering the links between ancestry and individual responses to food. The implications go well beyond personal taste. Today’s widespread mismatch between diet and genes is leading to serious health conditions, including a dramatic growth over the last 50 years in auto-immune and inflammatory diseases.
Readers will not only learn why diabetes is running rampant among indigenous peoples and heart disease has risen among those of northern European descent, but may find the path to their own perfect diet.
The worldwide prominence of snakes in religion, myth, and folklore underscores our deep connection to the serpent - but why, when so few of us have firsthand experience? The surprising answer, this book suggests, lies in the singular impact of snakes on primate evolution. Predation pressure from snakes, Lynne Isbell tells us, is ultimately responsible for the superior vision and large brains of primates - and for a critical aspect of human evolution.
Are humans by nature hierarchical or egalitarian? Hierarchy in the Forest addresses this question by examining the evolutionary origins of social and political behavior. Christopher Boehm, an anthropologist whose fieldwork has focused on the political arrangements of human and nonhuman primate groups, postulates that egalitarianism is in effect a hierarchy in which the weak combine forces to dominate the strong.
The political flexibility of our species is formidable: we can be quite egalitarian, we can be quite despotic. Hierarchy in the Forest traces the roots of these contradictory traits in chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, and early human societies. Boehm looks at the loose group structures of hunter-gatherers, then at tribal segmentation, and finally at present-day governments to see how these conflicting tendencies are reflected.
Hierarchy in the Forest claims new territory for biological anthropology and evolutionary biology by extending the domain of these sciences into a crucial aspect of human political and social behavior. This book will be a key document in the study of the evolutionary basis of genuine altruism.
Table of Contents:
The Question of Egalitarian Society Hierarchy and Equality Putting Down Aggressors Equality and Its Causes A Wider View of Egalitarianism The Hominoid Political Spectrum Ancestral Politics The Evolution of Egalitarian Society Paleolithic Politics and Natural Selection Ambivalence and Compromise in Human Nature
Reviews of this book: This well-written book, geared toward an audience with background in the behavioral and evolutionary sciences but accessible to a broad readership, raises two general questions: 'What is an egalitarian society?' and 'How have these societies evolved?'...[Christopher Boehm] takes the reader on a journey from the Arctic to the Americas, from Australia to Africa, in search of hunter-gatherer and tribal societies that emanate the egalitarian ethos--one that promotes generosity, altruism and sharing but forbids upstartism, aggression and egoism. Throughout this journey, Boehm tantalizes the reader with vivid anthropological accounts of ridicule, criticism, ostracism and even execution--prevalent tactics used by subordinates in egalitarian societies to level the social playing field...Hierarchy in the Forest is an interesting and thought-provoking book that is surely an important contribution to perspectives on human sociality and politics. --Ryan Earley, American Scientist
Reviews of this book: Combing an exhaustive ethnographic survey of human societies from groups of hunter-gatherers to contemporary residents of the Balkans with a detailed analysis of the behavioral attributes of non-human primates (chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos), Boehm focuses on whether humans are hierarchical or egalitarian by nature...[Boehm's hypotheses] are invariably intriguing and well documented...He raises topics of wide interest and his book should get attention. --Publishers Weekly
Boehm has been the first to look at egalitarianism with a cold, unromantic eye. He sees it as a victory over hierarchical tendencies, which are equally marked in our species. I would predict that his insightful examination will reverberate within anthropology and the social sciences as well as among biologists interested in the evolution of social systems. --Frans de Waal, Emory University
Hierarchy in the Forest is an original and stimulating contribution to thinking about the origins of egalitarianism. I personally find Boehm's ideas convincing, but whether one agrees with him or not, he has formulated his hypotheses in such a way that this book is likely to set the terms of the discussion for the forseeable future. --Barbara Smuts, University of Michigan
The most unique and interesting feature of this clear, well written book is the way Boehm links the study of nonhuman primates (particularly chimpanzees) to traditional concepts of political anthropology. As a political scientist, I was intrigued by Boehm's suggestion that democracy, both ancient and modern, could be understood as the expression of the same natural dispositions that support the egalitarianism of nomadic bands and sedentary tribes. I expect that many scholars in biology, anthropology, and the social sciences would learn from this stimulating book. Even those who disagree with Boehm's arguments are likely to be provoked in instructive ways. --Larry Arnhart, Northern Illinois University
Chris Boehm boldly and cogently attacks a whole orthodoxy in anthropology which sees hunter-gatherer 'egalitarianism' as somehow the basic form of human society. No praise can be too high for Boehm's brilliant and courageous book. --Robin Fox, Rutgers University
A number of important developments and discoveries across the British Empire's imperial landscape during the nineteenth century invited new questions about human ancestry. The rise of secularism and scientific naturalism; new evidence, such as skeletal and archaeological remains; and European encounters with different people all over the world challenged the existing harmony between science and religion and threatened traditional biblical ideas about special creation and the timeline of human history. Advances in print culture and voyages of exploration also provided researchers with a wealth of material that contributed to their investigations into humanity’s past.
Historicizing Humans takes a critical approach to nineteenth-century human history, as the contributors consider how these histories were shaped by the colonial world, and for various scientific, religious, and sociopolitical purposes. This volume highlights the underlying questions and shared assumptions that emerged as various human developmental theories competed for dominance throughout the British Empire.
From his groundbreaking Violence and the Sacred and Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, René Girard’s mimetic theory is presented as elucidating “the origins of culture.” He posits that archaic religion (or “the sacred”), particularly in its dynamics of sacrifice and ritual, is a neglected and major key to unlocking the enigma of “how we became human.” French philosopher of science Michel Serres states that Girard’s theory provides a Darwinian theory of culture because it “proposes a dynamic, shows an evolution and gives a universal explanation.” This major claim has, however, remained underscrutinized by scholars working on Girard’s theory, and it is mostly overlooked within the natural and social sciences. Joining disciplinary worlds, this book aims to explore this ambitious claim, invoking viewpoints as diverse as evolutionary culture theory, cultural anthropology, archaeology, cognitive psychology, ethology, and philosophy. The contributors provide major evidence in favor of Girard’s hypothesis. Equally, Girard’s theory is presented as having the potential to become for the human and social sciences something akin to the integrating framework that present-day biological science owes to Darwin—something compatible with it and complementary to it in accounting for the still remarkably little understood phenomenon of human emergence.
Since its publication in 1989, The Human Career has proved to be an indispensable tool in teaching human origins. This substantially revised third edition retains Richard G. Klein’s innovative approach while showing how cumulative discoveries and analyses over the past ten years have significantly refined our knowledge of human evolution.
Klein chronicles the evolution of people from the earliest primates through the emergence of fully modern humans within the past 200,000 years. His comprehensive treatment stresses recent advances in knowledge, including, for example, ever more abundant evidence that fully modern humans originated in Africa and spread from there, replacing the Neanderthals in Europe and equally archaic people in Asia. With its coverage of both the fossil record and the archaeological record over the 2.5 million years for which both are available, The Human Career demonstrates that human morphology and behavior evolved together. Throughout the book, Klein presents evidence for alternative points of view, but does not hesitate to make his own position clear.
In addition to outlining the broad pattern of human evolution, The Human Career details the kinds of data that support it. For the third edition, Klein has added numerous tables and a fresh citation system designed to enhance readability, especially for students. He has also included more than fifty new illustrations to help lay readers grasp the fossils, artifacts, and other discoveries on which specialists rely. With abundant references and hundreds of images, charts, and diagrams, this new edition is unparalleled in its usefulness for teaching human evolution.
The Bell Curve, The Moral Animal, The Selfish Gene -- these and a host of other books and articles have made a seemingly overwhelming case that our genes determine our behavior. Now, in a new book that is sure to stir controversy, one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists shows why most of those claims of genetic destiny cannot be true, and explains how the arguments often stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution itself. "You can't change human nature," the saying goes. But you can, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich shows us in Human Natures, and in fact, evolution is the story of those changing natures. He makes a compelling case that "human nature" is not a single, unitary entity, but is as diverse as humanity itself, and that changes in culture and other environmental variations play as much of a role in human evolution as genetic changes. We simply don't have enough genes to specify behavior at the level that is often asserted. Never has knowledge of our evolutionary past been more important to our future. Developing intelligent strategies for antibiotic use, pest control, biodiversity protection -- and even for establishing more equitable social arrangements -- all depend on understanding evolution and how it works. A hallmark of Human Natures is the author's ability to convey lucidly that understanding in the course of presenting an engrossing history of our species. Using personal anecdote, vivid example, and stimulating narrative, Ehrlich guides us through the thicket of controversies over what science can and cannot say about the influence of our evolutionary past on everything from race to religion, from sexual orientation to economic development. A major work of synthesis and scholarship, Human Natures gives us the fruit of a lifetime's thought and research on evolution and environment by a modern master of scientific understanding. Ehrlich's innovative vision lights the way to a fresh view of human nature and evolution, bringing insight and clarity to urgent questions of where we are as a species, and where we may be headed.
The trouble with innovation is that it can seldom be undone. We invent technologies to modify our environments in immediately beneficial ways, but the long-term consequences can be costly. From obesity to antibiotic resistance, we pay for our successes. Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson explore what happens when our creations lead nature to bite back.
Humans domesticated dogs soon after Neanderthals began to disappear. This alliance between two predator species, Pat Shipman hypothesizes, made possible unprecedented success in hunting large Ice Age mammals—a distinct and ultimately decisive advantage for human invaders at a time when climate change made both humans and Neanderthals vulnerable.
"'Garniss, lend me your knife for a second, will you,' I whispered." So begins Java Man, the inside story of how one discovery—a human skull found on the island of Java—by two geologists shook the foundations of science. By uncovering new evidence about the hominid known as Java man, Carl C. Swisher and Garniss H. Curtis were able to date his fossil remains at 1.7 million years, an age that stunned the scientific community because it pushed back the time when humans migrating out of Africa first reached Eurasia by nearly one million years. Cowritten by the popular science writer Roger Lewin, this is a gripping and informative account of the discovery that breathed new life into the human origins debate.
Originally published by Scribner
2000 ISBN: 0-684-80000-4
Kinship to Mastery is a fascinating and accessible exploration of the notion of biophilia -- the idea that humans, having evolved with the rest of creation, possess a biologically based attraction to nature and exhibit an innate affinity for life and lifelike processes. Stephen R. Kellert sets forth the idea that people exhibit different expressions of biophilia in different contexts, and demonstrates how our quality of life in the largest sense is dependent upon the richness of our connections with nature.
While the natural world provides us with material necessities -- food, clothing, medicine, clean air, pure water -- it just as importantly plays a key role in other aspects of our lives, including intellectual capacity, emotional bonding, aesthetic attraction, creativity, imagination, and even the recognition of a just and purposeful existence. As Kellert explains, each expression of biophilia shows how our physical, material, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual well-being is to a great extent dependent on our relationships with the natural world that surrounds us.
Kinship to Mastery is a thought-provoking examination of a concept that, while not widely known, has a significant and direct effect on the lives of people everywhere. Because the full expression of biophilia is integral to our overall health, our ongoing destruction of the environment could have far more serious consequences than many people think. In a readable and compelling style, Kellert describes and explains the concept of biophilia, and demonstrates to a general audience the wide-ranging implications of environmental degradation.
Kinship to Mastery continues the exploration of biophilia begun with Edward O. Wilson's landmark book Biophilia (Harvard University Press, 1984) and followed by The Biophilia Hypothesis (Island Press, 1993), co-edited by Wilson and Kellert, which brought together some of the most creative scientists of our time to explore Wilson's theory in depth.
Language and Species
Derek Bickerton University of Chicago Press, 1990 Library of Congress P116.B52 1990 | Dewey Decimal 401
Language and Species presents the most detailed and well-documented scenario to date of the origins of language. Drawing on "living linguistic fossils" such as "ape talk," the "two-word" stage of small children, and pidgin languages, and on recent discoveries in paleoanthropology, Bickerton shows how a primitive "protolanguage" could have offered Homo erectus a novel ecological niche. He goes on to demonstrate how this protolanguage could have developed into the languages we speak today.
"You are drawn into [Bickerton's] appreciation of the dominant role language plays not only in what we say, but in what we think and, therefore, what we are."—Robert Wright, New York Times Book Review
"The evolution of language is a fascinating topic, and Bickerton's Language and Species is the best introduction we have."—John C. Marshall, Nature
All humans share three origins: the beginning of our individual lives, the appearance of life on Earth, and the formation of our planetary home. Wallace Arthur combines embryological, evolutionary, and cosmological perspectives to tell the story of life on Earth and its potential to exist elsewhere in the universe.
The Lives of the Brain
John S. Allen Harvard University Press, 2009 Library of Congress QP376.A4225 2009 | Dewey Decimal 612.82
Though we have other distinguishing characteristics (walking on two legs, for instance, and relative hairlessness), the brain and the behavior it produces are what truly set us apart from the other apes and primates. And how this three-pound organ composed of water, fat, and protein turned a mammal species into the dominant animal on earth today is the story John S. Allen seeks to tell.
Adam S. Wilkins Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress GN281.4.W53 2017 | Dewey Decimal 599.938
Adam Wilkins draws on studies of nonhuman species, the fossil record, genetics, and molecular and developmental biology to reconstruct the evolution of the human face and its inextricable link to our species’ evolving social complexity. The neural and muscular mechanisms that allowed facial expressions also led to speech, which is unique to humans.
Men among the Mammoths
A. Bowdoin Van Riper University of Chicago Press, 1993 Library of Congress GN805.V36 1993 | Dewey Decimal 936.1
Van Riper recreates scientists' first arguments for human antiquity, placing these debates within the context of Victorian science. Using field notes, scientific reports, and previously unpublished letters, he shows also how the study of human prehistory brought together geologists, archeologists, and anthropologists in their first interdisciplinary scientific effort. A vivid account of how the discovery of human antiquity forced Victorians to redefine their assumptions about human evolution and the relationship of science to Christianity.
More than Nature Needs
Derek Bickerton Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress P106.B468 2014 | Dewey Decimal 401.9
How did humans acquire cognitive capacities far more powerful than any hunting-and-gathering primate needed to survive? Alfred Russel Wallace, co-founder with Darwin of evolutionary theory, set humans outside normal evolution. Darwin thought use of language might have shaped our sophisticated brains, but this remained an intriguing guess--until now. Combining state-of-the-art research with forty years of writing and thinking about language origins, Derek Bickerton convincingly resolves a crucial problem that biology and the cognitive sciences have systematically avoided.
Before language or advanced cognition could be born, humans had to escape the prison of the here and now in which animal thinking and communication were both trapped. Then the brain's self-organization, triggered by words, assembled mechanisms that could link not only words but the concepts those words symbolized--a process that had to be under conscious control. Those mechanisms could be used equally for thinking and for talking, but the skeletal structures they produced were suboptimal for the hearer and had to be elaborated. Starting from humankind's remotest past, More than Nature Needs transcends nativist thesis and empiricist antithesis by presenting a revolutionary synthesis that shows specifically and in a principled way how and why the synthesis came about.
Humans are a striking anomaly in the natural world. While we are similar to other mammals in many ways, our behavior sets us apart. Our unparalleled ability to adapt has allowed us to occupy virtually every habitat on earth using an incredible variety of tools and subsistence techniques. Our societies are larger, more complex, and more cooperative than any other mammal's. In this stunning exploration of human adaptation, Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd argue that only a Darwinian theory of cultural evolution can explain these unique characteristics.
Not by Genes Alone offers a radical interpretation of human evolution, arguing that our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem from a psychology uniquely adapted to create complex culture. Richerson and Boyd illustrate here that culture is neither superorganic nor the handmaiden of the genes. Rather, it is essential to human adaptation, as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion. Drawing on work in the fields of anthropology, political science, sociology, and economics—and building their case with such fascinating examples as kayaks, corporations, clever knots, and yams that require twelve men to carry them—Richerson and Boyd convincingly demonstrate that culture and biology are inextricably linked, and they show us how to think about their interaction in a way that yields a richer understanding of human nature.
In abandoning the nature-versus-nurture debate as fundamentally misconceived, Not by Genes Alone is a truly original and groundbreaking theory of the role of culture in evolution and a book to be reckoned with for generations to come.
“I continue to be surprised by the number of educated people (many of them biologists) who think that offering explanations for human behavior in terms of culture somehow disproves the suggestion that human behavior can be explained in Darwinian evolutionary terms. Fortunately, we now have a book to which they may be directed for enlightenment . . . . It is a book full of good sense and the kinds of intellectual rigor and clarity of writing that we have come to expect from the Boyd/Richerson stable.”—Robin Dunbar, Nature
“Not by Genes Alone is a valuable and very readable synthesis of a still embryonic but very important subject straddling the sciences and humanities.”—E. O. Wilson, Harvard University
In this gustatory tour of human history, Allen suggests that the everyday activity of eating offers deep insights into our cultural and biological heritage. Beginning with the diets of our earliest ancestors, he explores eating’s role in our evolving brain before considering our contemporary dinner plates and the preoccupations of foodies.
On Fertile Ground
Peter Thorpe ELLISON Harvard University Press, 2001 Library of Congress QP251.E43 2001 | Dewey Decimal 612.6
Reproduction is among the most basic of human biological functions, both for our distant ancestors and for ourselves, whether we live on the plains of Africa or in North American suburbs. Our reproductive biology unites us as a species, but it has also been an important engine of our evolution. In the way our bodies function today we can see both the imprint of our formative past and implications for our future. It is the infinitely subtle and endlessly dramatic story of human reproduction and its evolutionary context that Peter T. Ellison tells in On Fertile Ground.
Ranging from the latest achievements of modern fertility clinics to the lives of subsistence farmers in the rain forests of Africa, this book offers both a remarkably broad and a minutely detailed exploration of human reproduction. Ellison, a leading pioneer in the field, combines the perspectives of anthropology, stressing the range and variation of human experience; ecology, sensitive to the two-way interactions between humans and their environments; and evolutionary biology, emphasizing a functional understanding of human reproductive biology and its role in our evolutionary history.
Whether contrasting female athletes missing their periods and male athletes using anabolic steroids with Polish farm women and hunter-gatherers in Paraguay, or exploring the intricate choreography of an implanting embryo or of a nursing mother and her child, On Fertile Ground advances a rich and deeply satisfying explanation of the mechanisms by which we reproduce and the evolutionary forces behind their design.
"Endlessly absorbing and informative. It would be hard to imagine a better introduction to this most important and fascinating field.”—Bill Bryson, author of A Short History of Nearly Everything
Paleontology: A Brief History of Life is the fifth title published in the Templeton Science and Religion Series, in which scientists from a wide range of fields distill their experience and knowledge into brief tours of their respective specialties.
In this volume, Ian Tattersall, a highly esteemed figure in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, and paleontology, leads a fascinating tour of the history of life and the evolution of human beings.
Starting at the very beginning, Tattersall examines patterns of change in the biosphere over time, and the correlations of biological events with physical changes in the Earth’s environment. He introduces the complex of evolutionary processes, situates human beings in the luxuriant diversity of Life (demonstrating that however remarkable we may legitimately find ourselves to be, we are the product of the same basic forces and processes that have driven the evolutionary histories of all other creatures), and he places the origin of our extraordinary spiritual sensibilities in the context of the exaptational and emergent acquisition of symbolic cognition and thought.
Concise and yet comprehensive, historically penetrating and yet up-to-date, responsibly factual and yet engaging, Paleontology serves as the perfect entrée to science's greatest story.
Bernard Chapais Harvard University Press, 2008 Library of Congress GN487.C43 2008 | Dewey Decimal 306.83
Religion in Human Evolution
Robert N. Bellah Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress BL256.B435 2011 | Dewey Decimal 200.89009
This ambitious book probes our biological past to discover the kinds of lives that human beings have imagined were worth living. Bellah’s theory goes deep into cultural and genetic evolution to identify a range of capacities (communal dancing, storytelling, theorizing) whose emergence made religious development possible in the first millennium BCE.
Did human evolution proceed in an inevitable fashion? Can we attribute our origins solely to natural selection, or were more mischievous forces at work?
These are the questions investigated by anthropologist Jeff McKee. He argues that if we were to wind back the clock to our split from ancestral apes, evolution would proceed differently. Ever since our ancestors first stood up on two feet, natural selection undoubtedly was an important factor in guiding human evolution. But McKee shakes the standard notion that natural selection steered early hominids toward particular environmental adaptations. The fossil remains of our ancestors reveal a different story one of an adaptable hominid with no particular direction. It becomes clear that the evolutionary road to Homo sapiens was not paved solely by natural selection; indeed, there was no road to follow. There was just a dim path cut out by prehistoric coincidences and contingencies. Had any link in the evolutionary chain of events been slightly different, then our species would not be as it is today . . . or our ancestors may not have survived at all.
With equal doses of humor and awe, McKee illustrates how the chain of evolution has been riddled by chance, coincidence, and chaos. He uses familiar examples, noting that many of us exist as individuals because of chance meetings of our parents. From the present back through prehistory, chance is at the heart of our creationÑas is chaos. The classic example of chaos is the butterfly effect: a single butterfly, flapping its wings, causes a tiny change in the atmosphere, which in turn amplifies to affect the course of storms on another continent. McKee ties such examples of unpredictability to fossil evidence and computer simulations, revealing the natural coincidences that shaped our evolution. Although chaos exacted an evolutionary price by limiting the powers of natural selection, it also made us what we are. One can only conclude that human beings were neither inevitable nor probable.
The Roots Of Thinking
Maxine Sheets-Johnstone Temple University Press, 1990 Library of Congress BD450.S4355 1990 | Dewey Decimal 128
"A significant contribution to the study of early humans, this book is a philosophical anthropology.... it makes genuinely novel, and highly persuasive, claims within the field itself."
In this ground-breaking interdisciplinary study about conceptual origins, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone shows that there is an indissoluble bond between hominid thinking and hominid evolution, a bond cemented by the living body. Her thesis is concretely illustrated in eight paleoanthropological case studies ranging from tool-using/tool-making to counting, sexuality, representation, language, death, and cave art. In each case, evidence is brought forward that shows how thinking is modeled on the body-specifically, how concepts are generated by animate form and the tactile-kinesthetic experience.
Later chapters critically examine key theoretical and methodological issues posed by the thesis, Sheets-Johnstone demonstrates in detail how and why a corporeal turn in philosophy and the human sciences can yield insights no less extraordinary than those produced by the linguistic turn. In confronting the currently popular doctrine of cultural relativism and the classic Western metaphysical dualism of mind and body, she shows how pan-cultural invariants of human bodily life have been discounted and how the body itself has not been given its due. By a precise exposition of how a full-scale hermeneutics and a genetic phenomenology may be carried out with respect to conceptual origins, she shows how methodological issues are successfully resolved.
"Ranging across the humanities and sciences, this thoroughly original book challenges both traditional metaphysics and contemporary cultural relativism. In their place, it persuasively develops a phenomenonological, tactile-kinesthetic account of the origins of thinking. This philosophical anthropology could not be more timely. It replaces the 'linguistic turn' with a promising new 'corporeal turn.'"
--John J. Stuhr, University of Oregon
"This work takes a much-needed stand in the inter-disciplinary field of philosophical anthropology. Sheets-Johnstone is well-read in the history of philosophy and in contemporary anthropology. The point of view she offers is inventive, insightful, well-established, and fruitful."
--Thomas M. Alexander, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
In the early 1890s the theory of evolution gained an unexpected ally: the Edison phonograph. An amateur scientist used the new machine—one of the technological wonders of the age—to record monkey calls, play them back to the monkeys, and watch their reactions. From these soon-famous experiments he judged that he had discovered “the simian tongue,” made up of words he was beginning to translate, and containing the rudiments from which human language evolved. Yet for most of the next century, the simian tongue and the means for its study existed at the scientific periphery. Both returned to great acclaim only in the early 1980s, after a team of ethologists announced that experimental playback showed certain African monkeys to have rudimentarily meaningful calls.
Drawing on newly discovered archival sources and interviews with key scientists, Gregory Radick here reconstructs the remarkable trajectory of a technique invented and reinvented to listen in on primate communication. Richly documented and powerfully argued, The Simian Tongue charts the scientific controversies over the evolution of language from Darwin’s day to our own, resurrecting the forgotten debts of psychology, anthropology, and other behavioral sciences to the Victorian debate about the animal roots of human language.
Stone tools are the most durable and common type of archaeological remain and one of the most important sources of information about behaviors of early hominins. Stone Tools and the Evolution of Human Cognition develops methods for examining questions of cognition, demonstrating the progression of mental capabilities from early hominins to modern humans through the archaeological record.
Dating as far back as 2.5-2.7 million years ago, stone tools were used in cutting up animals, woodworking, and preparing vegetable matter. Today, lithic remains give archaeologists insight into the forethought, planning, and enhanced working memory of our early ancestors. Contributors focus on multiple ways in which archaeologists can investigate the relationship between tools and the evolving human mind-including joint attention, pattern recognition, memory usage, and the emergence of language.
Offering a wide range of approaches and diversity of place and time, the chapters address issues such as skill, social learning, technique, language, and cognition based on lithic technology. Stone Tools and the Evolution of Human Cognition will be of interest to Paleolithic archaeologists and paleoanthropologists interested in stone tool technology and cognitive evolution.
A sweeping overview of how and what humans have eaten in their long history as a species
The Story of Food in the Human Past: How What We Ate Made Us Who We Are uses case studies from recent archaeological research to tell the story of food in human prehistory. Beginning with the earliest members of our genus, Robyn E. Cutright investigates the role of food in shaping who we are as humans during the emergence of modern Homo sapiens and through major transitions in human prehistory such as the development of agriculture and the emergence of complex societies.
This fascinating study begins with a discussion of how food shaped humans in evolutionary terms by examining what makes human eating unique, the use of fire to cook, and the origins of cuisine as culture and adaptation through the example of Neandertals. The second part of the book describes how cuisine was reshaped when humans domesticated plants and animals and examines how food expressed ancient social structures and identities such as gender, class, and ethnicity. Cutright shows how food took on special meaning in feasts and religious rituals and also pays attention to the daily preparation and consumption of food as central to human society.
Cutright synthesizes recent paleoanthropological and archaeological research on ancient diet and cuisine and complements her research on daily diet, culinary practice, and special-purpose mortuary and celebratory meals in the Andes with comparative case studies from around the world to offer readers a holistic view of what humans ate in the past and what that reveals about who we are.
Darwin's theory of evolutionary descent with modification rests in part on the notion that there is heritable continuity affected by transmission between ancestor and descendant. It is precisely this continuity that allows one to trace hylogenetic histories between fossil taxa of various ages and recent taxa. Darwin was clear that were an analyst to attempt such tracings, then the anatomical characters of choice are those least influenced by natural selection, or what are today referred to as adaptively neutral traits. The transmission of these traits is influenced solely by such mechanisms as drift and not by natural selection.
The application of Darwin's theory to archaeological phenomena requires that the theory be retooled to accommodate artifacts. One aspect that has undergone this retooling concerns cultural transmission, the mechanism that affects heritable continuity between cultural phenomena. Archaeologists have long traced what is readily interpreted as heritable continuity between artifacts, but the theory underpinning their tracings is seldom explicit. Thus what have been referred to as artifacts styles underpin such tracings because styles are adaptively neutral. Other traits are referred to as functional.
In their introduction to Style, Function, Transmission, Michael O’Brien and R. Lee Lyman outline in detail the interrelations of a theory of cultural descent with modification and the concepts of drift, style, and function. The chapters in the volume specifically address the issues of selection and drift and their relation to style and function. In non-polemic presentations, contributors specify empirical implications of aspects of cultural transmission for evolutionary lineages of artifacts and then present archaeological data for those implications.
Human societies have always been characterized by a dependence on artifacts, from prehistoric stone tools to modern electronic devices. Technology responds to and affects virtually all human behavior; yet the interdependence of behavior and artifacts has never been studied intensively. Archaeologist Schiffer now draws on his discipline's familiarity with artifacts--and the processes of change they reveal--to offer new insight into the study of behavioral change. Drawing on case studies that deal with changes in architecture, ceramics and electronic technology, he emphasizes the central idea that the explanations of change must focus on the nexus of behavior and artifacts in the context of activities.
Traces of an Omnivore
Paul Shepard Island Press, 1996 Library of Congress GF49.S54 1996 | Dewey Decimal 304.2
Paul Shepard is one of the most profound and original thinkers of our time. He has helped define the field of human ecology, and has played a vital role in the development of what have come to be known as environmental philosophy, ecophilosophy, and deep ecology -- new ways of thinking about human-environment interactions that ultimately hold great promise for healing the bonds between humans and the natural world. Traces of an Omnivore presents a readable and accessible introduction to this seminal thinker and writer.
Throughout his long and distinguished career, Paul Shepard has addressed the most fundamental question of life: Who are we? An oft-repeated theme of his writing is what he sees as the central fact of our existence: that our genetic heritage, formed by three million years of hunting and gathering remains essentially unchanged. Shepard argues that this, "our wild Pleistocene genome," influences everything from human neurology and ontogeny to our pathologies, social structure, myths, and cosmology.
While Shepard's writings travel widely across the intellectual landscape, exploring topics as diverse as aesthetics, the bear, hunting, perception, agriculture, human ontogeny, history, animal rights, domestication, post-modern deconstruction, tourism, vegetarianism, the iconography of animals, the Hudson River school of painters, human ecology, theoretical psychology, and metaphysics, the fundamental importance of our genetic makeup is the predominant theme of this collection.
As Jack Turner states in an eloquent and enlightening introduction, the essays gathered here "address controversy with an intellectual courage uncommon in an age that exults the relativist, the skeptic, and the cynic. Perused with care they will reward the reader with a deepened appreciation of what we so casually denigrate as primitive life -- the only life we have in the only world we will ever know."
In tracing the history of Darwin’s accomplishment and the trajectory of evolutionary theory during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most scholars agree that Darwin introduced blind mechanism into biology, thus banishing moral values from the understanding of nature. According to the standard interpretation, the principle of survival of the fittest has rendered human behavior, including moral behavior, ultimately selfish. Few doubt that Darwinian theory, especially as construed by the master’s German disciple, Ernst Haeckel, inspired Hitler and led to Nazi atrocities.
In this collection of essays, Robert J. Richards argues that this orthodox view is wrongheaded. A close historical examination reveals that Darwin, in more traditional fashion, constructed nature with a moral spine and provided it with a goal: man as a moral creature. The book takes up many other topics—including the character of Darwin’s chief principles of natural selection and divergence, his dispute with Alfred Russel Wallace over man’s big brain, the role of language in human development, his relationship to Herbert Spencer, how much his views had in common with Haeckel’s, and the general problem of progress in evolution. Moreover, Richards takes a forceful stand on the timely issue of whether Darwin is to blame for Hitler’s atrocities. Was Hitler a Darwinian? is intellectual history at its boldest.
Why do we do things that we know are bad for us? Why do we line up to buy greasy fast food that is terrible for our bodies? Why do we take the potentially lethal risk of cosmetic surgery to have a smaller nose, bigger lips, or a less wrinkled face? Why do we risk life and limb in a fit of road rage to seek revenge against someone who merely cut us off in traffic? If these life choices are simply responses to cultural norms and pressures, then why did these particularly self-destructive patterns evolve in place of more sensible ones?
In When Culture and Biology Collide, E. O. Smith explores various aspects of behavior that are endemic to contemporary Western society, and proposes new ways of understanding and addressing these problems. Our physiology and behavior are the products of thousands of generations of evolutionary history. Every day we play out behaviors that have been part of the human experience for a very long time, yet these behaviors are played out in an arena that is far different from that in which they evolved. Smith argues that this discordance between behavior and environment sets up conditions in which there can be real conflict between our evolved psychological predispositions and the dictates of culture.
Topics such as drug abuse, depression, beauty and self-image, obesity and dieting, stress and violence, ethnic diversity, and welfare are all used as sample case studies. As with all of his case studies, Smith emphasizes the importance of not using an evolutionary explanation as an excuse for a particular pattern of behavior. Instead, he seeks to offer a perspective that will help us see ourselves more clearly and that may be useful in developing intelligent solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Smith provides ways of developing strategies for minimizing our self-destructive tendencies.