Verbs, Bones, and Brains: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Nature

University of Notre Dame Pess
Free sample

The last few decades have seen an unprecedented surge of empirical and philosophical research into the evolutionary history of Homo sapiens, the origins of the mind/brain, and human culture. This research and its popular interpretations have sparked heated debates about the nature of human beings and how knowledge about humans from the sciences and humanities should be properly understood. The goal of Verbs, Bones, and Brains: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Nature is to engage these themes and present current debates, discussions, and discourse for a range of readers. The contributors bring the discussion to life with key experts outlining major concepts paired with cross-disciplinary commentaries in order to create a novel approach to thinking about, and with, human natures. The intent of the contributors to this volume is not to enter into or adjudicate complex philosophical issues of an epistemological or metaphysical nature. Instead, their common concern is to set aside the rigid distinctions between biology and culture that have made such discussions problematic. First, informing their approach is an acknowledgment of the widespread disagreement about such basic metaphysical and epistemological questions as the existence of God, the nature of scientific knowledge, and the existence of essences, among other topics. Second, they try to identify and explicate the assumptions that enter into their conceptualizations of human nature. Throughout, they emphasize the importance of seeking a convergence in our views on human nature, despite metaphysical disagreements. They caution that if convergence eludes us and a common ground cannot be found, this is itself a relevant result: it would reveal to us how deeply our questions about ourselves are connected to our basic metaphysical assumptions. Instead, their focus is on how the interdisciplinary and possibly transdisciplinary conversation can be enhanced in order to identify and develop a common ground on what constitutes human nature.
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About the author

Agustín Fuentes is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.

Aku Visala is a university researcher in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Notre Dame Pess
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Published on
Jan 15, 2017
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Pages
312
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ISBN
9780268101176
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Anthropology / Physical
Social Science / Archaeology
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This content is DRM protected.
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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.

Within anthropology, as elsewhere in the human sciences, there is a tendency to divide knowledge making into two separate poles: conceptual (theory) vs. empirical (ethnography). In Theory Can Be More than It Used to Be, Dominic Boyer, James D. Faubion, and George E. Marcus argue that we need to take a step back from the assumption that we know what theory is to investigate how theory—a matter of concepts, of analytic practice, of medium of value, of professional ideology—operates in anthropology and related fields today. They have assembled a distinguished group of scholars to diagnose the state of the theory-ethnography divide in anthropology today and to explore alternative modes of analytical and pedagogical practice.Continuing the methodological insights provided in Fieldwork Is Not What It Used to Be, the contributors to this volume find that now is an optimal time to reflect on the status of theory in relation to ethnographic research in anthropology and kindred disciplines. Together they engage with questions such as, What passes for theory in anthropology and the human sciences today and why? What is theory's relation to ethnography? How are students trained to identify and respect anthropological theorization and how do they practice theoretical work in their later career stages? What theoretical experiments, languages, and institutions are available to the human sciences? Throughout, the editors and authors consider theory in practical terms, rather than as an amorphous set of ideas, an esoteric discourse of power, a norm of intellectual life, or an infinitely contestable canon of texts. A short editorial afterword explores alternative ethics and institutions of pedagogy and training in theory.Contributors: Andrea Ballestero, Rice University; Dominic Boyer, Rice University; Lisa Breglia, George Mason University; Jessica Marie Falcone, Kansas State University; James D. Faubion, Rice University; Kim Fortun, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Andreas Glaeser, University of Chicago; Cymene Howe, Rice University; Jamer Hunt, Parsons The New School for Design and the Institute of Design in Umea, Sweden; George E. Marcus, University of California, Irvine; Townsend Middleton, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Deepa S. Reddy, University of Houston–Clear Lake; Kaushik Sunder Rajan, University of Chicago
“With…evidence from recent genetic and anthropological research, [Zuk] offers a dose of paleoreality.” —Erin Wayman, Science News

We evolved to eat berries rather than bagels, to live in mud huts rather than condos, to sprint barefoot rather than play football—or did we? Are our bodies and brains truly at odds with modern life? Although it may seem as though we have barely had time to shed our hunter-gatherer legacy, biologist Marlene Zuk reveals that the story is not so simple. Popular theories about how our ancestors lived—and why we should emulate them—are often based on speculation, not scientific evidence.

Armed with a razor-sharp wit and brilliant, eye-opening research, Zuk takes us to the cutting edge of biology to show that evolution can work much faster than was previously realized, meaning that we are not biologically the same as our caveman ancestors. Contrary to what the glossy magazines would have us believe, we do not enjoy potato chips because they crunch just like the insects our forebears snacked on. And women don’t go into shoe-shopping frenzies because their prehistoric foremothers gathered resources for their clans. As Zuk compellingly argues, such beliefs incorrectly assume that we’re stuck—finished evolving—and have been for tens of thousands of years. She draws on fascinating evidence that examines everything from adults’ ability to drink milk to the texture of our ear wax to show that we’ve actually never stopped evolving. Our nostalgic visions of an ideal evolutionary past in which we ate, lived, and reproduced as we were “meant to” fail to recognize that we were never perfectly suited to our environment. Evolution is about change, and every organism is full of trade-offs.

From debunking the caveman diet to unraveling gender stereotypes, Zuk delivers an engrossing analysis of widespread paleofantasies and the scientific evidence that undermines them, all the while broadening our understanding of our origins and what they can really tell us about our present and our future.

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