Rethinking Human Evolution

MIT Press
Free sample

Contributors from a range of disciplines consider the disconnect between human evolutionary studies and the rest of evolutionary biology.

The study of human evolution often seems to rely on scenarios and received wisdom rather than theory and methodology, with each new fossil or molecular analysis interpreted as supporting evidence for the presumed lineage of human ancestry. We might wonder why we should pursue new inquiries if we already know the story. Is paleoanthropology an evolutionary science? Are analyses of human evolution biological? In this volume, contributors from disciplines that range from paleoanthropology to philosophy of science consider the disconnect between human evolutionary studies and the rest of evolutionary biology. All of the contributors reflect on their own research and its disciplinary context, considering how their fields of inquiry can move forward in new ways. The goal is to encourage a more multifaceted intellectual environment for the understanding of human evolution.

Topics discussed include paleoanthropology's history of procedural idiosyncrasies; the role of mind and society in our evolutionary past; humans as large mammals rather than a special case; genomic analyses; computational approaches to phylogenetic reconstruction; descriptive morphology versus morphometrics; and integrating insights from archaeology into the interpretation of human fossils.

Contributors
Markus Bastir, Fred L. Bookstein, Claudine Cohen, Richard G. Delisle, Robin Dennell, Rob DeSalle, John de Vos, Emma M. Finestone, Huw S. Groucutt, Gabriele A. Macho, Fabrizzio Mc Manus, Apurva Narechania, Michael D. Petraglia, Thomas W. Plummer, J.W. F. Reumer, Jeff Rosenfeld, Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Dietrich Stout, Ian Tattersall, Alan R. Templeton, Michael Tessler, Peter J. Waddell, Martine Zilversmit

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About the author

Jeffrey H. Schwartz is Professor of Physical Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of The Red Ape: Orang-utans and Human Origins, What the Bones Tell Us, and other books.

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Jan 26, 2018
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780262344197
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / History
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Social Science / Anthropology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Jeffrey Schwartz, professor of physical anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, ranges from digs in the Negev Desert through Africa and Europe to the local coroner's office to explain how interpretations of the past are made. What counts is the data and the context in which the evidence is analyzed. Along the way the author constructs a new hominid family tree to take account of recent assessments of human evolution. The author, part of the team that unearthed burial urns from the ancient city of Carthage, exposes the inner workings of archeology and anthropology, illustrating what can be learned from fossils and fragments of ancient cultures and civilizations. Because every living thing on earth will have had a single, unique history, whether it be the life of an individual, of a civilization, a species, or a diverse evolutionary group, "the discovery," writes the author, "is less a matter of unearthing a fossil or sequencing a species' DNA than it is of interpreting data in an attempt to reconstruct the missing pieces of the puzzle." Bone fragments can be used not only to identify animal species but also to tell us of their past history. Studies of bones can also reveal the land's past capacity to sustain animal life, whether domestic or wild. Frequently the physical evidence overturns sacred historical writings (and occasionally such evidence is suppressed). And when the author misidentifies what turns out to be an incomplete human specimen for the coroner, we come to understand just how easily incomplete data can deceive us. After reading this fascinating and authoritative work, any reader will be better equipped to evaluate the evidence for various new theories about our origins and evolution. Another value of this pioneering book is its deep insight into scientific infighting and the competing speculations about evolutionary history.
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From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

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Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

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A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

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