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The Monkey in the Mirror


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About the Author

Ian Tattersall is Curator of Human Evolution at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the author of many other books and articles, including two published by OUP in the UK - The Fossil Trail (1994) and Becoming Human (1998).


In eight essays, anthropologist and American Museum of Natural History curator Tattersall (Becoming Human) explores the current understanding of organic evolution in terms of science and reason. He stresses the creative diversity of life forms throughout biological history, including the past existence of different hominid species. His own interpretation of evolution maintains that there have been three major episodic innovations in the emergence of humankind (each separated by about two million years): upright bipedality, Paleolithic technology, and the modern bodily anatomy. Of special interest is Tattersall's critical analysis of the so-called Neandertal problem. Oddly, he does not discuss space travel or genetic engineering in regard to the future of our species. Furthermore, Tattersall does not rigorously emphasize the power of scientific inquiry and the fact of organic evolution in the face of ongoing threats to empirical explanations, e.g., postmodernism, biblical fundamentalism, and religious creationism. Consequently, this is not the groundbreaking and helpful book it could have been. Even so, it is suitable for large science collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/01.] H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

A touchstone for any reader intent on a brief guided tour of the contemporary discipline ... There is much in this brief book that inspires reflection ... written with such facility and in such fluent prose ... any reader who is prepared to devote time and thought to this brief book will be abundantly rewarded. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews Concise but penetrating book. Good Book Guide This exceptional collection of essays, by one of the foremost anthropologists in the world, provides unparalleled insight into how we became human - a must read!' Donald Johanon, author of Lucy

Tattersall, the curator of human evolution at the American Museum of Natural History and a prolific author (Becoming Human, etc.), laments in his preface that the book's contents "take you where they will" and do not necessarily lead from one to the next but he is just being modest. In truth, these introductory essays on human origins complement each other nicely. The first chapter, a primer on scientific basics, emphasizes the collective nature of scientific endeavor and answers debunkers of evolution, who would dismiss it as "only a theory." An essay on modern evolutionary theory zeroes in on the idea that evolutionary change comes in sporadic spikes (rather than gradually), which lays ground for his essays on speciation in human evolution. With his essays on the first hominid bipeds and toolmakers, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons (the first "moderns"), Tattersall arrives at his specialty, and it shows, making for the most satisfying reading of this collection. ("Written in Our Genes?" is a tiresome and predictable attack on evolutionary psychology, however.) These essays are not intended to push the bounds of the current paradigm, but rather to entertain and to fascinate, which they do often. (Nov.) Forecast: Fans of Becoming Human and other Tattersall texts will recognize his name and pick this one up; neophyte browsers may decide that the Museum of Natural History affiliation sets the author of this book apart from a crowded pack. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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