The Accidental Species

The Accidental Species

Misunderstandings of Human Evolution

Book - 2013
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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.
Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, c2013.
ISBN: 9780226284880
Branch Call Number: 599.938 Gee
Characteristics: xiii, 203 pages : illustrations


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Jan 17, 2018

I didn't find this to be an effortless read, due to his personal style, however the author presented very interesting insight to things like: attribute loss in time, interpreting fossils we do succeed in finding, bipedality, similarities in bird and human behaviour, self awareness, and how we might never know what animals communicate, because we are not them. Also, the hand axe stays the same for a million years, and is somewhat flat with an entire sharp edge-WHY? Sees things like a pure scientist. Emphasizes Darwin's "tangled bank".

Sep 11, 2015

introducing Homo nadeli . . .

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