Bones of Contention: Controversies in the Search for Human Origins / Edition 2

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Overview

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

A unique and fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the discoveries, intrigues, and disputes that have marked the search for man's origins.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this compelling, readable book, Lewis (Thread of Life, etc.) inquires into the controversies and ``paradigm shifts'' that have marked the views of evolutionists Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, T. H. Huxley and others in the era that witnessed the discovery of the bones of Neanderthal Man (1856); as well as such modern-day theorists and field-workers as the Leakeys (Louis, Richard and Mary) and Donald Johanson, who found the bones of ``Lucy.'' Covering the history of the hunt for fossil evidence supporting Darwin's argument for man's ``descent,'' he shows through superb research and lively interviews how profoundly subjective the views of scientists have been whenever they have tried to determine when, how and why humans (``hominids'') branched off from apes. Here are descriptions of African fossil-digs, arguments about the naming of fossil finds, ego-clashes between the likes of Richard Leakey and Donald Johansonnone of it destroying evolutionary theory itself, but all of it, with insight and submerged humor, showing how all-too-human science can be. Photos. Macmillan Book Club alternate. (September 17)
Library Journal
Lewin, an editor of Science magazine and co-author with Richard Leakey of Origins and People of The Lake , has written a fascinating inside look at the field of paleoanthropology, including some of the cultural and personal biases, the emotions and professional loyalties that have an impact, conscious, or unconscious, upon those who work in it. He focuses on a number of landmark fossil finds, including Neanderthal man and the hoax Piltdown man, through the latest thinking on ``Lucy.'' Lewin's scrutiny offers laypeople a view of the professionfrom shifts in scientific paradigms to inevitable human subjectivitywhich, no matter how fairly written, would make any scientist somewhat uncomfortable. An exceptionally good book. Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226476513
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1997
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 366
  • Sales rank: 1,267,963
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1. Bones of Contention
2. The Storytellers
3. The Taung Child: Rejection
4. The Taung Child: Acceptance
5. Rama's Ape: Resurrected
6. Rama's Ape: Destroyed
7. The Leakeys: Father
8. The Leakeys: Son
9. The KBS Tuff Controversy: Genesis
10. The KBS Tuff Controversy: Denouement
11. Lucy: The Naming
12. Lucy: The Response
13. Man's Place in Nature Afterword Notes Index

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