Self-Made Man: Human Evolution From Eden to Extinction?

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How did man evolve? Through simple adaptation to physical environments? Pure Darwinian selection? Neither, says internationally recognized evolution expert Jonathan Kingdon. When it comes to evolution, neither biology nor geography is destiny. It was technology - furs and fires, boats and fishtraps - that liberated man's ancestors from their primate pasts. In Self-Made Man, Kingdon offers a radical new interpretation of the role that man's lust for new tools and technologies played in driving human evolution. ...
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Overview

How did man evolve? Through simple adaptation to physical environments? Pure Darwinian selection? Neither, says internationally recognized evolution expert Jonathan Kingdon. When it comes to evolution, neither biology nor geography is destiny. It was technology - furs and fires, boats and fishtraps - that liberated man's ancestors from their primate pasts. In Self-Made Man, Kingdon offers a radical new interpretation of the role that man's lust for new tools and technologies played in driving human evolution. Modern humans are truly "self-made" argues Kingdon, because even the most strictly biological of adaptations was profoundly influenced by technological innovations, distinguishing our evolutionary path from that of all other animals. A perverse result of this technological genius has been an irreversible dependence of our species on technological innovation, which may, Kingdon argues passionately, ultimately destroy our environment and threaten our very existence. This brilliant tour through the history of evolution draws on the most up-to-date findings in genetics, paleoanthropology, archaeology, and ecology. Beginning with an exploration of new developments in the "Out of Africa" theory, Kingdon describes the evolution and dispersal of all humans out of one region of the Dark Continent. The story of their travels and travails is a magnificent adventure, brought to life by Kingdon with lavish illustrations and richly detailed descriptions. He recounts how the residents of the African "Eden" developed skills, tools, and technologies, and were able to venture out into less habitable territory. Thus, it was technology that drove their migration to the farthest reaches of the earth - and so it is technology that lies at the heart of human form and diversity. As it explores the processes that brought humanity to its present condition, Self-Made Man demolishes some widely held notions about early societies and the origins of races. From its re-examination of th

Kingdon's brilliant tour through the history of man's evolution from apes draws on the most up-to-date findings in all related sciences, including genetics, paleoanthropology, archaeology, and ecology. "Marvelously researched and documented. . . ."--Elspeth Huxley. 100 photos, maps, and illus.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Prehistoric humans, in Oxford zoologist Kingdon's view, were preoccupied with making, fine-tuning and applying tools. In his ambitous scenario, the quest for new technologies, rather than pure Darwinian selection, played a key role in human evolution. By speculatively mapping the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa across the continents, Kingdon fleshes out the currently fashionable ``Noah's Ark model'' of evolution, which is rejected by those paleoanthropologists who support a multiple-origins model. This provocative and lively saga of human origins also contends that the four or five classic ``races'' share a highly mixed genetic past, with Africans being ``genetically the most diverse people on earth.'' Europeans, by Kingdon's reckoning, are mostly recent migrants out of Africa and the Middle East, while the Japanese are a mix of Koreans and Ainu. Kingdon calls today's environmental movement ``a major turning point in human history,'' as society seeks to put limits on technology's dangerous side effects. Illustrated. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Kingdon is an Oxford University zoologist and artist whose important works include East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa (Academic Pr., 1971). His newest book is an attempt to map out the geography and ecology of prehuman and human populations, beginning with the radiation of Homo erectus from Africa, continuing with a second wave of African migration--this time by modern humans--and ending with the differentiation of the races as populations adapted to local environments. Kingdon's arguments about the primacy of technology in food gathering and transportation can be hard to follow as he careens across ages and continents. Also frustrating is a lack of footnotes that would allow one to examine the evidence that led to his bold assertions. Still, this is a significant contribution to the current debate over the birthplace of Homo sapiens and the origin of the races. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.-- Eric Hinsdale, Trinity Univ. Lib., San Antonio
Booknews
Kingdom (zoology, Oxford U.) Argues that human choices and preferences have had a hand, along with natural selection, in the direction of human evolution. He says that an unquenchable thirst for tools and technology has driven the species since the beginning, and now threatens to drive it into extinction. Women get a chapter to themselves near the end. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471159605
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/25/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 369
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
Introduction: A Beginning 1
1 Before the Wise Men 13
2 Eden and After 67
3 Adam Abroad 94
4 From Nuts and Mega-Meat to Clams and Yams 124
5 Tools, Techniques and Time 166
6 Is Adaptation Real? 220
7 Eve's Descendants 255
8 A Family with Baggage 294
9 The Sorcerer's Apprentice 308
Glossary and Abbreviations 333
Bibliography 339
Index 355
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