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The Monkey in the Mirror: Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human
     

The Monkey in the Mirror: Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human

4.0 1
by Ian Tattersall
 

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Ian Tattersall is widely regarded as one of the rare eminent scientists who is also a graceful and engaging writer. In this extraordinary new work he attempts to answer the most controversial questions on human origins: What makes us so different? How did we get this way? How do we know? Guiding readers around the world and far into the past, Tattersall

Overview


Ian Tattersall is widely regarded as one of the rare eminent scientists who is also a graceful and engaging writer. In this extraordinary new work he attempts to answer the most controversial questions on human origins: What makes us so different? How did we get this way? How do we know? Guiding readers around the world and far into the past, Tattersall examines and explores evolutionary theory, a science based not on a finite set of conclusions drawn from overwhelming evidence, but rather our evolving effort to make sense out of a handful of incomplete fossil remains.
Brimming with delightful stories and scientific wisdom, this exquisite book offers fresh insight into the fundamental questions of our origins--and our evolutionary future.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

PRAISE FOR THE MONKEY IN THE MIRROR

"The whole production is as absorbing and literate as one would expect from Tattersall."--Kirkus Reviews

"Tattersall muses on the nature of science and the multifarious processes of evolution, raising a host of intriguing questions."--Natural History

bn.com
Ian Tattersall is one of the most innovative researchers in the field of human origins. In this collection of original essays, he muses on a wide range of topics relating to evolution. Essays include a discussion of human and animal intelligence, an update on Neanderthals, and the reasons behind Tattersall's belief that humans are not currently evolving.
Library Journal
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.
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of eight original essays that make up a primer on evolution. Beginning with an explanation of how scientists work, Tattersall, curator of Human Evolution at the American Museum of Natural History and author of Becoming Human (1998), etc., moves on to the mechanism of evolution, and our changing ideas about it-entirely Darwinian in Darwin's time, still Darwinian at the core. He stresses that living creatures, including humans, are not finely engineered organisms with every component perfectly adapted to its function. They are complex and clever, yet often clumsily improvised, owing as much to chance as to ingenious adaptation. There's no denying that humans are unique, but even our most dazzling cerebral powers did not spring up full-blown. Our sense of ourselves as individuals is an example. It turns out we can teach apes, our closest cousins, to recognize themselves in a mirror. They were the first species capable of making that connection-even monkeys can't. Halfway through, Tattersall turns to our immediate ancestors and asks the traditional question: What is the single change that set our ancestors apart from apes and placed them on the path to becoming human? Big brains and clever hands were leading candidates until a few decades ago. Today almost all experts agree that walking upright made the difference. Hominids walked for millions of years before Homo sapiens appeared a hundred thousand years ago. Soon after, the fossil record blossoms with evidence of painting, sculpture, music, notation, sophisticated, decorated tools, and elaborate burial rituals. These all result from the capacity for abstract, symbolic thinking, which differentiates modern humans from thosethat came before. Clearly something important occurred in the evolving brain, yet the modern big brain had existed for thousands of generations before this cultural explosion. There are plenty of strong personal opinions here (Neanderthals were a dead-end species; human evolution has stalled for the foreseeable future), but they ring true. The whole production is as absorbing and literate as one would expect from Tattersall.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780156027069
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
01/07/2003
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
238
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

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What People are Saying About This

Jeffrey H. Schwartz
Ian Tattersall has done it again. With delightful and accessible sophistication, these essays have a personal touch. Tattersall weaves together philosophy of science, evolutionary theory, and the assumptions of evolutionary psychologists and paleoanthropologists. This is a gem of a book!
— Jeffrey H. Schwartz, University of Pittsburgh, Dept. of Anthropology
Donald Johanson
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 Johanson, author of Lucy)
W W. Howells
In typically lively fashion, Tattersall answers a variety of intriguing and often surpising questions that are sparked by examining our ancestors and the evolutionary processes that produced us. Even his title is not whimsy: what in fact do we, apes and monkeys make of what we see in mirrors, and what does this tell us about ourselves?
— W.W. Howells, Prof. Emeritus, Harvard University
Richard Klein
Ian Tattersall has already established himself as the author to read first for engaging, up-to-date, comprehensive syntheses of what happened in human evolution. Here, he also establishes himself as the authority to consult first for an exposition of the evolutionary theory that allows us to determine what happened. This is one of those rare books that will inform both specialists and interested lay persons, and they will not only learn, they will enjoy.
— Richard Klein, Stanford University, Program in Human Biology
Clark Howell
Ian Tattersall's essays are both a joy and reprieve, in an endeaver explicitly devoted to scientific elucidation of human evolutionary origins, all too often clouded by preconception and anthropocentric presumption.
— Professor Clark Howell, Prof. Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, Lab for Human Evolutionary Studies

Meet the Author


Ian Tattersall is curator of human evolution at the American Museum of Natural History, and the author of many books and articles. His most recent book, Becoming Human, won the distinguished W.W. Howells Prize of the American Anthropological Association. An expert on both fossil humans and lemurs, he has done fieldwork in places as varied as Madagascar, Yemen, and Vietnam. He lives in New York City.

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The Monkey in the Mirror: Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author mentions that humans are not unique in self recognition, and that our closest relative the ape can be taught to recognize themselves in the mirror. Apes are not the only non human species that are capable of recognizing theselves in the mirrors. Dolphins also display this ability. In experiements where marks are made on the stomach of a dolphin, the dolphin will swim over to a mirror in the water and repeatedly turn his stomach to the mirror to view the markings.