What happens now that human population has outpaced biological natural selection? Two leading scientists reveal how we became who we areand what we might become.
When you think of evolution, the picture that most likely comes to mind is a straight-forward progression, the iconic illustration of a primate morphing into a proud, upright human being. But in reality, random events have played huge roles in determining theevolutionaryhistories of everything from lions to lobsters to humans. However, random genetic novelties are most likely to become fixed in small populations. It is mathematically unlikely that this will happen in large ones.
With our enormous, close-packed, and seemingly inexorably expanding population, humanity has fallen under the influence of the famous (or infamous) “bellcurve.”Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle’s revelatory new book explores what the future of our species could hold, while simultaneously revealing what we didn’t becomeand what we won’t become.
A cognitively unique species, and our actions fall on a bell curve as well. Individual people may be saintly or evil; generous or grasping; narrow-minded or visionary. But any attempt to characterize our species must embrace all of its members and so all of these antitheses. It is possible not just for the species, but for a single individual to be all of these thingseven in the same day. We all fall somewhere within the giant hyperspace of the human condition that thesecurves describe.
The Accidental Homo Sapiensshows readers that though humanity now exists on this bellcurve, we are far from a stagnant species. Tattersall and DeSalle reveal how biological evolution in modern humans has given way to a cultural dynamic that is unlike anything else the Earth has ever witnessed, and that will keep life interestingperhaps sometimes too interestingfor as long as we exist on this planet.
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About the Author
Tattersall is Curator Emeritus in the Division of
Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The author of many books, including the widely praisedMasters of the Planet, he is often interviewed about human evolution in the media and speaks around the world. He is the winner of numerous awards, and lives in Greenwich Village.
Rob DeSalle is a curator in the
Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics and professor at the Richard Gilder
Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History. He is the author ofThe Science of Jurassic Park and the Lost World (with David Lindley, 1997) and the coauthor ofWelcome to the Microbiome: Getting to Know the Trillions of Bacteria and Other Microbes In, On, and Around You(2015),
Table of Contents
1 Genes, Evolution, And The Sell Curve 1
2 Science And Behavior: Trapped Between Simplicity And Complexity 43
3 Emergence Of The Human Cognitive Style 75
4 Genes, People, And Behavior 127
5 Human Beings And Choice 163
Notes and Bibliography 195