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Adam's Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins (Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context) [Paperback]

David N. Livingstone
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 13, 2011 1421400650 978-1421400655 1

Although the idea that all human beings are descended from Adam is a long-standing conviction in the West, another version of this narrative exists: human beings inhabited the Earth before, or alongside, Adam, and their descendants still occupy the planet.

In this engaging and provocative work, David N. Livingstone traces the history of the idea of non-adamic humanity, and the debates surrounding it, from the Middle Ages to the present day. From a multidisciplinary perspective, Livingstone examines how this alternative idea has been used for cultural, religious, and political purposes. He reveals how what began as biblical criticism became a theological apologetic to reconcile religion with science—evolution in particular—and was later used to support arguments for white supremacy and segregation.

From heresy to orthodoxy, from radicalism to conservatism, from humanitarianism to racism, Adam's Ancestors tells an intriguing tale of twists and turns in the cultural politics surrounding the age-old question, "Where did we come from?"


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Editorial Reviews

Review

As David Livingstone shows in this fascinating book, which carefully traces the history of speculations about Adam's ancestors, debates about human origins have always had, and continue to have, moral and political dimensions.

(Sciences Humaines)

Livingstone traces in detail a fascinating and sometimes troubling story... A book to ponder.

(Ernan McMullin Tablet)

The mark of the true scholar, the really inventive one, is that he or she shows us that there are problems and issues worth discussing that we simply did not know about or even speculate about... I really recommend David Livingstone's book. It informs and leaves you with more questions than when you started. What more could you ask of scholarship?

(Michael Ruse Books and Culture: A Christian Review)

Provides both college-level and general-interest lending libraries with a fine history of non-Adamic humanity and the debates surrounding it.

(Midwest Book Review)

Adam's Ancestors is a model of meticulous historical scholarship. It is greatly enhanced by a geographer's sensitivity to the role of place in intellectual history.

(Donald A. Yerxa Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith)

The amazing scope of Adam's Ancestors contributes to its appeal, and it can be highly recommended both for its sweeping synthesis and for the nature of the questions it raises in the mind of the reader.

(John M. Lynch British Journal of the History of Science)

Richly detailed, amply illustrated work.

(J David Pleins Reports of the National Center for Science Education)

Adam's Ancestors is a very well researched history of the idea that there were multiple creations prior to that recorded in Genesis. The text is extremely well referenced and is an excellent source for anyone wanting to learn about this topic.

(Heather J. Edgar Journal of Anthropological Research)

Engaging and important book.

(Mitchell B. Hart Journal of Ecclesiastical History)

Adam's Ancestors offers a rich discussion, ranging from the sober and serious to the wonderfully bizarre, representing the best summary of pre-Adamite materials to date.

(Brad D. Hume Isis)

The book is rich in detail, revels in marvelously obscure figures, and brings long forgotten characters to life. It is ideal for graduate students and professional scholars and a must for those interested in the politics of racial and ethnic identity, as well as the history of biblical exegesis.

(Craig R. Prentiss American Historical Review)

What I finally took away from this fascinating book is that far from being an eccentric and obscure debate, the substance of the argument over pre-adamites is still with us, and perhaps even growing in importance.

(Stephen H. Webb Reviews in Religion and Theology)

An original and useful contribution to the history of human origins research and the history of science and religion.

(Matthew R. Goodrum Annals of Science)

A great piece of scholarship and an equally great read. Particularly instructive is Livingstone's discussion of monogenism, polygenism, and the various ways these theories of human origins were used in the social and political arena. This is a substantial contribution to the history of anthropology, of evolution theory, of race and racialist thought, and of science and religion.

(Nicolaas Rupke, Institute for Science History, Georg-August University of Göttingen)

A remarkable achievement. It is a tightly organized and coherently packaged account of a set of ideas which mainstream scholarship now ignores. Controversial themes and explosive issues abound in Livingstone's work, which is important, topical, and fascinating.

(Colin Kidd, University of Glasgow)

One of the great strengths of this book lies in its demonstration that the history of a concept long since accepted by many, but by no means all, remains strikingly relevant to science and society.

(Progress in Human Geography)

Livingstone has obviously done a tremendous amount of reading in preparation of his project, and the sheer detail of the persons and positions in the centuries-long debate is impressive, nearly overwhelming.

(Jack David Eller Anthropology Review Database)

From the Back Cover

In this engaging and provocative work, David N. Livingstone traces the history of the idea of non-adamic humanity, and the debates surrounding it, from the Middle Ages to the present day.

From heresy to orthodoxy, from radicalism to conservatism, from humanitarianism to racism, Adam's Ancestors tells an intriguing tale of twists and turns in the cultural politics surrounding the age-old question, "Where did we come from?"

" Adam's Ancestors offers a rich discussion, ranging from the sober and serious to the wonderfully bizarre, representing the best summary of pre-Adamite materials to date."— Isis

"One of the great strengths of this book lies in its demonstration that the history of a concept long since accepted by many, but by no means all, remains strikingly relevant to science and society."— Progress in Human Geography

"As David Livingstone shows in this fascinating book, which carefully traces the history of speculations about Adam's ancestors, debates about human origins have always had, and continue to have, moral and political dimensions."— Sciences Humaines

"The book is rich in detail, revels in marvelously obscure figures, and brings long-forgotten characters to life. It is ideal for graduate students and professional scholars and a must for those interested in the politics of racial and ethnic identity, as well as the history of biblical exegesis."— American Historical Review

"The amazing scope of Adam's Ancestors contributes to its appeal, and it can be highly recommended both for its sweeping synthesis and for the nature of the questions it raises in the mind of the reader."— British Journal for the History of Science


Product Details

  • Series: Medicine, Science, and Religion in Historical Context
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (January 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421400650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421400655
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 8.9 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,437,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
(6)
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Is Adam the father of all human beings, or do they have multiple fathers?

For centuries, Christendom had a simple, biblical answer. Adam was the father of the human race. But during the Age of Discovery, Westerners' contact with other cultures increasingly called into question the chronology, ethnology, and geography of the early chapters of Genesis. The earth was older and its people more diverse and far-flung than the biblical history accounted for.

In the mid-seventh century, Isaac La Peyrere (a heterodox Protestant of Jewish descent) published two treatises--each a pioneering work of biblical criticism--that advanced a novel thesis: there were men before Adam. Adam was the father of the Jews, but other races were descended from other, equally ancient, progenitors. In line with this theory, La Peyrere also advocated a local flood affecting only Adam's semitic descendants rather than covering the whole world.

As La Peyrere's idea took root and grew in succeeding centuries, it mutated in several ironic ways. First, while La Peyrere intended his theory to create safe political space for European Jewry, the pre-Adamite idea caught on with racists--including many otherwise orthodox Christians--who used it to advance the thesis of "Caucasian" superiority to the "Mongoloid" and "Negroid" races on the ground that the former were of Adamite descent while the latter were of pre-Adamite descent. (To be fair, though, not all advocates of pre-Adamitism were racist, including La Peyrere himself; and not all advocates of the biblical record were egalitarians.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine academic study August 24, 2009
Format:Hardcover
This comprehensive study treats the various manifestations of the theory that there did (or does) exist a pre-Adamic humanity. Some versions of this conjecture reflected skepticism about the Bible, others were attempts to defend the Bible from Darwinism, and still others served simply as props for "scientific racism." Livingstone thoughtfully explores a number of significant issues in this fine work.

Nevertheless, my guess is that most readers will mine the book for its information rather than read it straight through for enjoyment. Although Livingstone writes in a clear academic style, clarity does not necessarily make a book (in the words of one pre-publication reviewer) a "great read."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding survey. September 5, 2008
Format:Hardcover
ADAM'S ANCESTORS: RACE, RELIGION & THE POLITICS OF HUMAN ORIGINS provides both college-level and general-interest lending libraries with a fine history of non-Adamic humanity and the debates surrounding it, considering the alternative notion of Adam's descendants: that humans inhabited the Earth before or alongside Adam, and their descendants still occupy the planet. Religion, science and anthropological concerns are all presented in an outstanding survey.
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