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Explaining Human Origins: Myth, Imagination and Conjecture Paperback – July 22, 2002

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Book Description

A palaeoanthropologist argues that theories of human origins developed by archaeologists and physical anthropologists from the early nineteenth century to the present day are structurally similar to Western folk theories, and to the speculations of earlier philosophers. Reviewing a remarkable range of thinkers writing in a variety of European languages, he criticises the lack of development in theories of human origins, but concludes optimistically that the power of the scientific approach will deliver more reliable theories--but only if it is conscious of the baggage it carries over from popular discourse.

About the Author

Wiktor Stoczkowski (b.1959) was trained as a prehistoric archaeologist and ethnologist and, later, as an historian of science. He is lecturer in anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, is director of Groupe de recherches sur les savoirs (EHESS) and research member of Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale. His publications include Anthropologie naive, anthropologie savante (1994), Aux origines de l'humanite: Anthologie (1996), and Des Hommes, des extraterrestres et des dieux (1999), and numerous articles.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052165730X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521657303
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,645,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Rantschler on August 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Explaining Human Origins is quite a find. Stoczkowski shows both an encyclopedic acquaintance with the available facts and the modern theories concerning anthropogenesis. He also applies a penetrating, logical insight into the interaction between them. This relationship is, in his opinion, all too often none at all.
He subjects twenty-four hominization scenarios offered over the past two centuries to critical scrutiny, and none of them stand up. Much of the book is taken up with rewriting accounts of bipedalism, brain formation and growth, tool use, etc., in the form of syllogisms, each of which is evaluated with reference to their consistency with the archeological record, their plausibility from other sciences, and their possibility of verification or falsification. Historical, cultural, and political biases are rampant in the analyses, leading researchers not only to hypothesize beyond the facts, but also ignore them and invent others. Many accounts are found to have their origin in classical times, and almost all contain biases from thinkers who speculated before the Additionally, the accounts by scientists of the evolution of human beings are almost always at odds with Darwinism, and even Darwin is found to resort to Lamarckianism in the explanation of bipedalism in humans. More recent scientists are shown try to rephrase pre-Darwinian explanations in terms of natural selection without success.
Beyond its value as a critical work, this book also makes a fine reference text. It has a broad scope, good footnoting, and a twenty-five-page bibliography.
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