9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2012
This book surveys some issues of human evolution, accompanied by interesting thoughts on related issues. It is pleasant to read. But it is not "philosophy" in any serious sense. Certainly, the title "The Philosophy of Human Evolution" is misleading.
The book sometimes claims to rely on "philosophy," such as on the reality of races (page 219) and the concept of sickness (page 238). But these are issues belonging mainly to history of concepts, sociology and social anthropology, on which "philosophy" has little to offer - all the more so as the author does not discuss them in terms of language games or various theories of definitions. And the real philosophic issues raised by evolution are not discussed and in the main not even mentioned.
These issues include, among others: Implications of the theory of evolution for human self-understanding; moral problems posed by increasing human capacities to interfere with its evolution, such as through human enhancement; should humanity try to clone human beings? what about the possibility of creating life out of inorganic materials and its implications for human values, self-images and belief systems?
And, last but most important of all, what are the implications for human values of the emerging capabilities of self-termination supplied by science and technology as a main dimension of human cultural evolution based on the evolution of our brain? The author does refer briefly to some such possibilities (e.g., pages 83, 144) but fails to take them up as a main issue of a philosophy of evolution posed by the possibility that human evolution may have inbuilt tendencies to lead to the end of the human species.
I could add some minor critical comments, such as on the strange claim that "the story of human creation as given in Genesis, ... with the coming of Christianity...was universally accepted for over 1,500 years," which ignores, among others, Chinese civilization and its belief systems. But the main missed opportunity of this book is posing and discussing the real deep philosophic issues posed by human evolution.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
on February 16, 2015
Ruse gives a good overview about ideas on human evolution from the viewpoint of a philosopher (naturally). But there are some areas that he misses or glosses over. Among these are polyphyletic ideas about human origins that persisted until the earth 20th century--the idea that modern human races have separate origins from some unknown great ape stock; the war against adaptation and natural selection that was launched by R. Lewontin and S.J. Gould in the 1970s and 1980s in order to stop the spread of sociobiological theory; and the realization that living humans are the products of hybridization with at least two different fossil human groups. As for the problems of morality and natural selection, which Ruse deals with extensively, people should go to the original source and read T.H. Huxley's Evolution and Ethics. Ruse has edited the latest edition of this book for Princeton University Press.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2014
As someone who teaches history and philosophy of biology on a regular basis, I will definitely use this book. Unlike an earlier reviewer, I find this book quite philosophical -- at least by contemporary standards (i.e., not attempting to speak "from nowhere" or "from everywhere". Biology, including evolution -- and certainly including human evolution -- is contingent and complex.
I look forward to using this in senior level courses, typically taken by philosophy majors, biology majors, and double majors. Highly recommend it.