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Second Nature: Economic Origins of Human Evolution 1st Edition

3 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521625340
ISBN-10: 0521625343
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Ofek's book is in fact remarkable because it gives interesting, exhausting and insightful answers to old problems and, at the same time, it provides a new way to approach human evolution from the economic viewpoint. I hope it will stimulate the research on the economics of prehistory." Economic History Network

"...the boldness, coherence, and sweep of the book are impressive...Ofek has good and highly persuasive ideas about his main concern, which is the importance and centrality of economic analysis from an early point in human evolution...Second Nature is an exhilarating and interesting read that raises powerful questions about how humans got here and how we should be studied." Science

"...Ofek's book is in fact remarkable because it gives interesting, exhausting and insightful answers to old problems and, at the same time, it provides a new way to approach human evolution from the economic viewpoint." Joao Ricardo Faria, EH.NET

"Ofek makes several interesting connections between economics and biology." Nature

"Ofek sythesizes an enourmous range of research on human origins to advance to key role of exchange of goods and services in the evolution of distinctively human species.... This superb book seems poised to be a touchstone for work in prehistory and human origins for the forseeable future; essential for all academic libraries; highly recommended for others." Choice

Book Description

Was exchange an early agent of human evolution or is it merely a de novo artifact of modern civilisation? Spanning the last two million years, Haim Ofek explores the possible impact of economics on human evolution, prehistory and natural history. He identifies distinct economic forces at work, beginning with the transition from the feed-as-you-go strategy typical of primates to the development of agriculture and the domestication of fire. This readable book will inform and intrigue general readers and those in fields such as evolutionary biology and psychology, economics, and anthropology.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (November 19, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521625343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521625340
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,109,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By César González Rouco on April 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
To put it in a nutshell, quoting from Alexander J. Field, Haim Ofek "argues that humans were selected for exchange, and that both the harnessing of fire, and the development of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, were dependent on a previous selection for exchange".
In any event, I would like to add that this work reminds me of Morris Berman's "Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality", in the sense, that, both books treat plenty of issues which, although instrumental to defend their respective thesis, are so interesting that, even if you do not agree with their authors, they make well worth it reading them.
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Format: Paperback
Although "Second Nature" is an interesting and readable personal view of how humans evolved, Haim Ofek misses what human evolution was really about. He still follows the popular but outdated view that forest-dwelling quadrupedal apes evolved into savanna-dwelling bipedal humans, whereas it has become clear that archaic Homo the last two million years (during the Ice Ages) did not run over open plains (sweating water + salt, both scarce in savannas), but dispersed intercontinentally along African and Eurasian coasts and rivers, beach-combing, diving and wading bipedally for littoral, shallow aquatic and waterside foods (including shellfish, which require stone tools to be opened, and are extremely rich in brain-specific nutrients, such as DHA).
All animals are selected to behave economically, to trade and exchange with kin and non-kin, with conspecifics and non-conspecifics, even in the absence of spoken language. Contrary to what Ofek thinks, exchange was not "the independent agent of brain evolution": comparative data show that humans evolved such large brains because of their very varied and changing milieus (successively: forest, swamp and coastal forest, littoral and freshwaterside, terrestrial milieus), which were so rich in brain-specific nutrients.
And human spoken language had several preadaptations that had nothing to do with trade or exchange: the original gibbon-like loud and varied song production was supplemented much later (Ice Ages) by the voluntary control of our breathing musculature (for shallow diving), by our mouth and throat adaptations for sucking and swallowing soft seafoods (rather than biting and chewing terrestrial foods like chimps do), which allowed the pronunciation of consonants, and by our large brains (thanks to DHA etc. in aquatic foods).
It was this spoken language (which evolved thanks to our littoral past) that made possible human trade and exchange, e.g. google reserachGate marc verhaegen.
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