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Customer Review

38 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars tales from a broken time machine, March 24, 2011
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This review is from: Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans (Hardcover)
When rock bands sign contracts with a recording company it is usually for an average of 3 to 5 albums. Unavoidably, the creative juices start to dry up and bands puts out a live album to fulfill their contractual obligations. This book is Brian Fagan's "live album" it is simply devoid of intellectual spark. It feels like an undergraduate thesis where the Paleolithic status quo is rehashed without any critique. Adding to the insult, Fagan interjects annoying romantic scenarios throughout the chapters worthy of children's books or cute museum dioramas. One only needs to look at the labeling and layout errors of the figures to realize that it was not properly proofed and was simply slapped together expediently by Bloomsbury Press. I ordered this book with Clive Finlayson's "The Humans who went Extinct". I'm half way through it as I write this and can tell you that it is one of the best popular books on the subject (although more figures would have been welcomed). Compared to Fagan, Finlayson presents more data, presents alternative interpretations and scenarios, is not concerned with current paradigm-correctness, and restrains from sugary artistic license when it comes to describing our ancestors. Had I read Finlayson's book first, I would not have been able to finish Fagan's due to its infantile tone.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 2, 2011 10:23:01 AM PST
M. Arb says:
I have to agree with Mr. Pearson. I too ordered both Finlayson's "The Humans who Went Extinct" and Fagan's "Cro-Mangon" at the same time. Fagan's book arrived first and I started reading it, but found it a bit like a thesis and not a "page turner" either. Finlayson's book arrived a couple of days later and I read it without putting it down, it was such a page turner. I did go back and finally finsih Cro-Magnon, but it was only to see where Fagan diverged from Finlayson, which they did in many instances but I found myself agreeing with Finlayson. Also, some statements Finlyason made in his book have continued to haunt me as his views on the entrire human race are not complimentary to us and it is these views that I go over in my head all the time...i.e., that we are an "infestation" and that we are not that innately intelligent but lucky we managed to develop a system of teaching our young our cumulative knowledge and continued to pass this knowledge on to future generations, which he says the Neaderthals and other human species did not do and that is why we survived. I would recommend Fagan's book only as a filler and not as any great insight into human origins.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2012 10:47:05 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 15, 2012 8:27:19 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 23, 2013 9:45:40 PM PST
MarshallTown says:
Not having read either book, this is directed at your reaction instead. First, "infestation" is an emotional statement and, if you step back one step, living matter can be regarded as an "infestation." If you consider that bacterial cells are more numerous in your body than "human" cells, you might want to consider just what "human" really is. You want to consider that rats, racoons, cattle, dogs, maize and potatoes all seem to have hitched their adaptive cart to humanity's, but turn it around and we can be seen as the ones that are providing services to those species, that we have been "domesticated" by those species. Concepts like this are not simple and single-sided relationships. The "intelligent" human race is in reality a community that includes not just hairless, two-legged apes but a broad number of other species, some whom we benefit from and some of whom we do not, like head and body lice who have been travelling with humanity so long that the two populations have long since become distinct species.

"Innate intelligence" begs the question of what intelligence is. Only if you can define can you then determine whether there is such a phenomenon as "innate intelligence." I doubt that there is.

As concerns whether Neanderthalensis passed knowledge down generations, the idea they did not is - well, to put it bluntly - ignorant. You have only to look at the stability of the Mousterian tool kit to know that Neaderthals did indeed pass knowledge along. They were not born knowling instively how to make a Levallois core. What they did not routinely do is invent things.

Chimps pass knowledge along from generation to generation as do most species of mammals. They occasionally also invent things as do crows. Humans have merely evolved to rely on learned knowledge and inventiveness more than other species.
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