- Paperback: 424 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (October 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385467923
- ISBN-13: 978-0385467926
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Famed paleoanthropologist Leakey relates an intellectual odyssey, describing his discoveries of human origins and his reflections on the nature of humanity. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
YA-- Leakey and Lewin discuss how conceptions of human anatomical and behavioral development have been radically altered within the last 12 years by new discoveries and research in other fields. They review the developments and assert Leakey's own hypotheses based on these discoveries. Although supporting a specific view of human evolution, they also illuminate other theories and their proponents, if mainly to argue against them. This is an engrossing book written for the layperson, fully explaining anthropological terms and theories when necessary. It's a solid introduction to current theory concerning human development.
- Hugh McAloon, R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Frederick,
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Leakey once suffered from 'lack of credentials' in his work as an paleoanthropologist. Drawn to this work by a fascination with our past instead of by an academic background, he's shamed his critics with stunning finds, excellent logic in assessing their value, and the presentation talents shown here. The lack of academic constraints frees him to bring fossils to life in speculative scenarios no schooled scientist would dare. He does it here with plausible accounts of our ancestors possible lifestyles. The guild scientists may complain that 'there isn't enough evidence' to draw these scenes, but Leakey is careful to point to the evidence, drawing many elements together to produce these scenes. They are vivid and thought provoking in portrayal and need no more defense than that. And they are supported by fine illustrations of many aspects of paleoanthropology.
Leakey's examination of language development occupies a significant part of his discourse. These arguments are worthy of your close inspection. Verbal communication has long been viewed as the sole distinction between humans and the other animals. Leakey shows how even this feature cannot be considered a sharp demarcation. He examines the function of language over the course of human evolution, concluding that language and our oversize brains result from a continuous feedback loop.
There are few shortcomings in this book. Foremost is a lack of bibliography [yes, this remains a shortcoming even while defending Leakey's 'non-academic' background]. It would be nice to further pursue details of some of the contentious issues. Lewin's own BONES OF CONTENTION makes a fine starting point. It lacks however, any mention of Owen Lovejoy's thesis on bipedalism related in Johanson's LUCY, the most succinct depiction of human evolution in print. Leakey uses Harry Jerison as a source for brain/language interaction, but you'll look long to find Jerison's BRAIN SIZE AND THE EVOLUTION OF MIND. The lack of a reading list can be overcome with a bit of work on your part. There are many good titles available and the effort will expand your view of our origins. Start here, you will not find many other works that will touch your own humanity as closely as this one does.
He wrote in the Prologue to this 1992 book, "as a youth I fiercely wanted my independence and desperately fought to be out of my parents' shadow. I was drawn to the search for beginnings... Long after I became involved in fossil hunting, but while my father and I were still clashing antlers, I came across a manuscript of a lecture he had given... One sentence arrested my attention: 'The past is the key to our future.' ... it expressed my own conviction completely... had i unconsciously absorbed it from him? I doubt the latter, because as a boy I was not much interested in what he was doing. My father was religious, although not in the conventional sense; I am not. Yet apparently we had come to the same numinous point. It was a poignant moment for me..." (Pg. xiv-xv)
He observes about the fossils found by Dubois, "It is interesting and instructive that a single set of fossils could provoke such contradictory expert opinion. Fossil anatomy can be extremely difficult to interpret, especially when it is fragmentary, as it so often is. People's expectations, their scientific preconceptions, influence their judgments. All scientists work from some kind of theoretical framework and interpret evidence in its light. Weak evidence can often be made to fit such a framework, whatever its form. I've seen that happen many times in paleoanthropology today." (Pg. 51)
He says about Donald Johanson, "About a decade ago our personal and professional relationship began to deteriorate, for reasons I consider best not discussed publicly. One manifestation of the eroding relationship, however, was that, when reporters spotted an opportunity for a 'good personality story,' they frequently set up Don and me in opposition, often where no real confrontation existed..." (Pg. 98)
He argues, "I challenge the notion that humanness arose very rapidly and very late in our evolution. I suspect that this extreme position has been adopted because of a desire to have ideas accepted in an unusual intellectual climate, an unconscious but powerful process. Many people believe that humans are so different from the rest of the animal world, they cannot accept the idea that we are a product of evolution, just like other species... Much more reasonable, it seems to me... is the notion that qualities as complex as consciousness, morality, and ethics developed over a long period of time in our history." (Pg. 199) Later, he adds, "In a sense, proto-human culture is not only a product of our ancestors' behavior, it is also part of the selection pressure that drives further evolution." (Pg. 214)
He says, "Albert Einstein once quipped that he was interested in finding out 'if God had any choice in creating the universe the way he did.' In the same vein, I would phrase my quest as finding out what plans, if any, God had for Homo sapiens." (Pg. 342) Later, he adds, "To answer my earlier question, God surely had no plans for Homo sapiens, and could not even have predicted that such a species would ever arise." (Pg. 349) He concludes on the note, "I expect to continue my involvement in wildlife conservation for some years, but I may never again be as involved as I once was in the search for human ancestors. The journey of discovery has taken me to new territories, territories from which the place of Homo sapiens in the universe of things is more clearly perceived." (Pg. 359-360)
This is an excellent book, that will be of great interest to anyone studying the matter of human origins.