Sparking vigorous debate in the sciences, The Social Conquest of Earth upends the famous theory that evolution naturally encourages creatures to put family first (Discover). Refashioning the story of human evolution, Wilson draws on his remarkable knowledge of biology and social behavior to demonstrate that group selection, not kin selection, is the premier driving force of human evolution. In a work that James D. Watson calls a monumental exploration of the biological origins of the human condition, Wilson explains how our innate drive to belong to a group is both a great blessing and a terrible curse (Smithsonian). Demonstrating that the sources of morality, religion, and the creative arts are fundamentally biological in nature, the renowned Harvard University biologist presents us with the clearest explanation ever produced as to the origin of the human condition and why it resulted in our domination of the Earth s biosphere."
"Fascinating. . . . As engaging an explanation of how scientists study fossil bones as any I have ever read." --John R. Alden, Philadelphia InquirerIn 1984 a team of paleoanthropologists on a dig in northern Kenya found something extraordinary: a nearly complete skeleton of Homo erectus, a creature that lived 1.5 million years ago and is widely thought to be the missing link between apes and humans. The remains belonged to a tall, rangy adolescent male. The researchers called him "Nariokotome boy." In this immensely lively book, Alan Walker, one of the lead researchers, and his wife and fellow scientist Pat Shipman tell the story of that epochal find and reveal what it tells us about our earliest ancestors. We learn that Nariokotome boy was a highly social predator who walked upright but lacked the capacity for speech. In leading us to these conclusions, The Wisdom of the Bones also offers an engaging chronicle of the hundred-year-long search for a "missing link," a saga of folly, heroic dedication, and inspired science. "Brilliantly captures an] intellectual odyssey. . . . One of the finest examples of a practicing scientist writing for a popular audience."
--Portland Oregonian "A vivid insider's perspective on the global efforts to document our own ancestry."
--Richard E. Leakey
The Development of an Extraordinary Species
We human beings share 98 percent of our genes with chimpanzees. Yet humans are the dominant species on the planet -- having founded civilizations and religions, developed intricate and diverse forms of communication, learned science, built cities, and created breathtaking works of art -- while chimps remain animals concerned primarily with the basic necessities of survival. What is it about that two percent difference in DNA that has created such a divergence between evolutionary cousins? In this fascinating, provocative, passionate, funny, endlessly entertaining work, renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning author and scientist Jared Diamond explores how the extraordinary human animal, in a remarkably short time, developed the capacity to rule the world . . . and the means to irrevocably destroy it.
Joining the ranks of modern myth busters, Dr. Sharon Moalem turns our current understanding of illness on its head and challenges us to fundamentally change the way we think about our bodies, our health, and our relationship to just about every other living thing on earth, from plants and animals to insects and bacteria.
So why does disease exist? Moalem proposes that most common ailments--diabetes, hemochromatosis, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia--came into existence for very good reasons. At some point they helped our ancestors survive some grand challenge to their existence. Examining the evolution of man, Moalem reveals the role genetic and cultural differences have played in the health and well-being of various races, including their susceptibility to disease.
With mesmerizing insight, Moalem offers groundbreaking insight into:
- How diabetes may be a biproduct of a mechanism that helped humans survive the Ice Age
- Why African Americans living in the north might suffer from vitamin D deficiencies,
- Why Asians can't drink as much alcohol as Europeans
Revelatory, utterly engaging, and timely--Moalem ponders strongN1, the emerging Avian Flu virus--Why Redheads Feel More Pain and Asians Can't Drink will irrevocably change the way we think about our bodies and ourselves.
From evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen, a book that will make you see yourself and the world around you in an entirely new way*Carrion crows in the Japanese city of Sendai have learned to use passing traffic to crack nuts. *Lizards in Puerto Rico are evolving feet that better grip surfaces like concrete. *Europe's urban blackbirds sing at a higher pitch than their rural cousins, to be heard over the din of traffic. How is this happening? Menno Schilthuizen is one of a growing number of "urban ecologists" studying how our manmade environments are accelerating and changing the evolution of the animals and plants around us. In Darwin Comes to Town, he takes us around the world for an up-close look at just how stunningly flexible and swift-moving natural selection can be. With human populations growing, we're having an increasing impact on global ecosystems, and nowhere do these impacts overlap as much as they do in cities. The urban environment is about as extreme as it gets, and the wild animals and plants that live side-by-side with us need to adapt to a whole suite of challenging conditions: they must manage in the city's hotter climate (the "urban heat island"); they need to be able to live either in the semidesert of the tall, rocky, and cavernous structures we call buildings or in the pocket-like oases of city parks (which pose their own dangers, including smog and free-rangingdogs and cats); traffic causes continuous noise, a mist of fine dust particles, and barriers to movement for any animal that cannot fly or burrow; food sources are mainly human-derived. And yet, as Schilthuizen shows, the wildlife sharing these spaces with us is not just surviving, but evolving ways of thriving. Darwin Comes toTown draws on eye-popping examples of adaptation to share a stunning vision of urban evolution in which humans and wildlife co-exist in a unique harmony. It reveals that evolution can happen far more rapidly than Darwin dreamed, while providing a glimmer of hope that our race toward over population might not take the rest of nature down with us.
What did earlier humans really look like? What was life like for them, millions of years ago? How do we know? In this book, internationally renowned paleoartist John Gurche describes the extraordinary process by which he creates forensically accurate and hauntingly realistic representations of our ancient human ancestors. Inspired by a lifelong fascination with all things prehistoric, and gifted with a unique artistic vision, Gurche has studied fossil remains, comparative ape and human anatomy, and forensic reconstruction for over three decades. His artworks appear in world-class museums and publications ranging from National Geographic to the journal Science, and he is widely known for his contributions to Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park and a number of acclaimed television specials. For the Smithsonian Institution's groundbreaking David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, opened in 2010, Gurche created fifteen sculptures representing six million years of human history. In Shaping Humanity he relates how he worked with a team of scientists to depict human evolution in sculpture for the new hall. He reveals the debates and brainstorming that surround these often controversial depictions, and along the way he enriches our awareness of the various paths of human evolution and humanity's stunning uniqueness in the history of life on Earth.
In this profound and lyrical book, one of our most celebrated biologists offers a sweeping examination of the relationship between the humanities and the sciences: what they offer to each other, how they can be united, and where they still fall short. Both endeavours, Edward O. Wilson reveals, have their roots in human creativity--the defining trait of our species.
Reflecting on the deepest origins of language, storytelling, and art, Wilson demonstrates how creativity began not ten thousand years ago, as we have long assumed, but over one hundred thousand years ago in the Paleolithic age. Chronicling this evolution of creativity from primate ancestors to humans, The Origins of Creativity shows how the humanities, spurred on by the invention of language, have played a largely unexamined role in defining our species. And in doing so, Wilson explores what we can learn about human nature from a surprising range of creative endeavors--the instinct to create gardens, the use of metaphors and irony in speech, and the power of music and song.
Our achievements in science and the humanities, Wilson notes, make us uniquely advanced as a species, but also give us the potential to be supremely dangerous, most worryingly in our abuse of the planet. The humanities in particular suffer from a kind of anthropomorphism, encumbered by a belief that we are the only species among millions that seem to matter, yet Wilson optimistically reveals how researchers will have to address this parlous situation by pushing further into the realm of science, especially fields such as evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and anthropology.
With eloquence and humanity, Wilson calls for a transformational "Third Enlightenment," in which the blending of these endeavors will give us a deeper understanding of the human condition and our crucial relationship with the natural world.
Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? In a generational work of clarity and passion, one of our greatest living scientists directly addresses these three fundamental questions of religion, philosophy, and science while overturning the famous theory that evolution naturally encourages creatures to put family first (Discover magazine). Refashioning the story of human evolution in a work that is certain to generate headlines, Wilson draws on his remarkable knowledge of biology and social behavior to show that group selection, not kin selection, is the primary driving force of human evolution. He proves that history makes no sense without prehistory, and prehistory makes no sense without biology. Demonstrating that the sources of morality, religion, and the creative arts are fundamentally biological in nature, Wilson presents us with the clearest explanation ever produced as to the origin of the human condition and why it resulted in our domination of the Earth s biosphere."