Origins

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Hardcover, US, 1st edition.

Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal About the Emergence of Our Species and Its Possible Future is a popular science book about human origins written by paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin and first published on 1977-10-28.

I found this book at a secondhand store and thought it looked amazing, so I bought it.

Status

I own a first edition hard cover and am currently reading it.

Review

Good

  • The book is fully illustrated with lots of diagrams and photos of the topics being discussed.
  • The authors clearly state, multiple times, that a lot of what paleoanthropologists do is interpretation and speculative. They also give multiple examples from tribal humans and other animals which demonstrate the wide variety of possible behaviors to shiw why it's so difficult to describe prehistoric human behavior. I like this because not enough scientists treat their fields with the proper amount of humility.
  • Though published in 1977, the authors rightly warn about global warming occuring if people continue to use fossil fuels. It's sad to read, but important to point out that even in the 1970s, global warming was already well known enough that paleoanthropologists were writing about it.

Bad

  • A lot of the book is now outdated. Terms for ancient organisms have changed, lineages have been re-worked, etc. For example, the authors have Ramapithecus as a human ancestor, but it's now considered an ancestor of orangutans.
  • The authors unfortunately repeat the incorrect notion that the human brain's left and right hemispheres are specialized for logic and creativity.
  • The authors rightly point out that there are no meaningful biological difference between black people and white people, our skin tone is merely the result of how close our ancestors lived to the equator. However, they make the misguided suggestion that the first step to ending racism is eliminating racial identities altogether. Sociologists demonstrate how such an approach would certainly eliminate our ability to talk about racism, but not actually do anything to reduce inequality.
  • While discussing a site with a fig leaf impression, the authors make a joke about Adam and Eve. Later, they talk about a proverbial mark of Cain. I'm fine with such mythological allusions, but young earth creationists don't need any help with their crazy beliefs and could easily quote mine this!
  • For some reason, the publisher chose Rockwell as the typeface for the entire book. Although Rockwell is an attractive typeface for headlines and graphics, it doesn't read well at the small point size used in the book.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Media

Links

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