THE MONKEY IN THE MIRROR: Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human

Ian Tattersall, Author . Harcourt $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-15-100520-8

Tattersall, the curator of human evolution at the American Museum of Natural History and a prolific author (Becoming Human, etc.), laments in his preface that the book's contents "take you where they will" and do not necessarily lead from one to the next—but he is just being modest. In truth, these introductory essays on human origins complement each other nicely. The first chapter, a primer on scientific basics, emphasizes the collective nature of scientific endeavor and answers debunkers of evolution, who would dismiss it as "only a theory." An essay on modern evolutionary theory zeroes in on the idea that evolutionary change comes in sporadic spikes (rather than gradually), which lays ground for his essays on speciation in human evolution. With his essays on the first hominid bipeds and toolmakers, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons (the first "moderns"), Tattersall arrives at his specialty, and it shows, making for the most satisfying reading of this collection. ("Written in Our Genes?" is a tiresome and predictable attack on evolutionary psychology, however.) These essays are not intended to push the bounds of the current paradigm, but rather to entertain and to fascinate, which they do often. (Nov.)

Forecast:Fans of Becoming Human and other Tattersall texts will recognize his name and pick this one up; neophyte browsers may decide that the Museum of Natural History affiliation sets the author of this book apart from a crowded pack.

Reviewed on: 07/02/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-15-602706-9
Hardcover - 220 pages - 978-0-19-851569-2
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