The Improbable Primate: How Water Shaped Human Evolution

Clive Finlayson. Oxford Univ, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-199-65879-4
Evolutionary ecologist Finlayson (The Humans Who Went Extinct) attempts to cover seven million years of human evolution while making sweeping assertions about some major paleontological controversies without providing enough supporting documentation to make his case. He begins with a highly contentious premise: there has never been more than one species in the human genus at a time. In other words, Homo erectus, H. heidelbergensis, and the other species in our genus should rightfully be considered subspecies of Homo sapiens. This leads Finlayson to the equally controversial conclusion that the “out of Africa” model for human evolution, currently the dominant view, should be replaced by the less well-accepted multiregional hypothesis. While Finlayson might be correct on both counts, his abbreviated presentation fails to do justice to the topic’s import and complexity. In many ways, these larger controversies are not crucial to his central point: “there has been a long interrelationship between climate change and human evolution and that the main driver behind this story has been water.” How early humans dealt with their need for fresh water, he argues, can explain virtually every aspect of human evolution. Finlayson’s presentation is interesting at the macro level, but those looking for detail should turn elsewhere. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/07/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 223 pages - 978-0-19-150377-1
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-19-874389-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-5318-1056-6
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