The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene

Lydia V. Pyne and Stephen J. Pyne. Viking, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-02363-9
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 Father and daughter historians Lydia Pyne (Drexel University) and Stephen Pyne (Year of the Fires) argue that, in the 19th century, with the development of the notion of the Pleistocene era—from 2.6 million years ago to about 10,000–12,000 years ago, toward the end of which Homo sapiens emerged—science split from the humanities because scientists became interested only in collecting data and not constructing narratives, which supply the meaning and moral purpose most people crave. Lydia Pyne, whose first-person account opens the book, lets her background in history color her approach to science. After a brief scientific account of the Pleistocene, the book launches into a historical and philosophical look at how we have articulated the meaning of this geological period. But the analysis fails due partly to academic writing (“The instinct, that is, is to turn evolutionary opportunism into narrative surety and to stiffen phylogenic uncertainty into the crisp lines of story”). But it’s also hampered by a confusion between the intent of scientists and the human need for moral understanding of, for instance, what makes us human. This is a difficult book, not well suited to a general audience. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2012
Release date: 06/28/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-14-312342-2
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-101-58338-8
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-101-58368-5
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