Turning Points: How Critical Events Have Driven Human Evolution, Life, and Development

Kostas Kampourakis. Prometheus Books, $25 (340p) ISBN 978-1-63388-329-1
Kampourakis (Newton’s Apple and Other Myths About Science) makes a simple and important point in this otherwise superficial work on evolution: specific, essentially random events in life constrain further events. He calls these occurrences “turning points” because until they came to pass, multiple outcomes are possible. Kampourakis argues that “when it comes to the details of human development, life, and evolution, we need to consider the impact of turning points rather than intuitively attribute the outcomes of these processes... to fate, destiny, or design.” Early portions of the book support his contention that many people believe in destiny and practice teleological thinking. The remainder of the book is devoted to explaining how such thinking is incorrect. However, Kampourakis attempts to cover so much ground that his explanations are fairly shallow. Chapters on human genetics, embryonic development, bipedalism, and brain development resemble a biology text with Kampourakis’s main point shunted aside. Similarly, his chapters on Darwin ostensibly show the turning points leading to the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, but offer little insight. The book’s structural problems, coupled with its pedestrian prose, make it more tedious than enjoyable. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/11/2017
Release date: 02/06/2018
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