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Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Feb 23, Alison rated it did not like it Shelves: non-fiction , evolution. Next time someone tells me that the Internet is still not as reliable for research as a proper 'book', I will pull out this book as evidence for why they are so deeply, deeply wrong.
I should have known better, really, than to think reading a five-year-old book on genetics was a good idea. Genetic research is moving so quickly, that there were always going to be things that have been superseded.
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And their were. My first moments of real doubt occurred around the author's insistence that there was Next time someone tells me that the Internet is still not as reliable for research as a proper 'book', I will pull out this book as evidence for why they are so deeply, deeply wrong. My first moments of real doubt occurred around the author's insistence that there was no interbreeding with Neanderthal peoples, never mind other 'human' species.
This, I was pretty sure, wasn't true.
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This wouldn't have been such a problem if Wade didn't state every opinion as if it were demonstrable fact, proven beyond a doubt by geneticists. It wouldn't have been a one-star review, however, if the only issue was that some of the information was out of date. As I read on, my unease grew.
Speaking about Indigenous Australian communities, for example, an area I know something about, Wade described issues under significant debate as if again, there was consensus. He cherry-picked information, creating an impression that wasn't really correct, particularly conflating practices in PNG to practices in Australia, in a way no cultural anthropologist or historian, no matter what views they held, would be comfortable with.
starcacipassi.cf He casually described Aboriginal people as "never having developed agriculture", without referencing any of the contemporary debate around Aboriginal land management. By this point, halfway through the book, I was beginning to wonder if I could trust any of the information Wade presented at all. Then we got to the second half.
Those reviews which describe the second half of the book as "drawing a long bow" are being far too kind. The first half drew some pretty long bows. The second half mostly parts ways with genetic research at all, and instead simply presents a bunch of circular logic dressed up as scientific method.
For example, Wade asserts that there could be no religion without language - obviously no evidence given - but religion is clearly very old because we have no records of societies without it and it is "instinctive" no evidence given , so therefore language and religion must have evolved together. He then refers to this as a scientific conclusion.
This process is continued, with him continuously embedding assumptions into pseudo-scientific reasoning. Then, while purporting to present a journalistic book based on new scientific advances, he proceeds to intersperse fringe opinions with mainstream ones, without explaining clearly that the book has now moved into pretty much "how Nicholas Wade thinks the world evolved". At one point, he dismisses the whole of social science as biased and incorrect talking about race.
Wade also keeps bringing up scholarship which has been at best challenged, and at worst, discredited. Infuriatingly, even the genetic theorists Wade quotes in specific examples use these much lower rates as a benchmark, making in unlikely he was unaware of the debate. The thing that is infuriating about this book, as it is in general with all those who passionately support so-called Evolutionary Psychology, is the blindness to existing assumptions.
I've never considered myself a huge fan of cultural anthropology, but one of its biggest gifts to the scientific method, is an understanding that we all view the world through a lens made up of our own assumptions, and that these are relative to our culture. Nicholas Wade's view of our evolutionary history - that war and competition are male attempts to impregnate women; that hierarchy and inequality are more stable ways to organise sedentary societies than co-operation and egalitarianism; that post-agricultural societies are superior to hunter-gatherer ones; that religion emerged as a way to stop deceit - are all based on pre-existing assumptions.
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I'm not guessing this - he states it in his reasoning. It does not seem that Nicolas Wade even realises that things that seem obvious to him, may in fact, be cultural assumptions that bear examination. Aside from his barely concealed, but badly argued, belief that some racial groupings are more intelligent than others hint: it isn't Africans or Pacific Islanders at the top of the intelligence tree that drove me most nuts though.
It was the simple assumption that, again barely even bothering to argue, evolution has been driven by men with women irrelevant to the process - male sexual selection, male drives to procreate broadly. I picked this up because I wanted a primer to better understand the New Scientist and Nature articles coming out about human prehistory. I am going to tentatively try a different book, published this year, to test it out. But there has been a lesson - for all the value of reading synthesised accounts of research, in fast moving areas, there is a strong danger of picking up distortions, and also far out of date information.
There may be a lot of crap on the Internet, but it's also easy to find dissenting opinions, and quickly understand what there is consensus around and what there isn't. It is much harder, in an open forum, to make the complex and fuzzy appear simple and clear. View all 12 comments. Jan 06, AC rated it really liked it Shelves: anthropology-religion , paleolithic-origins-of-man. I found the beginning of this book - in fact, the first 8 chapters - utterly fascinating.
A clear, intelligent, well-written account of all the essentials of modern thinking on biological and cultural evolution from the emergence of man 1. The emphasis is on genetics, but not overwhelmingly so -- and in any case, according to author at least I know nothing about science, to put it m I found the beginning of this book - in fact, the first 8 chapters - utterly fascinating.
The emphasis is on genetics, but not overwhelmingly so -- and in any case, according to author at least I know nothing about science, to put it mildly , the study of this entire topic has now been revolutionized by the decoding of the genome. The last few chapters were much less interesting as other reviewers have also noted - though the topics are not unimportant: race, language, genetic history of Jews and Thomas Jefferson, etc. Yet they are too technical and too speculative simultaneously.
An attempt rather meager, imo to do the genetics of altruism simply did not convince or, ultimately, hold my interest. Hence, the loss of the fifth star in my rating. Still, for those who want a sound and reliable primer to this topic of the paleolithic, which is exactly what I was looking for - with interesting sidelights on primatology -- this is a great book to start with. View 2 comments. This was recommended to me by the owner of the company I work for.
He's reading it on his Kindle. I got it from the library as an audio book. As an audio book, my ignorance on the subject is a heavy anchor. It is well read, though. There's a lot to take away even with my imperfect understanding. Unsurprisingly, that's very true of genetics as it reveals "nonparental" children, apparently a nice term for momma carrying another man's child. Even more, what it says about the 'races' of man. See below for more. Read them if you want. Overall, it was a great read.
It's great to see various branches of science put together to weave a better tapestry of our history. I'm giving it 4 stars because it wandered a bit too much, but it's highly recommended! Notes: I missed a lot, should have started these notes sooner. Nothing below should be taken as complete nor completely accurate. The basics The human genome was fully decrypted in , but that's just the book. Most of the 2. There's still a LOT of work to be done, but already a huge amount of information has been mined.
The mother passes all her mitochondrial DNA pretty much unchanged to all offspring, so it can also be used to trace historical movement, but goes back even further Adam 50K, Eve 65K. So the line of travel can be traced back until the gene change disappears from the population.
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