Buller, a philosopher of science, takes on evolutionary psychology, arguing that the conventional wisdom of the field is misguided: human minds are not adapted to the Pleistocene; rather, they are continually adapting, both over evolutionary time and within individual lifetimes. Elliott Sober writes, "Buller's critique of evolutionary psychology is measured, logical, and clearly developed. It is also devastating. Buller does not seek to refute the entirety of evolutionary psychology by finding a single magic bullet. Rather, he attends to the details, finding a variety of serious problems in the different arguments that evolutionary psychologists deploy. This is philosophy of science in the trenches, and it is excellent."
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005. 564 pages.
The authors whose essays appear in Alas, Poor Darwin argue that "the claims of evolutionary psychology rest on shaky empirical evidence, flawed premises, and unexamined political presuppositions." Included are essays by Dorothy Nelkin, Charles Hencks, Gabriel Dover, Mary Midgley, Stephen Jay Gould, Hilary Rose, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Patrick Bateson, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Tom Shakespeare and Mark Erickson, Ted Benton, Tim Ingold, and Steven Rose. Richard Lewontin praised Alas, Poor Darwin as "a superb collection of essays debunking this latest attempt to hijack Darwin," adding, "Anyone who has been seduced by the claims of 'evolutionary psychology' should read this book."
New York: Harmony Books, 2000. 346 pages.
Drawing on the methods of anthropology, archaeology, and history, Alice Beck Kehoe's magisterial account of the fifteen thousand years of pre-Columbian American history is a must for anyone interested in the development of human cultures in North America north of Mexico. Reviewing America before the European Invasions in The New York Review of Books, Tim Flannery wrote, "Its strength lies in the author's deep empathy with the people who lived their lives in vanished and barely imaginable civilizations, as well as with contemporary indigenous cultures. ... Kehoe's book does a great service to Americans."
London: Longman Publishing Group, 2002. 272 pages.
From the publisher: "This book critically evaluates many of these popular hypotheses about man's early history. It presents the most important evidence and arguments for and against theories of a universal flood, the lost continent of Atlantis, mysterious pyramid powers, pre-Columbian voyages to America by ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians, and Velikovsky's cosmic catastrophism. ... The book discusses radio-carbon dating, archaeological stratigraphy, textual interpretation, and epigraphy as well as emphasis on the proper use of data provided by geology, astronomy and other sciences. It is written in non-technical language and will appeal to a wide audience." Stiebing is Professor of History at the University of New Orleans.
Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1984. 217 pages.
In his introduction to Archaeological Fantasies, Garrett G. Fagan writes, "Despite great advances in archaeology's investigative methods and modes of analysis — all grounded in vast quantities of verifiable evidence — a self-styled 'alternative' movement presents a nexus of often mutually exclusive and outrageous narratives as if they were viable substitutes for real knowledge about the past." The contributors to the volume — including Kenneth L. Feder, Bettina Arnold, Mary Lefkowitz, Norman Levitt, and Alan D. Sokal — examine and debunk such alternative archaeological narratives in their stimulating and engaging essays, both in a series of case studies and in a wider context.
London, UK: Falmer Press, 2006. 417 pages.
Goldsmith and Zimmerman's interdisciplinary textbook is just the thing for introducing students to the significance of evolution for our understanding of human nature. "Using evolution as the unifying theme, this book traces the connections between levels of complexity, showing how both the study of other organisms and a variety of perspectives from biology, psychology, and anthropology provide complementary insights", Goldsmith and Zimmerman explain. Steven Pinker describes their book as "[a]n excellent introduction to a body of knowledge and concepts that should be mastered by every educated person."
New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2001. 384 pages.
Washington (DC): National Geographic, 2007. 256 pages.
In Deep Ancestry, Spencer Wells, the director of the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, clearly explains the science behind the project — which is collecting DNA from a wide sample of the world’s population in order to understand the evolution of the human genome — and also engagingly relates the stories of five of its volunteers. Describing the book as “concise and well-written,” the reviewer for Publishers Weekly writes, “It is a remarkable journey that will appeal to readers of all backgrounds interested in exploring the science and research behind human evolution.” Wells’s first book was The Journey of Man.
In Deep Ancestry, Spencer Wells, the director of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, clearly explains the science behind the project — which is collecting DNA from a wide sample of the world's population in order to understand the evolution of the human genome — and also engagingly relates the stories of five of its volunteers. Describing the book as "concise and well-written," the reviewer for Publishers Weekly writes, "It is a remarkable journey that will appeal to readers of all backgrounds interested in exploring the science and research behind human evolution." Wells's first book was The Journey of Man.
Des Moines, IA: National Geographic Society, 2007. 247 pages.
In its first edition, Evolutionary Psychology immediately became the standard textbook for the discipline; the second edition (published in 2003) is thoroughly revised and brought up to date. Topics covered include scientific movements leading to evolutionary psychology, the new science of evolutionary psychology, survival problems and solutions, women's long-term mating strategies, men's long-term mating strategies, short-term sexual strategies, principles of parenting, problems of kinship, cooperative alliances, aggression and warfare, conflict between the sexes, status, prestige, and social dominance, and toward a unified evolutionary psychology. David Buss is Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin; he is also the author of The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating.
Boston: Academic Internet Publishers, 2003. 128 pages.
Designed for the general public, Extinct Humans covers the general scope of the human fossil record in about 250 pages, illustrated mainly by original photographs of fossil skulls. The authors are known within anthropology for their recognition of many fossil species and lineages. They state their theme as follows: "A linear mindset pervades most work in paleoanthropology, as if the story of human evolution has essentially been one of a single-minded struggle from bestial benightedness to uplifted enlightenment... But if we proceed like paleontologists studying other groups ... a very different picture emerges. ... a story of repeated evolutionary experimentation, diversification, and, ultimately, extinction."
Boulder, CO: Basic Books, 2000. 224 pages.
Updated, expanded, and improved for its fourth edition, Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries is a classic, comprehensive, and invaluable treatment of pseudoscience in archaeology. Among the topics discussed are the Cardiff Giant, the Piltdown Hoax, controversies over who settled the Americas, the myth of the Moundbuilders, Atlantis, ancient astronauts, psychic archaeology, creationism, the Shroud of Turin, and what Feder refers to as "real mysteries of a veritable past" — the Paleolithic cave paintings of Europe, the fall of the Maya, Stonehenge, and Kennewick Man. The author is Professor of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University.
Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2001. 384 pages.
Donald Johanson and Blake Edgar discuss human prehistory — from the appearance of bipedal walking to the origin of language — in a volume lavishly illustrated with original (and often life-size) photographs of fossils and artifacts. The first part of the book concentrates on the interpretation of the paleoanthropological evidence, considering such topics as migration, diversity, anatomy, society, bipedalism, tools, customs, and "imponderables" (such as clothing and the problem of consciousness). The second part comprehensively summarizes the evidence on which our knowledge of human prehistory is based. A revised, updated, and expanded edition, which Scientific American's reviewer described as "even more awe-inspiring than the earlier version."
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. 288 pages.
Guns, Germs, and Steel takes on the ambitious task of explaining the development of human civilization since the Ice Age, and succeeds marvelously. Arguing that "[h]istory followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples' environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves," Jared Diamond explains the rise of the West in terms of geography and environment, debunking racially based theories. Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, Guns, Germs, and Steel was praised by E. O. Wilson for showing "how history and biology can enrich one another to produce a deeper understanding of the human condition."
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999. 494 pages.
As Kenneth Kennedy writes, Roger Lewin is "one of the very few scientific journalists I know who has been successful in relating, with accuracy and an exciting writing style, the principles of paleoanthropology to a broad reading audience of scholars and laymen." Unsurprisingly, then, his Human Evolution is a good introduction to its subject. Containing brief but accurate accounts of contemporary research and results, as well as copious references and illustrations, it is eminently useful both as a general source of information and as a supplementary textbook. Lewin's other books include Bones of Contention and (with Richard Leakey) Origins Reconsidered.
Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2005. 277 pages.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 240 pages.
Avise’s book highlights the baroque, redundant, and inefficient features of the human genome: “None of this is easily explained by actions of either a loving and merciful God or of an unnamed but highly competent Designer,” reviewers Arcady Mushegian and Eric Kessler comment. They add, “Avise’s account is concise but rich in historic and medical detail, and the prose is elegant and lucid. The book is a joy to read, and is suitable for anyone who is interested in science and medicine enough to be a casual reader of Scientific American or Discover magazines.”
From the publisher: "In this sweeping narrative of the past 150,000 years of human history, Steve Olson draws on new understandings in genetics to reveal how the people of the world came to be. ... He shows how groups of people differ and yet are the same, exploding the myth that human races are a biological reality while demonstrating how the accidents of history have resulted in the rich diversity of people today. Celebrating both our commonality and our variety, Mapping Human History is a masterful synthesis of the human past and present that will forever change how we think about ourselves and our relations with others."
Boston: Mariner Books, 2003. 304 pages.
A review of motherhood and infancy from an evolutionary point of view, written by a leading researcher who has spent her career investigating these topics. With extensive notes and bibliography. From the preface: "For better or for worse, I see the world through a different lens than most people. My depth of field is millions of years longer, and the subjects in my viewfinder have the curious habit of spontaneously taking on the attributes of other species: chimps, platypuses, australopithecines. This habit of thinking about mothers in broad evolutionary and comparative — as well as cross-cultural and historical — perspectives distinguishes my examination of motherhood from those of the psychoanalysts, psychologists, novelists, poets, and social historians whose work I build on."
New York: Ballantine Books, 1999. 752 pages.
In this anthology, the authors make "available a set of key documents in the literature of human evolution relevant to the history of hominid taxonomy and the discovery and naming of extinct hominid species." Naming Our Ancestors is a collection of fifteen essays, written from 1864 to 1986, that present a historical overview of paleoanthropology, plus four essays discussing changes in taxonomic practice since World War II. Papers were selected to present the full range of names given to hominid fossils and the theoretical principles underlying the naming practices. Several papers are difficult to obtain; some were translated into English for the first time for this volume, which offers depth missing from introductory textbooks and popular treatments.
Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1994. 254 pages.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 256 pages.
Reviewer Jonathan Marks summarizes, “Jeremy Taylor argues that (1) we are genomically more different than the 98–99% datum has indicated; (2) we are cognitively and behaviorally more different than the inhabitants of the post-Goodall world have been led to believe; and (3) the elision of human and chimpanzee, as animal-rights advocates have promoted, is unwarranted. He documents all three points admirably.” A weakness of Taylor’s argument, Marks adds, is that it fails to address the question “Why should we suppose that genetic relationships are ‘realer’ or just ‘more important’ than other kinds of relationships?” and thus “takes the privileged position of genetics for granted.”
From the publisher: "Not by Genes Alone offers a radical interpretation of human evolution, arguing that our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem from a psychology uniquely adapted to create complex culture. Richerson and Boyd illustrate here that culture is neither superorganic nor the handmaiden of the genes. Rather, it is essential to human adaptation, as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion. ... In abandoning the nature-versus-nurture debate as fundamentally misconceived, Not by Genes Alone is a truly original and groundbreaking theory of the role of culture in evolution and a book to be reckoned with for generations to come."
Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2004. 342 pages.
From the publisher: "No one who cares about the human future can afford to ignore Edward O. Wilson's book. On Human Nature begins a new phase in the most important intellectual controversy of this generation: Is human behavior controlled by the species' biological heritage? Does this heritage limit human destiny? With characteristic pungency and simplicity of style, the author of Sociobiology challenges old prejudices and current misconceptions about the nature-nurture debate. ... His goal is nothing less than the completion of the Darwinian revolution by bringing biological thought into the center of the social sciences and the humanities." On Human Nature won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1979.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. 284 pages.
Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 2004. 288 pages.
From the publisher: “No one who cares about the human future can afford to ignore Edward O. Wilson’s book. On Human Nature begins a new phase in the most important intellectual controversy of this generation: Is human behavior controlled by the species’ biological heritage? Does this heritage limit human destiny? With characteristic pungency and simplicity of style, the author of Sociobiology challenges old prejudices and current misconceptions about the nature-nurture debate. ... His goal is nothing less than the completion of the Darwinian revolution by bringing biological thought into the center of the social sciences and the humanities.” On Human Nature won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1979.
In Our Inner Ape, Frans de Waal — a leading primatologist — entertainingly and thoughtfully ponders what we can learn about ourselves from the behavior of our closest relatives: chimpanzees and bonobos. NCSE's Anne D. Holden writes (in RNCSE 2007 Sep–Dec; 27 [5–6]: 45–6), "de Waal's argument that humans exhibit important qualities of both chimpanzees and bonobos is well-developed, organized, and is complemented by excellent examples from his years in close contact with these animals. As a result, the reader is left with a solid understanding of what it means to be human, as well as what it means to be an ape."
New York: Riverhead Books, 2006. 288 pages.
In Sense and Nonsense, Laland and Brown seek to introduce the ideas, methods, and results of the five main approaches of applying evolutionary theory to human behavior: sociobiology, human behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, memetics, and gene–culture evolution. Henry Plotkin (the author of Evolution in Mind: An Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology) writes, "Laland and Brown have written an up to date, blessedly balanced and refreshingly critical review of the application of evolutionary theory to the human sciences based upon the single, and surely correct, view that human behaviour is multiply determined." Laland and Brown are both researchers in the Department of Zoology at Cambridge University.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. 384 pages.
Stanford, a veteran field primatologist, argues "that the gap between apes and humans is very narrow indeed, and the insistence on seeing it as vast and unbridgeable is more a product of fashion and prejudice than of clear thinking." Divided into three sections, dealing with "the forces that drive the societies of great apes and other primates," "contentious questions about the connection of great ape behavior to our understanding of what people do," and "the fate of the apes." The author is professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California and codirector of the Jane Goodall Research Center.
New York: Basic Books, 2001. 256 pages.
New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2007. 176 pages.
A beautifully illustrated and elegantly concise guide to human origins, the Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins explains the latest research on human evolution. "Despite recent insights into our origins, there is much we still don't know. ... While scientists will never recover a perfect picture of human evolution," Zimmer writes, "their success in recent years makes it a safe bet that they will continue to make astonishing new discoveries for years to come." One of the country's leading science journalists, Zimmer is also the author of Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea and The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution.
In the introduction to The Adapted Mind (published originally in 1992 and a recognized classic in the field), the editors explained, "we hope to provide a preliminary sketch of what a conceptually integrated approach to the behavioral and social sciences might look like." Their approach is premised on the existence of a universal human nature, manifest primarily as psychological mechanisms constructed by natural selection to adapt humans to the way of life of Pleistocene hunter–gatherers, and the contributors use the approach in considering such phenomena as cooperation, mating and sex, parental care, and perception and language. The reviewer for the Journal of Anthropological Research described The Adapted Mind as "a critically important book."
New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. 688 pages.
One of the world's experts on chimpanzee behavior considers the nature of culture and its relationship to who humans are. "We define ourselves as the only cultured species, and we generally believe that culture has permitted us to break away from nature. We are wont to say that culture is what makes us human", de Waal explains: "The possibility that animals have culture is the topic I wish to explore in this book." The reviewer for Scientific American recommends that we "look over his shoulder and learn what the animals tell us about ourselves."
New York: Basic Books, 2002. 464 pages.
"When it comes to explaining human thought and behavior," Pinker writes in his preface, "the possibility that heredity plays any role at all still has the power to shock." In The Blank Slate, he proceeds to articulate, defend, and consider — all with his trademark humor and eye for detail — the implications of "the new view of human nature and culture" that is emerging from cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, behavioral genetics, and evolutionary psychology. Eugenie C. Scott writes, "A humane and thoughtful book, The Blank Slate will surprise many who are fearful of the 'consequences' of a biologically informed conception of what it means to be human."
New York: Penguin Books, 2003. 528 pages.
In light of recent creationist claims that evolutionary biology is intrinsically racist, Graves's message — "that science identifies no races in the human species, not because we wish there to be races but because the peculiar evolutionary history of our species has not led to their formation" — is timely and important. NCSE Supporter Francisco J Ayala describes The Emperor's New Clothes as "eminently readable and engrossing."
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001. 272 pages.
"Most popular books about evolution in recent years", Tattersall comments, "have been based on the experience of individual paleoanthropologists in the field, and ... the notion that reconstructing the past is essentially a matter of discovery...." Tattersall, however, follows a different trail: remarking that "the starting point for any new set of hypotheses is the set of hypotheses that preceded it", he interweaves the story of the discoveries with accounts of the changing theoretical concerns of the discoverers and the conflicting interpretations of paleontological evidence, explaining how these change in the light of new discoveries and new analytical techniques.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 288 pages.
The lifework of Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza has been to investigate the history of humanity through its genetic makeup; The Great Human Diasporas, written in collaboration with his filmmaker son and translated from the Italian, distills his prodigious scientific knowledge into a form accessible to the general reader. A central chapter explains how Cavalli-Sforza used archaeological and genetic data to reconstruct the human population movements of the last ten thousand years (especially in Europe). The Great Human Diasporas also touches on the fundamentals of evolutionary theory as well as issues of eugenics, linguistics, racism, and genetic engineering.
Reading, MA: Basic Books, 1996. 320 pages.
Simply the single best reference and advanced introduction to paleoanthropology — the subject of human biological and cultural evolution, the area where physical anthropology and prehistoric archeology overlap. Writing in Evolution, Henry McHenry describes it as "by far the best book of its kind"; writing in Antiquity, R. A. Foley describes it as "the best introduction to the problems and data of modern palaeoanthropology yet published." And no wonder: unmatched for breadth, range, and reliability, with more than 2500 references cited in 800 pages, The Human Career is indispensable for any serious student of human evolution.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. 810 pages.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009. 1024 pages.
Simply the single best reference and advanced introduction to paleoanthropology — the subject of human biological and cultural evolution, the area where physical anthropology and prehistoric archeology overlap. A previous edition was described by Henry McHenry as "by far the best book of its kind" and by R. A. Foley as "the best introduction to the problems and data of modern palaeoanthropology yet published." Unmatched for breadth, range, and reliability, with more than 1000 pages, The Human Career is indispensable for any serious student of human evolution. Richard G. Klein is Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University.
In preparing the book, Zihlman realized that "many of the human characteristics I would be writing about are perfectly adapted for this kind of book — namely, color vision, hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, and a brain especially evolved for tool-using!" Where else would you get the opportunity to use all of these at once? The plates to be colored in illustrate evolution in general, genetics, the living primates, primate evolution, and fossil evidence for human evolution. Now in a revised and expanded second edition.
New York: Collins, 2001. 352 pages.
From the publisher: "This book tells the story of human evolution, the epic of Homo sapiens and its colorful precursors and relatives. The story begins in Africa, six to seven million years ago, and encompasses twenty known human species, of which Homo sapiens is the sole survivor. Illustrated with spectacular, three-dimensional scientific reconstructions portrayed in their natural habitat developed by a team of physical anthropologists at the American Museum of Natural History and in concert with experts from around the world, the book is both a guide to extinct human species and an astonishing hominid family photo album."
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007. 256 pages.
Tattersall, Curator at the American Museum of Natural History, successfully "aim[s]...to paint as full a portrait as possible of these capable and fascinating human precursors and the world they lived in...." This beautifully illustrated volume is rich with photographs of original fossils, discussions about the evolution and and life-style of Neanderthals and how archeologists interpret the available evidence, and thought-provoking reflections on what the story of the Neanderthals tells us about our own place in nature.
Boulder, CO: Basic Books, 1999. 208 pages.
In The Moral Animal, the popular science journalist Robert Wright — author of Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information and Non-Zero: The Logic of Human Destiny — turns his attention to the new science of evolutionary psychology. Summarizing and synthesizing a wealth of state-of-the art scientific information, Wright provocatively argues that human moral behavior was — and is — largely shaped by our adaptation to the ancestral environment. His points are cheekily exemplified with episodes from the life of Charles Darwin himself. The reviewer for The Economist writes, "This clever and stimulating book is destined to become a classic."
New York: Vintage Books, 1994. 496 pages.
From the publisher: "The Seven Daughters of Eve reveals the remarkable story behind a groundbreaking scientific discovery. After being summoned in 1997 to an archaeological site to examine the remains of a five-thousand-year-old man, Bryan Sykes ultimately was able to prove not only that the man was a European but also that he has living relatives in England today. In this lucid, absorbing account, Sykes reveals how the identification of a particular strand of DNA that passes unbroken through the maternal line allows scientists to trace our genetic makeup all the way back to prehistoric times, to seven primeval women, the Seven Daughters of Eve."
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002. 320 pages.
Nine primatologists — Richard W. Byrne, Robin I. M. Dunbar, William C. McGrew, Anne E. Pusey, Charles T. Snowdon, Craig B. Stanford, Karen B. Strier, and Richard W. Wrangham — consider the implications of primate behavior for understanding human evolution. Topics of the individual essays include reproduction, food and diet, tool use, intelligence, communication and language, and culture. "If you want a source that cogently discusses human intelligence in the context of the behavior of other primates," writes Ian Tattersall, "Tree of Origin is the place to turn."
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. 320 pages.
Matt Cartmill writes, "In this clever, entertaining, and thoughtful book, Marks lays out some important limitations of science in general and genetics in particular. Using terms that everybody can understand, he demolishes the pretensions of scientists who try to use genetics to answer questions about the kinship of nations, the rights of animals, the racial identity of Kennewick Man, the hereditary Jewish priesthood, and the existence of God. Marks has a lot of fun with all this — and so will his readers." A member of NCSE, Marks teaches at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003. 312 pages.
Assaulting evolutionary psychology at one of its apparent strongholds — sexuality — Eldredge argues that life is not wholly driven by the gene's need to replicate itself. At least as important, he contends, is staying alive: he writes, "Sex is so clearly separated from pure reproduction in humans — and there is so much interplay between sex and economics, and even between economics and reproduction in human life — that this 'human triangle' of sex, reproduction, and economics makes us the very least likely creatures on the planet to conform to ... evolutionary determinism." Eldredge is curator in the Department of Invertebrates at The American Museum of Natural History and a Supporter of NCSE.
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005. 224 pages.
Voices for Evolution
The third edition of Voices for Evolution can be purchased or downloaded at Lulu.com