Becoming Human

Becoming Human

Evolution and Human Uniqueness

Book - 1998 | 1st ed
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Publisher: New York : Harcourt Brace, c1998
Edition: 1st ed
Branch Call Number: 599.938 T
Characteristics: 258 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
ISBN: 9780151003402


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Sep 01, 2018

The only unsatisfying feature of this book is that the questions it poses (What is consciousness? What is language? How did they come about? What is it, ultimately, that makes us human?) cannot be answered in any ultimate sense because of the yawning abyss of time separating us from the Paleolithic era and the paucity of evidence left behind. However, the author does his best to provide a tentative response, and in doing so takes us on a wondrous journey far back into our evolutionary past, outlining the history of archaeological discovery which opened a window into man's ancestry and also the history of how these discoveries have been interpreted. What emerges at the end is that there is a "great gulf fixed" between humans and their closest relatives, defined by the presence of consciousness or self-awareness, the capacity for symbolic thought (as evidenced in the "Creative Explosion" of Cro-Magnon cave art and symbolic notation, all of which hint at some sort of ritualistic practice, shamanistic activity, and/or possibly a religious belief of some sort or even belief in an afterlife) and the physical and mental ability to use language, all of which somehow came together around the same time and resulted in fully modern humans, perhaps 100-150,000 years ago in Africa and subsequently in many other places, including Europe beginning about 40,000 years ago.

Whether this was just a happy evolutionary coincidence or somehow guided by a divine hand is not addressed, and left up to the reader to decide. The author acknowledges also that there are multitudes of scientific, philosophical, theological, psychological, and other questions raised by this subject, and a vast literature which would fill libraries; he provides a useful bibliography of recent books on some of the issues. Many of these books are available in the library, including some by this same author; and hopefully "Becoming Human" will serve as a springboard for further study to those interested...and all of us should be!


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