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Human Evolution: A Pelican Introduction Mass Market Paperback – 1 May 2014


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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Pelican (1 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141975318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141975313
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 1.9 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Human Evolution is a must-read. It has the great strength of showing you the inner workings of an imaginative mind, while allowing you the freedom to think (New Scientist)

About the Author

Robin Dunbar is an evolutionary anthropologist and Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University. His acclaimed books include How Many Friends Does One Person Need? and Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language, described by Malcolm Gladwell as 'a marvellous work of popular science.'

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By banana pancakes on 9 May 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you have ever watched tv progams about the evolution of apes into man, this book fills in the gaps that a 1 hour tv program inevitably leaves. It explains the speciation of various lineages of ancient apes into other specias and eventually the last common ancestor which split from a separate lineage, then evolving into us. It makes sense of the image you often see on t-shirts of a primate evolving an increasingly erect posture. It also talks about the evolution of the various species of hominin from the last common ancestor through to australopithacus and onto the various homo species, explaining how the brain grew and the development of culture, family, childhood and diet heled the homo species survive and what made homo sapiens the most successful homin species. excellent reading.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. D. Holley TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 Aug. 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The title of this book is misleading. The book is about two models Dunbar devised (a 'time budget model' together with 'the social brain hypothesis'), and their application to human evolution. It is not a summary of human evolution itself, but more a discussion of the application of the chosen models.

The models themselves are interesting (especially the social brain hypothesis), and I found the introductory chapters which set out the models fascinating. I even made a list of all my friends to see if the number came to 150 (it did).

Dunbar comes up with a simple set of mathematical equations (the inputs seem to be brain size; time taken feeding, travelling and grooming; type of food available) and we can then reconstruct every stage of human evolution with precision. Or can we?

Illuminating though the models are, Dunbar goes off the rails in the attempt to apply these to situations millions of years ago. He needs to make heroic assumptions at every stage, and over reliance on his cherished models to the exclusion of other factors blinkers him.

The idea that a complex system, (such as the interaction of a hominin species with its environment) can be reduced to a few equations with minimal inputs is really rather silly. The great difficulties economists have in analysing contemporary human systems shows the extent of the challenge - and the economists are here to observe what's going on in minute detail.

There is a danger of applying mathematical modelling to complex systems - it can give the user a false sense of security and a fair degree of over confidence. The author does not seem to be aware of these limitations.

Dunbar exhibits what I would call a strongly male brain.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By therealus TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 July 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
As a bibliophilic teenager, at least once a week I would make the pilgrimage downtown to Clulow’s, a sadly long-defunct independent bookshop, where I would enjoy browsing the Orange-, Grey- and Black-edged Penguins and iconic blue-edged Pelicans. At home my incipient book collection began to emulate the colour-scheme, allowing only the rarest glimpse of a white-edged Picador or randomly hued Panther. From those books I began my exploration of world literature and learned my first proper lessons in Greek and Roman history and mythology, philosophy, psychology, politics, economics and linguistics.

Some of those books continue to adorn my bookshelves, remaining as a reminder of an autodidactic past. It was therefore something of a thrill to find that the Pelican imprint was being relaunched.

Elsewhere I review the first product of this initiative, Ha-Joon Chang’s introduction to economics, which is excellent but, having just completed an economics degree I had a more informed and specialist view of its content, not to mention its overtendency to reference popular culture. Thus reading that book was a different proposition from the second, Robin Dunbar’s introduction to Human Evolution, a subject in which my prior knowledge was relatively shallow, but which manages to avoid, for example, references to Star Trek when explaining symbionts.

So it was that I began my transformation from casual to dedicated observer of people in groups, as that is essentially what for me is the greatest takeaway from Dunbar’s book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on 10 Aug. 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Did you know the human brain (2% of us by weight) consumes 20% of our daily energy intake? That's just when it's in neutral, before any actual thinking gets done. Perhaps this is just saying brains don't weigh very much - but hey, this lucid yet learned book will give any old brain a work-out. Dunbar (Professor? Minor gripe #1 is that biographical notes, distinctly cursory, are confined to the back cover) is plainly at the top of his game. In an easy yet rigorous style a dazzling range of disciplines is brought to bear on what I suppose must loosely be termed social science - which tends habitually, in my experience, to mean no science at all. Minor gripe #2: why isn't this book put in some kind of category to help us 'situate' it, as non-fiction paperbacks used to be, and LPs too (The Dinner Ladies: urban folk) though this may have been more for record companies' convenience; I certainly never had more than one LP to file under urban folk. (Though DLs WERE in a category of their own, sort of un-cool Incredible String Band. Co-founder Mick Jackson now writes books. Hello, Mick!) My chief quarrel, though, with this beautifully lucid exposition is the occasional paucity of commas. Penguin editors, please note: punctuation is a tool of comprehension; 'minimalist' punctuation serves no one. That said, this and the Economics volume augur wonderfully well for the new Pelican Introductions series; Allen Lane's shade must be resting a tad easier tonight. 4.5 recurring
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