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Ape into man A study of human evolution. By S. L. Washburn and Ruth Moore. xii + 196 pp. figures tables bibliography index Little Brown Boston. 1974. $3

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EVOLUTION.By S. L. Washburn and
Ruth Moore. xii
196 pp., figures, tables, bibliography, index. Little, Brown,
Boston. 1974. $3.95 (paper).
In this little book Washburn provides the
bulk of the information and major point of
view, while Moore has done the bulk of the
writing. In spite of some minor problems it
has proved a good combination. The authors have created a short, authoritative,
introductory level account of the pongidhominid transition that can be a stimulating supplement for any course on hominid evolution. It is obviously written for
the beginning student, but it can also be
beneficial in graduate courses because
there is practically no other up-to-date
source that summarizes and strongly emphasizes the important implications of our
ape ancestry in a n intelligent way.
Casting aside those covert and overt
qualms about having ancestors similar to
living apes that seem to have plagued even
anthropologists down through the years,
Washburn and Moore openly admit that
(1) the evidence points directly to the chimpanzee as our closest living relative; (2) we
and chimps had a common ancestor; (3)
evidence from molecular biology (and to a
certain extent paleontology) suggest that
we diverged from this common ancestor
somewhere between five and ten million
years ago; (4) since the divergence “The
apes stayed generally the same” (p. 42);
and therefore ( 5 ) we are justified in using
information about modern chimp behavior
and adaptation to infer how the earliest
hominids lived, and to discover many of the
roots of human behavior and adaptation.
Anthropologists who cannot bring themselves to admit these five conclusions will
probably not care very much for the book.
But for those who can, it provides a n excellent combination of data from primate
paleontology, comparative anatomy, comparative ethology, and molecular biology
to produce what is for the most part an
easily understandable and believable reconstruction of evolutionary events leading
to the emergence of Homo. Throughout all
of the discussions there is a n appreciation
of history, and the ideas of Darwin and
Huxley are given the credit they deserve.
However, in some places history seems to
dominate other issues too much. In the
only chapter which concerns hominid paleontology to any extent, we find a discussion
which is highly reminiscent of Moore’s
material in the Time-Life volume Evolution
from 1962 - and not much else.
There are a few other problems with the
book. There are some minor factual flaws,
for example: (1) the authors mention a
South African “missing l i n k announced
in 1925, with a skull like a n ape and a
human bodythis is the Taung child
and only cranial remains were found; (2)
they refer to Goblin as Flo’s child born
about three years after Flint, when in fact
Flo never had a n offspring named Goblin,
nor did she have another offspring until
Flint was much older than three years.
One of the more interesting problems
involves Ramapithecus. Washburn and
Moore claim a date of five to ten million
years ago for the hominid-pongid divergence, but they take a conciliatory stand
(p. 58) that the 14 million (or more)-yearold Ramapithecus could have been an early
hominid or an “advanced” ape. They make
no attempt to reconcile the contradiction of
dates implied in their stand on this issue.
If their time estimate for the hominidpongid divergence is accurate, how can
they accept Ramapithecus as a possible
hominid ?
A similar hesitancy to run head on into
the proponents of various controversial
views is seen in how they treat the australopithecines. We are told that “The verdict
of the scholars was that all the apemen belong to one or possibly two species, a group
that endured for some millions of years
over wide territories” (p. 111). But I am
not sure the authors ought to be criticized
for dodging the controversies. After all,
this is not a book on hominid paleontology.
Pseudo-intellectuals will be quite upset
by Moore’s obvious straining in places to
couch the material in popular language.
But this is not grounds for criticism, the
book was written for a more important
Despite its shortcomings (including a
certain superficiality) I highly recommend
the book for classroom use (and it would
not hurt for most professionals to skim
through it). The books main value lies in
the approach and attitude conveyed by the
following quote: “Only now as the newest
findings demonstrate that the change from
ape to man was not total but partial, have
the realities of this evolution become explainable” (p. 185-186).
M i c h i g u n st(lte U n i v f r s i t y
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xii, moord, figuren, evolution, index, 196, man, human, bibliography, little, ape, stud, washburn, 1974, brown, tablet, ruth, boston
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