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Children of the ice. By John and Mary Gribbin. New York Basil Blackwell. 1990. vi + 199 pp. $24.95 (cloth)

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469
BOOK REVIEWS
CHILDREN
OF THE ICE.By John and Mary Grib- nately for a book of this kind, there are no
bin. New York: Basil Blackwell. 1990. illustrations at all. Some charts showin
vi + 199 pp. $24.95 (cloth).
how events in different parts of the worl
related to each other and to time would have
This book ‘ves the personal view of the been articularly welcome.
authors on t e major forces that shaped
I a so warn the reader that the informahuman evolution. It is written very sim ly tion is superficial, and that he or she will
in popular and easily readable style.
mostly find no alternative viewpoints represtory commences with the demise of the sented beyond Gribbin and Gribbin’s own.
dinosaurs and the subsequent radiation of For instance, numerous evolutionists today
mammals. It proceeds through the ori ‘n doubt that interspecific competition has
and evolution of primates up to some o f Tt Je been a major cause of extinctions, and
events recorded in human history, and cul- “empty niches” of radiations, as invoked
minates in the discussion of the threatened again and a ain with unwavering certainty
eenhouse e a r t h of the future. The theme in this book or everything from the origin of
t roughout is that physical environmental tetrapods, through to the “Great American
changes-tectonic and especially global cli- Interchange” of mammals in the Pliocene
matic changes-together with competitive and the demise of Neanderthals in the late
interactions among s ecies have been the Pleistocene. The outcomes of debates, such
predominant causes o evolution.
as on “phyletic gradualism” versus “punctuThe book is clearly intended for a nonspe- ated equilibria’ as predominant evolutioncialist readership, and my comments are ary modes, and on whether or not mass
made bearing this in mind. There is very extinctions occurred periodically, are by no
little reference to the prima literature. For means clear to most of us. Yet according to
instance, for early homini evolution the this book these matters are resolved. Many
primary sources seem to be the opular ac- statements here are not sup orted by the
counts in Roger Lewin’s books uman Euo- data or simply inaccurate [SUCas that there
lution and Bones of Contention. The major were several forms of apeman between 4 and
theme embodied in the title Children of the 3 million years ago, that there is some eviIce, that global cooling has repeatedly influ- dence that Australopithecus a ricanus was
enced hominid evolution, has been argued a tool user, and that the L I ilankovitch
with reference to the newer paleoclimatic rhythms are “a unique feature of the current
data by some of us since the 1970s. At first ice epoch”].
our views encountered much healthy sceptiM summar recommendation to the lay
cism and we had to fight uite hard to reach rea er is this. do think that you may enjoy
the stage where now at east some people the new pers ectives and the easy writing
take them more seriously. Thus, I found it a style offered! I y this book, and at a reasonbit unnerving to see these views reported able price. But beware: if you want more
than a superficial impression of what is going on in this field, and entries to the primary literature to follow u points of interest, you will not find them {ere.
The layman will find coverage of a pleasingly broad range of researches relating to
the context of primate and human evolution,
ELISABETH
S. VRBA
from continental drift and Milankovitch cliDepartment of Geology and Geophysics
matic cycles to the debate on periodic mass
Yale University
extinctions by meteorite impacts. UnfortuNew Haven, Connecticut
8
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cloth, gribbin, york, 1990, mary, basic, 199, ice, blackwell, children, new, john
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