LUCY'S LEGACY by Alison Jolly


Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution
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A primatologist’s musings on evolution, with special attention to the myriad changing roles of the sexes and to the development of intelligence and human interdependence. Jolly is a visiting lecturer at Princeton. She tells a good tale in her quest to explain where we came from and where we’re headed (“Biology offers an increasingly coherent view of human nature and humanity’s place in nature”), and she shows us that “human interdependence grew with our species’ history, and now gallops forward to engulf the biosphere.” The driving force of evolution, she argues, is the building of larger organisms that serve “the self-interest of their component parts.” After laying out her idea of evolution, Jolly looks in part two at “Wild Societies.” What behaviors do we have in common with other animal groups? What can we learn from them about ourselves? How did our interactions with other animal groups spur the development of human intelligence? “Developing a Mind,” part three, looks more deeply into the evolution, individual and species-wide, of intelligence, including growth from embryo to adult. And finally, in part four, “The Age of Humanity,” Jolly describes how culture develops and how we move continually from acting as individuals to acting in groups. Her final chapter speculates on where we’re headed: One educated guess is that we may be moving toward the development of a global organization, or organism. “Such an organism would be a new biological synthesis, as cells and bodies once were, directed in part through conscious human purposes.” Jolly enlivens her instruction with snippets of poetry and other writings (from Dorothy Parker to MallarmÇ), and her own colorful prose (“Scientists are indeed fallible. We depend on our social context like a litter of puppies. We can’t survive without the mothers’ milk of praise, preferably accompanied by the regurgitated meat of funding”). Jolly is an enthusiastic guide; she has fun with all this, and readers will too. (30 illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-674-00069-2
Page count: 499pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999