An impressive introduction to the burgeoning recalibration of paleoanthropology.

ANCIENT BONES

UNEARTHING THE ASTONISHING NEW STORY OF HOW WE BECAME HUMAN

A fascinating forensic inquiry into the origins of humankind.

In this exciting investigation into the long and ancient path of humans, the authors explore the connections among evolution, climate, and environment. It has long been the understanding that the earliest humans evolved in Africa and spread from there to the other land masses. But recent discoveries, aided by advances in genetics and our ability to more accurately read fossil evidence, have suggested many different scenarios. “Europe 14 million to 7 million years ago must have been like a giant laboratory where great apes made huge evolutionary leaps forward,” they write. “Then, as climate conditions became more challenging in Europe and more favorable once again in Africa, these more highly evolved great apes would have returned to Africa.” The narrative spotlights the authors’ pleasing explanatory style, as they describe the evolutionary process and the mechanisms and geographical spread of changing climatic conditions. The authors energetically highlight major discoveries—e.g., Graecopithecus as “the first potential early hominin” who “was closer to modern humans than to modern great apes” or the 6-million-year-old footprint from a biped discovered on Crete in 2002—and consistently show that there is much more to the story than old bones and radiometric measurements. They re-create entire vanished environments; present a vibrant picture of the hand’s evolution for different functions; propose a scenario for the capture and use of fire; and explore the value of running, language, food, and wanderlust. “Paleoanthropology urgently needs new hypotheses so that the data we now have can be categorized in a way that makes sense,” they write. Throughout this eye-opening book, the authors present a number of them, and any reader interested in the study of early humans and their predecessors will find plenty of material here.

An impressive introduction to the burgeoning recalibration of paleoanthropology.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77164-751-9

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Greystone Books

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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