DOMINION by Niles Eldredge

DOMINION

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The latest on human evolution from our man at New York City's American Museum of Natural History (Dept. of Invertebrates), who views the future with alarm. We have absorbed the Genesis myth, Eldredge (Reinventing Darwin, p. 356, etc.) declares, accepting our God-given role as having ``dominion . . . over every creeping thing.'' Thus, we stand above and apart from nature, which we continue to exploit. The rise of agriculture and cultural traditions allowed us to transcend local ecosystems so that we stand today 5.7 billion strong and growing, a global species in danger of planetary and self- destruction. Not good. Not new, either. Eldredge, as impassioned and articulate as he is, echoes much of what the Ehrlichs, E.O. Wilson, and other biologist-conservationists are saying. Elsewhere there are new wrinkles, and Eldredge is good at reprising the out- of-Africa evolutionary story, emphasizing major weather changes as pivotal goads to evolution. One occurred 2.7 to 2.5 million years ago as East African wetlands changed to dry savannah. That created niches for specialized vegetarian protohuman species and other more generalized, bigger-brained speciesboth descendants of Australopithecus africanus. According to the Eldredge scenario, a second cold pulse around 1.6 million years ago led to a more advanced hominid, Homo ergaster (``work man''), which Eldredge believes was ancestor to the more familiar Homo erectus species, which eventually led to us. In short, Eldredge argues that material culture builds with each successive species and with the ice ages begins to move at a pace that decouples biological from cultural evolution. We can no longer count on natural selection to do its thing because we are no longer living in small, geographically isolated groups. Ergo, we need to forego dominion and embrace sustainable growth, respect all flora and fauna, and practice population control, most likely to come about with the education and empowerment of women. Makes sense, but is anyone outside the members of the choir listening?

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8050-2982-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1995




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