Coupon
The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack : And Other Cautionary Tales from Human Evolution
by Ian Tattersall


Overview -

In his new book "The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack, " human paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall argues that a long tradition of "human exceptionalism" in paleoanthropology has distorted the picture of human evolution. Drawing partly on his own career from young scientist in awe of his elders to crotchety elder statesman Tattersall offers an idiosyncratic look at the competitive world of paleoanthropology, beginning with Charles Darwin 150 years ago, and continuing through the Leakey dynasty in Africa, and concluding with the latest astonishing findings in the Caucasus.  Read more...


 
Hardcover
  • $27.00

Add to Cart + Add to Wishlist

In Stock Online.

FREE Shipping for Club Members
 
> Check In-Store Availability

In-Store pricing may vary

 
 
New & Used Marketplace 10 copies from $16.40
 
Download

This item is available only to U.S. billing addresses.
 
 
 
 

More About The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack by Ian Tattersall
 
 
 
Overview

In his new book "The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack, " human paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall argues that a long tradition of "human exceptionalism" in paleoanthropology has distorted the picture of human evolution. Drawing partly on his own career from young scientist in awe of his elders to crotchety elder statesman Tattersall offers an idiosyncratic look at the competitive world of paleoanthropology, beginning with Charles Darwin 150 years ago, and continuing through the Leakey dynasty in Africa, and concluding with the latest astonishing findings in the Caucasus.

The book's title refers to the 1856 discovery of a clearly very old skull cap in Germany's Neander Valley. The possessor had a brain as large as a modern human, but a heavy low braincase with a prominent brow ridge. Scientists tried hard to explain away the inconvenient possibility that this was not actually our direct relative. One extreme interpretation suggested that the preserved leg bones were curved by both rickets, and by a life on horseback. The pain of the unfortunate individual's affliction had caused him to chronically furrow his brow in agony, leading to the excessive development of bone above the eye sockets.

The subsequent history of human evolutionary studies is full of similarly fanciful interpretations. With tact and humor, Tattersall concludes that we are not the perfected products of natural processes, but instead the result of substantial doses of random happenstance."

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781137278890
  • ISBN-10: 1137278897
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publish Date: June 2015
  • Page Count: 256


Related Categories

Books > Science > Paleontology

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-04-06
  • Reviewer: Staff

Paleoanthropologist Tattersall (Masters of the Planet), now retired from the American Museum of Natural History, attempts to accomplish two related goals in this relatively brief book: summarizing the history of his field and exploring the nature of epistemology within the discipline, highlighting the role he and the AMNH played in developing the field. The history he provides is abbreviated and does not add much to what has previously been written. Readers expecting a detailed survey of hominid fossils and their evolutionary relationship to one another will have to look elsewhere. Tattersall’s excursion into how paleoanthropologists work and think is far richer. He takes on a host of intellectual problems that have befuddled the field and thereby illuminates the nature of scientific progress. He explains that the Piltdown hoax taught scientists how important it is “to examine our preconceived beliefs,” and he focuses on the importance of using objective data rather than subjective impressions, even when the latter come from experts. When many of the early hypotheses of human evolution were formed, he asserts, “salesmanship was at a greater premium than rigorous reasoning.” Throughout, Tattersall reminds readers of the pitfalls of believing in human exceptionalism, noting that “we are no exception to Nature’s rules.” (June)

 
BAM Customer Reviews