Book Review: Science and Human Origins – Chapter One: Part One

This little book is one of a class that was more common twenty years ago, when any acute literary critic thought he could demolish Darwin. Mr. Syme has, however, the advantage of having read some of the best works both for and against Darwinism, and is thus able to support his views by quoting writers of eminence. He begins boldly. In the table of contents of the first chapter we find such headings as, “A fatal admission—Darwin’s definition misleading—Refutes his own theory.” But when we look for the proof of these statements we find they rest on misconception, misrepresentation, or misquotation. A few examples will show that this is the case. – Alfred Russel Wallace 1891. Another darwinian critic. Nature 43 (1119): 529-530.

The above quote from Alfred Russel Wallace comes from his review of On the Modification of Organisms by David Syme. As the quote shows, criticizing Darwin as been a cottage industry since on the Origin of Species was published in 1859. As the above quote also shows, the reliance on misconception, misrepresentation, and misquotation has been a standard tactic in the arsenal of creationists for over one hundred years. As we will see below (and in future posts), the latest entry, Science and Human Origins, in the cottage industry continues this illustrious tradition.

Science and Human Origins was written by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin. Science and Human Origins was published by the Discovery Institute earlier this year and created quite ruckus in the science blogosphere when it did. You can see this post (and the links therein) for additional details. Originally I was just going to review the section on fossils but have decided to review the entire book – or at least those parts I feel competent to deal with. This post looks at chapter one. Continue reading

Book Review: Carnivores Of The World

I have been meaning to review this book for quite some time now. Carnivores Of The World is a field guide that covers all 245 species of terrestrial carnivores (the Pinnipedia are not covered). It is publish by Princeton University Press as part of their field guide series. The book is written by Luke Hunter (president of Panthera – an organization devoted to the conservation of the world’s wild cats). The carnivora are the fifth largest mamalian order and contain, as mentioned above, 245 species. The book divides these up into thirteen families (Felidae, Hyaenidae, Herpestidae, Eupleridae, Prionodontidae, Viveridae, Nandiniidae, Canidae, Ursidae, Procyonidae, Ailuridae, Mephitidae, and Mustelidae). Each of these families is discussed as a whole in the introduction with the key features of each being identified. In the chapters following the the introduction, the individual species are discussed. For each species the following information is provided; common name(s),scientific name, length and weight, pelt color and variation, subspecies (if any), distribution and habitat, feeding ecology, social and spatial behavior, reproduction and demography, and status and threats. Continue reading

Mini Book Review: Daniel Lieberman The Evolution of the Human Head

I just bought a copy of Daniel Lieberman’s The Evolution of the Human Head the other day. I’m only on chapter three (hence a mini review), which gives an overview of the embryological development of the head. However, based on what I have read so far I would highly recommend it. The central premise is that hominins vary very little postcranialy – arguable, but somewhat correct – but vary quite a bit cranially. The book sets out to explore why this is the case and so far has been a fascinating read. I’ll do a full review when I have finished the book.

Book Review: Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend

Then, when we had got down to the sea shore we drew our ship into the water and got her mast and sails into her; we also put the sheep on board and took our places, weeping and in great distress of mind. Circe, that great and cunning goddess, sent us a fair wind that blew dead aft and stayed steadily with us keeping our sails all the time well filled; so we did whatever wanted doing to the ship’s gear and let her go as the wind and helmsman headed her. All day long her sails were full as she held her course over the sea, but when the sun went down and darkness was over all the earth, we got into the deep waters of the river Oceanus, where lie the land and city of the Cimmerians who live enshrouded in mist and darkness which the rays of the sun never pierce neither at his rising nor as he goes down again out of the heavens, but the poor wretches live in one long melancholy night. When we got there we beached the ship, took the sheep out of her, and went along by the waters of Oceanus till we came to the place of which Circe had told us.

“Here Perimedes and Eurylochus held the victims, while I drew my sword and dug the trench a cubit each way. I made a drink-offering to all the dead, first with honey and milk, then with wine, and thirdly with water, and I sprinkled white barley meal over the whole, praying earnestly to the poor feckless ghosts, and promising them that when I got back to Ithaca I would sacrifice a barren heifer for them, the best I had, and would load the pyre with good things. I also particularly promised that Teiresias should have a black sheep to himself, the best in all my flocks. When I had prayed sufficiently to the dead, I cut the throats of the two sheep and let the blood run into the trench, whereon the ghosts came trooping up from Erebus- brides, young bachelors, old men worn out with toil, maids who had been crossed in love, and brave men who had been killed in battle, with their armour still smirched with blood; they came from every quarter and flitted round the trench with a strange kind of screaming sound that made me turn pale with fear. When I saw them coming I told the men to be quick and flay the carcasses of the two dead sheep and make burnt offerings of them, and at the same time to repeat prayers to Hades and to Proserpine; but I sat where I was with my sword drawn and would not let the poor feckless ghosts come near the blood till Teiresias should have answered my questions.

The Odyssey Book XI

As the above quote shows, the idea of the dead returning and drinking blood extends back in time quite far. Where does the idea of vampirism come from? Is there one legend that can be pointed to, or is the vampire the result of the mixing of a wide variety of myths and legends? Following on that, is the vampire a uniquely European phenomena? Or can we find that legends about the vampire, like humans, have spread throughout the world? Continue reading

Book Review: Darwin In Galapagos Footsteps To A New World

I was somewhat surprised to receive a copy of Darwin in Galapagos: Footsteps to a New World. Since I moved here from ScienceBlogs I haven’t really requested any review copies of books. Mainly because my audience has shrunk dramatically. Darwin in Galapagos: Footsteps to a New World is an interesting book, published this year, that focuses on Darwin’s time in the Galapagos. Written by K. Thalia Grant (daughter of Rosemary and Peter Grant) and Gregory B. Estes, the book attempts to trace Darwin’s path through the Galapagos. Continue reading

Website Review: A Hominin Database

There are a number of websites out there, such as this one from the Smithsonian, that discuss human evolution and the fossil evidence for human evolution. They vary in quality and completeness and you might be tempted to ignore yet another. That would be a mistake with

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Book Review: The Origin of Races by Carleton Coon

Awhile back Kambiz wrote a post about a recent paper by Mark Stoneking, during the course of which, Carleton Coon’s book got mentioned. When first published The Origin of Races created considerable controversy and Coon was roundly vilified by a number of physical anthropologists.
About 12 years ago, while in college, I happened to buy a used copy of Coon’s book, read about 60 pages and got sidetracked by other things. The post by Kambiz (and this one by Dienkes) caused me to pull the book out and read it in its entirety.

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Book Review: War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage

Once upon a time it used to be thought that “primitives” lead lives that were, to quote Hobbes, “…nasty, brutish, and short…”, times change and so did the lifestyle of the “Other”. Changed so much, in fact, that only European expansion, circa the age of Discovery, could provoke a war. Both ideas are the subject of War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage by Lawrence H. Keeley.

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Book Review: Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Recently, I received a copy of Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body. Shubin, you may recall, is one of the co-discoverers of Tiktaalik roseae.

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Book Review: The Rhino With The Glue-On Shoes And Other Surprising True Stories Of Zoo Vets And Their Patients

Veterinarians at zoos, aquariums, and conservation areas (to mention a few) face some unique challenges. Just how unique these challenges can be is the subject of The Rhino With The Glue-On Shoes And Other Surprising True Stories Of Zoo Vets And Their Patients edited by Lucy Spelman and Ted Mashima. The book consists of twenty-eight stories that chronicle some of the situations vets find themselves facing.

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