Masters of the Planet ?

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A thought provoking book, “Masters of the Planet: The search for human origins” by the paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall, who describes and speculates on the evolution of our species during the last six million years. The reader is confronted with a vast background of observations and contrasting concepts about the evolution of our species. Body features, behaviours, tool making and cognitive features are put in mutual perspective. A picture is drawn of long periods of ‘stasis’, rapid breakthroughs, multiple development paths. Being guided through the complex material it comes evident for the reader how particular (and vulnerable) is our current ‘condition’, a single very numerous, highly competitive but likewise extremely cooperative species. A species that now is world’s top predator stemming of fruit–eating ancestors, who was a tasty prey for many. In passing, the simplistic ‘cliché’ of the “survival of the fittest” is scattered in favour of a scenario of ‘opportunistic application of accumulated marginal features and old habits’. The book is worth reading, in particular for members of the human species pondering about evolution of the Anthropocene and the ‘human condition’.

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