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A fascinating account of the latest thinking on human evolution, by ‘one of the most respected evolutionary psychologists in Britain’.
For scientists studying evolution, the past decade has seen astonishing advances across many disciplines – discoveries which have revolutionised scientific thinking and turned upside down our understanding of who we are. The Human Story brings together these threads of research in genetics, behaviour and psychology to provide an understanding of just what it is that makes us human. Robin Dunbar looks in particular at how the human mind has evolved, and draws on his own research during the last five years into the deep psychological and biological bases of music and religion.
'This is the sort of book that should be required reading for all humans ... The hard stuff is compelling enough and how Dunbar tells it makes you quietly resolve to read his back catalogue, even his work with wild goats in Scotland.'
'Dunbar adopts an intriguing position on the origin of language, seeing it as taking over many of the social functions of physical contact and grooming that for many monkey species take up a considerable part of each day. Some many find these views of the evolution of language surprising but they bear careful study. ... Dunbar has been active in research on many of the topics in this new book and so brings to it an easy and confident style that will appeal to a popular audience. The book is pleasingly illustrated with anecdotes and vignettes, and provides, in one place, an interesting and up to date account of why we are not just a third chimpanzee.'
'Writing for a popular audience is not quite as easy as authors generally think it is. Most popularizations are too technical and not sufficiently engrossing. Both Felipe Fernandez-Armesto and Robin Dunbar, on the other hand, have gauged their audience just right. They have simplified without falsifying and have picked a topic that people find endlessly fascinating - the nature of human nature ... Dunbar presents ... careful, coherent arguments.'
'Dunbar does a good job of conveying his beliefs about thinking, communicating and socialising in a very social, communicative way.'
'Despite his book's title, do not expect to find in it a conventional account of the human evolutionary story; fossils make only cameo appearances here. Instead, Dunbar is out to identify key human uniquenesses: those properties of ours that give us that feeling of apartness from the rest of nature ... Dunbar jumps in at the deep end with an account of the feature of human cognition that he believes makes the crucial difference: the ability to hold in our heads multiple orders of intentionality. As a perceptive observer of primate social behaviour he is keenly aware that all sentient beings are capable of knowing their own mental states, and that many are able at some level to predict the actions of others ... Normal human beings, on the other hand, can routinely go up to fifth-order intentionality and even beyond: an ability that Dunbar concludes is what allows them to stand back from the world and observe it dispassionately. Almost certainly Dunbar is on to something here.'
'Professor Dunbar is both lucid and learned.'
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