"With a delightfully irascible sense of humor, Henry Gee reflects on our origin and all the misunderstanding that we impose on it. The Accidental Species
is an excellent primer on how—and how not—to think about human evolution." —Carl Zimmer, author of A Planet of Viruses
The Accidental Species
Misunderstandings of Human Evolution
US & UK Publication date: 18 November 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0-226-28488-0 Cloth $26.00/£18.00
Are our human bodies evolutionary perfection—the pinnacle of a long process of change? Absolutely not. In The Accidental Species, Henry Gee, longtime paleontology editor at Nature, presents a robust and stark challenge to our tendency to see ourselves as the acme of creation. Gee argues that our ingrained sense of human exceptionalism—that we are somehow superior to all the other creatures in the animal kingdom—is an error that infects scientific thought, something he’s witnessed firsthand in many of the articles he’s edited over the years.
With humor and a light touch, Gee tours the many features of human beings that have recurrently been used to distinguish us from the rest of the animal world in order to reveal that our evolutionary outcome is one possibility among many, one that owes more to chance than to an organized progression to supremacy. He starts with bipedality, which he shows could have arisen entirely by accident, as a by-product of sexual selection, moves on to technology, large brain size, intelligence, language, and, finally, sentience. He reveals each of these attributes to be alive and well throughout the animal world—they are not, indeed, unique to our species.
The Accidental Species combines Gee’s firsthand experience on the editorial side of many incredible paleontological findings with healthy skepticism and humor to create a book that aims to overturn popular thinking on human evolution.
Henry Gee is a senior editor at Nature and the author of such books as Jacob’s Ladder, In Search of Deep Time, The Science of Middle-earth, and A Field Guide to Dinosaurs, the last with Luis V. Rey. He lives in Cromer, Norfolk, England, with his family and numerous pets. He is available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at (773) 702-4216 or firstname.lastname@example.org