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Library Journal Review
While most anthropologists of the late 19th century accepted the idea of human evolution, the Darwinian concept of natural selection in human evolution was practically ignored. The predominant theories emphasized either a progressive emergence from ape-like ancestors (featuring early development of a large brain by Lamarckian mechanisms) or a more ancient branching of ape, man-like, and human lineages (featuring independent acquisition of human-like characters). Bowler ( The Eclipse of Darwinism ) analyzes the interplay of these and othr theories and puts them into the context of then-known fossils, cultural evolution as determined by archaeologists, and the social and philosophical climate. This book is scholarly and insightful, but the sometimes tedious style may prove forbidding to casual readers. Margery C. Coombs, Zoology Dept., Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Bowler (history of science, Belfast University) has authored The Eclipse of Darwinism (CH, Dec '83) and Evolution: The History of an Idea (CH, Nov '84). In Theories of Human Evolution he has written the first extended analysis of the impact of the Darwinian paradigm on theories of human origins prior to the wedding of genetics with evolutionary theory (the ``modern evolutionary synthesis'') in the 1940s. Bowler shows that human fossils were incorporated into theories of human origins only if they matched preconceptions about the workings of the evolutionary process. To this extent, Bowler claims that early theories of human biological evolution were largely unaffected by the Darwinian worldview; instead, they paralleled the anti-Darwinian, deterministic, progressivist, and frequently racist theories of human cultural evolution. The emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1940s firmly repudiated these anti-Darwinian concepts; as a consequence, more coherent and strongly Darwinian theories of human origins were developed. The book is thorough, provocative, meticulously referenced, well indexed, and well written. Required reading for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty.-M.R. Feldesman, Portland State University