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Last Ape Standing

Last Ape Standing

The Seven-million Year Story of How and Why We Survived

Book - 2013
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Over the past 180 years scientists have sifted through evidence that at least twenty-seven human species have evolved on planet Earth. And as you may have noticed, twenty-six of them are no longer with us, done in by their environment, predators, disease, or the unfortunate shortcomings of their DNA. What enabled us to survive when so many other human species were shown the evolutionary door? Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived by acclaimed science journalist Chip Walter tells the intriguing tale of how against all odds and despite nature's brutal and capricious ways we stand here today, the only surviving humans, and the planet's most dominant species.

Drawing on a wide variety of scientific disciplines, Walter reveals how a rare evolutionary phenomenon led to the uniquely long childhoods that make us so resourceful and emotionally complex. He looks at why we developed a new kind of mind and how our highly social nature has shaped our moral (and immoral) behavior. And in exploring the traits that enabled our success, he plumbs the roots of our creativity and investigates why we became self-aware in ways that no other animal is. Along the way, Last Ape Standing profiles other human species who evolved with us and who have also shaped our kind in startling ways - the Neanderthals of Europe, the "Hobbits" of Indonesia, the Denisovans of Siberia, and the recently discovered Red Deer Cave people of China, who died off just as we stood at the brink of civilizations eleven thousand years ago.

Last Ape Standing is an engaging and accessible story that explores the forces that molded us into the peculiar and astonishing creature that we are.

Publisher: New York :, Walker & Company,, 2013.
Edition: First U.S. edition.
ISBN: 9780802717566
Branch Call Number: 569.9 WA
Characteristics: xiv, 220 pages, 16 unnumbered : illustrations (some color), color maps ; 25 cm


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Dec 30, 2017

Probably a good book to start reading about the topic of human evolution, and it is definitely an easy read. As I moved through it, I got more and more of the feeling that the author was cherry-picking true scholars in the field and doing selective simplification of their work. I found myself wondering about other scholarly opinions on topics that the author acknowledged as in contention and not agreed upon. The last part of the book seemed to be mostly wild conjecture by the author along the lines of his "what if this was true" perspective and lacked significant credible research references.
In summary, I would say the author is a writer in the field and pretty far from a knowledgeable scholar. Lots of entertainment if you like his story. This book has motivated me to look for authors who better understand the detailed research in the field and the subtleties of differing theories and opinions.
Currently reading Nicholas Wade's, "Before The Dawn". Much more meat, a much more credible writing style, and still very readable and interesting to the casual reader interested in history in general (i.e. me).

Jul 31, 2014

We found this book gave some real insights into how we became who we are. While some is speculation based on what is actually known, the author does not 'dumb it down', but does try to avoid getting into deep scientific terminology when possible. It gives anyone with an open mind some really good understanding of why we behave as we do and where we might go from here. He points out that, if you scale 7+ million years of evolution to a year, we modern humans only show up in the last few days and our recorded history represents only the last few minutes of that year. It is well written, an interesting and easy read, and gives one lots of food for thought.


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