The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution
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—the key is not what’s missing, but how we’re linked.
record is so fragmentary and imperfect (a point that Darwin grasped with his usual percipience), it is easy for us to read into it any narrative we like and assume that this narrative must be the right one. It is only natural for us to compose a story that suits our own prejudices of evolution (driven by natural selection) leading to ever greater refinement. This is, however, a profound misreading of Darwin’s ideas and reflects a failure to understand the uniqueness of natural selection as a
anything, and of how vast is the ocean of ignorance in which we flounder. It says something about the hominin fossil record that the discoveries of Orrorin, Sahelanthropus, and Ardipithecus have all been made very recently, in the past twenty years, and thanks to titanic efforts from scientists from many different countries, not least from the countries in Africa where the fossils are found. Given the extent of our ignorance, and how it increases with every passing day, one can only be
narrative, progressivist conclusion, the human EQ has increased rapidly and markedly over evolutionary time. Compared with those of apes, it is off the scale: the relative and absolute increase in brain size has been greater than for any other organ or organ system.7 Not only is the modern human brain large, it consumes a disproportionate amount of energy. Even though it is large in proportion to our mass when compared with brain masses in other animals, it still constitutes only between a
the sides of the head before petering out. The skull roof is smooth and not clothed in muscle. This is one 142 CHAPTER NINE reason why modern human skulls are globular, with no crests or other prominent signs of muscle attachment. The smallness of human chewing muscles has been linked with a particular genetic mutation found in humans but not other mammals.16 Could this mutation have played a part in the expansion of the human skull and the weakening of these muscles? Could natural selection
nightingale, living ever for the moment and therefore not doomed to death, a concept that would mean nothing to the insentient. Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget What thou among the leaves has never known, The weariness, the fever and the fret Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies, Where but to think is to be full of sorrow And leaden-eyed despairs; Where Beauty cannot keep her