Culture and Its Origins

Article excerpt

DEAN FALK. Braindance: new discoveries about human origins and brain evolution (2nd ed.). xi+253 pages, 46 figures. 2004. Gainesville (FL): University Press of Florida; 0-8130-2738-1 paperback $19.95.

STANLEY I. GREENSPAN, MD & STUART G. SHANKER, DPHiL with ELIZABETH GREENSPAN. The first idea: how symbols, language, and intelligence evolved from our primate ancestors to modern humans, viii+504 pages, 6 figures, 8 tables. 2004. Cambridge (MA): Da Capo; 0-7382-0680-6 hardback $25.

ERIK LANGKJER. The origin of our belief in God. 417 pages, figures. 2004. Copenhagen: Underskoven; 87-90767-97-7 paperback Kr40.

Twelve years since first publication, Prof. FALK considers again research on the evolution of the human brain: 'it is the over-all choreography ... that is unique, not its individual ... steps'; and it depended on certain 'serendipitous coincidences' in connection with bipedalism (pp. 7-8). Braindance is a scholarly book, blithely and invitingly written for the general reader. Also written deftly and personably, for the same readership, The first idea skims through physical anthropology, primatology, archaeology, linguistics and psychology plus a little social anthropology. The authors leave less space than FALK for chance. They speculate about the development of 'pattern recognition' and pursue implications up to the Modern era and into speculations about an emergent 'psychology of global interdependency'. …