An enlightening investigation of the Pleistocene’s dual character as a geologic time - and as a cultural idea.
The Pleistocene is the epoch of geologic time closest to our own. It’s a time of ice ages, global migrations, and mass extinctions - of woolly rhinos, mammoths, giant ground sloths, and not least early species of Homo. It’s the world that created ours. But outside that environmental story there exists a parallel narrative that describes how our ideas about the Pleistocene have emerged. This story explains the place of the Pleistocene in shaping intellectual culture, and the role of a rapidly evolving culture in creating the idea of the Pleistocene and in establishing its dimensions. This second story addresses how the epoch, its Earth-shaping events, and its creatures, both those that survived and those that disappeared, helped kindle new sciences and a new origins story as the sciences split from the humanities as a way of looking at the past.
Ultimately, it is the story of how the dominant creature to emerge from the frost-and-fire world of the Pleistocene came to understand its place in the scheme of things. A remarkable synthesis of science and history, The Last Lost World describes the world that made our modern one.
©2012 Lydia V. Pyne, Stephen J. Pyne (P)2012 Gildan Media LLC
Letting the rest of the world go by
It took me a while to realize that this book wasn't about the development of the Ice Age and the evolving of homo sapiens, but, rather, a story about the development of man's idea about thinking about those things.
The story that we tell (the narrative) to explain our understanding has changed as our philosophy about how we think about science has changed.
If you are interested in the differences between logical positivism, positivism and other branches of schools of thought about the philosophy of science this book will interest you. I am, and the book held my interest, but it wasn't what I thought it was going to be about, and I would be well served to re-listen to it with my philosopher hat on instead of my scientist hat.
Jumps on his bed while licking the bottom of one foot. He persists in this life affirming act despite interference from the head nurse.
Do not purchase this book thinking its about the doings of geology, climate, plants, animals, and archaic people during the era in its title. It's about the frailties of language. It's about the term "Pleistocene" being at the intersection of common narrative and scientific investigation. It's about etiologically probing the semantics of "Pleistocene" to reveal its constituent parts. If that's your idea of a good time . . . buy the book and laugh yourself hoarse.
It's obvious the authors are academics. The female is into archaeology and how rhetoric of various kinds defines historical categories; the male just finished a separate book of fire photographs from around the world. Now, they are certainly nice people and both are obviously smart and highly educated. One or both of them is a gifted wordsmith. Nevertheless, let me ask: Unless already rich, how could they earn a living from this sort of stuff beyond the doorsteps of a university? It's the only place it's valued. It's certainly boring for the rest of us and not very informative. The book's pith could be reduced to an article in an academic journal—published by an English rather than a History or Paleontology panel of reviewers. I gave it a chance. I listened through the third chapter before turning it off. The narrator does his best with what he was given.
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