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Publisher's Summary

Who are we? It's a question humankind has been asking about itself for a long time.

But when we consider ourselves not as static beings fixed in time, but as ever-changing creatures, our viewpoint of human history becomes much more captivating. The question is no longer "Who are we?" but "What have we become? And what are we becoming?

"What makes this new viewpoint possible is the evolutionary perspective offered by biological anthropology, through which we study the evolution, genetics, anatomy, and modern variation of the human species. In this series of 24 captivating lectures, an award-winning teacher and acclaimed scholar delves into the story of how, why, where, and when we became human.

You'll gain a fresh understanding of the forces that have shaped our species, as Professor King synthesizes the best that more than a century of scientific scholarship has to offer across a variety of disciplines, including primate anatomy and behavior - to understand evolution and to learn more about our common ancestor - and molecular anthropology, to gain the insights offered by fossils, ancient skeletal remains, and lifestyle information like cave art and stone tools.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2002 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2002 The Great Courses

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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent course in human origins

Would you listen to Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective again? Why?

This is an excellent course. The professor shares a lot of insight into the controversies of this field and her own work with non human primates. She clearly explains the science of evolution and it's terms, like reproductive success ( never look at your children in the same way again! ) I suppose it's hard not to be dated in this field where new discoveries are continually changing our understanding of our origins. If you get this course you'll want to supplement with other material written more recently. There are some books out suitable for the non scientist. At the time of the course they did not know about Neanderthal DNA in modern humans, or the amazing homo florensis. She does anticipate the Neanderthal DNA discovery and it's implications. She is clearly an accomplished researcher and lecturer and if you are interested in this subject this course is a good use of a credit.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Like Taking Intro to Biological Anthropology

I found this to be a nice summation of what you would end up, or at least should end up, getting out of an introductory class to biological evolution. It is also a nice source to refresh yourselves on some of the terms and major points of evolution in respect to biological anthropology. If you have any interest in the subject, it is worth the credit.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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too old - much has happened since

A great introduction, but this was published in 2002. SO much has happened since. Outdated.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very interesting...

Loved it but wish it were more current. A lot of discoveries made in the last 15 years.
2018

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very Well told, extremely interesting subject

This course is somewhat dated, and it would be awesome if the great courses would make a new version of this. That said, it's an awesome lecture series, that goes into both similarities between primates (and other apes) and humans, what archeology can tell us about our past, and also what modern research can tell us about the influence of genes.. There's so much, it's hard to even sum up. An amazing lecture, I'd recommend any day

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Informative

Nice tour of the topic which, for me, is an update. I understand that biological anthropology, as a course given to university students, can benefit from being articulated with the specific cultural climate of our time and place(s), but I was a bit annoyed by the space taken up by the Professor's own ideological posturing. This was most prominent in chapters 14&15 (gender issues) and in chapter 19 (racial issues). That being said, Prof. King did manage to contain the damage; while these topics were not treated with all the objectivity one would expect from a scientist, it could have been much worse.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • JAY
  • UTAH
  • 01-16-15

great subject review

What did you love best about Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective?

wide view of the subject matter

If you’ve listened to books by The Great Courses before, how does this one compare?

middle of the road

Have you listened to any of Professor Barbara J. King’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I haven't heard her other performances, but the information on neanderthals needs to be up dated to modern knowledge.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

no

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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I'm at a Lose for Words. This was Amazing

It is presented as an entry level lecture series but the professor does a great job at keeping it fresh. She is level-headed about controversial subjects and handles them without letting her bias affect the information being provided.
The information is clear and precise. Everything presented has something to do with the lecture and how it affects our knowledge and understanding of the subject. I really wish this had been longer.

It does seem to be a little dated though. Could use a new addition but it needs to include Professor Barbara King.

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Evolution vs Faith

At 1:06:30

"One reason why the skepticism [of evolution by Creationists] may exist in the United States. Is that there seems to be a feeling that it is necessary to somehow choose between believing in evolution and believing in God. Between evolution and having a religious faith."

"Quite often if we read books or articles or tune into talk shows or look at the Internet this situation is presented in this polarized, dichotomized way. You can believe in God or you can believe in evolution, but you've got to choose."

"Well, biological anthropologists and other scientists make a different type of statement and have a different type of understanding. What we suggest is that it is quite possible for religious faith and belief in evolution to co-occur, to coexist. Of course, one may choose between them, and certain religions may force a choice. But in many cases, religious faith is compatible with belief in evolution. In other words, I-- myself-- know many individuals who believe in God and believe in evolution at one and the same time."

This assertion is simply untrue and only supported with her anecdotal opinion. The Pew Center has studies that show that the majority of general scientists (59%) don't believe in God. This percentage increases dramatically when discussing specific material claims of the large U.S. religions (virgin birth, resurrection, etc.). This percentage also increases dramatically when narrowing the scientists to fields such as anthropology or those closely related to Ms King's. There are no widely practiced religions that have a creation story that can be called compatible with evolution. There are certainly some people who place their God earlier in time than the information we've gathered and find a way to vaguely define their relationship with that God as transiting the material to non-material boundary (that they invent.) But this isn't the typical religious belief system.

The contradictions between evolution and faith aren't "presented" in a polarized way. They are by definition diametrically opposed. Every bit of evolutionary theory that is generally accepted among experts is the result of scientific study, and under continuous challenge, revision and refinement. Every bit of popular religious ideology is premised on one book, written decades after the events that it describes and an insistence that "belief without evidence" is sufficient to gird up its obvious subjectivity and inconsistencies. Evolution is based on the concept that simple systems of force and composition can agglomerate to produce new levels of composability. (Because if you believe in evolution, you believe in cells, and if you believe in cells, then you believe in DNA, and if you believe in DNA, then you believe in proteins, and compounds, and molecules, and covalence and atoms and particles.) Religion is based on the concept that the only reason why we exist is because someone (who just happens to be awesome, omnipotent and omnipresent) made little itty bitty versions of himself on one planet, in one solar system, around one of 100 billion stars, within one of 100 billion galaxies. Just the contrast between the quality of thought practiced in science and that which is practiced in religion demonstrates an extraordinary distance between cogency and puerility. No, there's no coexistence between the two belief systems of evidentiary rationalism and fanciful idolatry.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sean
  • 03-11-16

Good for a historical perspective - but be careful

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Perhaps, if I knew the friend was aware of more recent genome work. Obviously in a science book we have to expect the material to go out of date, and unlike literature - it matters if we are hearing a period piece. This is a very good course, presented very well and with an engaging style - but - when I came to the author/reader's choices (when a equally weighted evidence argument was available) from Neanderthal onwards, she had come down on the wrong 'side' (based on recent genomics). Not her fault, just a sign that this course is now quite dated because of recent leaps in discovery. It made me question her other decisions and whether I was learning an outdated view.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

I did not know much about habilis and erectus before, so that was my favourite part - also some of the sociology of the people (e.g. the Leakey family) making the fossil discoveries (I'm more familiar with Paabo et al.).

Would you listen to another book narrated by Professor Barbara J. King?

Yes, I'd like to hear an update based on the last decade of discveries.

If this book were a film would you go see it?

Possibly, but it would more likely be on the Discovery Channel.

Any additional comments?

As an academic, I don't read (or write) textbooks any more in my area (genomics, bioinformatics) because they go out of date before they are published. I'm not being critical here, I'm just suggesting that a reader should be following up - it really is a good listen but treat it as a snapshot and follow up....

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Mario
  • 02-09-15

Excellent course

Excellent course which I can recommend to anyone interested in the field. It is comprehensibly and wonderfully presented. Many thanks to the lecturer!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter Smith
  • 03-23-17

Very interesting look at our origins and much more

Really enjoyed this and learnt a lot. Loved Barbara King's delivery - very balanced, authoritative and clear.

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  • Paula Wright
  • 10-07-15

Read Hrdy also

great discussions but has crucial perspectives missing. I recommend this but not without also reading Hrdy's Mothernature and Mothers and Others

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-07-17

Loved it

Easy to listen to and as a novice that is interested in the field I found it enlightening. As a male I found it added a female perspective to the hunter gatherer debate which balanced the scales between meat and carbohydrates.