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anthropology

Upending Civilization

One of the surprise bestselling books of 2022 is David Graeber’s and David Wengrow’s book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, in which they attempt to upend the standard and widely accepted model of how Hunter-Gatherer bands and tribes developed into chiefdoms and states. How accurate is their alternative history of humanity? In this review essay, Chris Edwards considers the evidence as presented in this compelling book.

A reply to Bert Hölldobler on the Matter of Edward O. Wilson, Race, Racism, and Race Science

In this letter to Bert Hölldobler, following up on his defense of his long-time colleague E. O. Wilson, who has been falsely accused of racism and knowingly promoting race science, Mel Konner, who also knew and worked with Wilson, reinforces the point that Wilson’s defense of Philippe Rushton was done out of concerns about academic freedom; in fact, Konner notes that there are other reasons for critiquing Wilson, primarily for his ultimate rejection of kin selection — one of the key tenets of evolutionary theory.

eSkeptic for April 12, 2022

Mel Konner, in response to Bert Hölldobler’s defense of E. O. Wilson, reinforces the point that Wilson’s defense of Philippe Rushton was done out of concerns about academic freedom; PLUS: Michael Shermer speaks with Oliver Stone about Ukraine, Putin, and the military-industrial complex.

David Wengrow on The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

In this conversation, based on the book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, Michael Shermer speaks with professor of comparative archaeology, David Wengrow, about his pathbreaking research in archaeology and anthropology that fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society.

eSkeptic for December 21, 2021

In this conversation, based on the book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, Michael Shermer speaks with professor of comparative archaeology, David Wengrow, about his pathbreaking research in archaeology and anthropology that fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society.

Fernanda Pirie on The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World

In episode 236, Michael Shermer speaks with Fernanda Pirie on The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World — from ancient Mesopotamia to today, the epic story of how humans have used laws to forge civilizations.

eSkeptic for December 18, 2021

In episode 236, Michael Shermer speaks with Fernanda Pirie on The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World — from ancient Mesopotamia to today, the epic story of how humans have used laws to forge civilizations.

Carole Hooven on T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us

In episode 204, Michael Shermer speaks with codirector of undergraduate studies in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, Carole Hooven, PhD about testosterone. While most people agree that sex differences in human behavior exist, they disagree about the reasons. But the science is clear: testosterone is a potent force in human society, driving the bodies and behavior of the sexes apart.

eSkeptic for August 28, 2021

In episode 204, Michael Shermer speaks with codirector of undergraduate studies in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, Carole Hooven, PhD about testosterone. While most people agree that sex differences in human behavior exist, they disagree about the reasons. But the science is clear: testosterone is a potent force in human society, driving the bodies and behavior of the sexes apart.

eSkeptic for January 5, 2021

In episode 150 of The Michael Shermer Show, Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology Daniel Lieberman discusses his pioneering researcher on the evolution of human physical activity in his book Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding. PLUS: Perhaps one of the most bizarre beliefs rampant in modern times is that malign, shape-shifting reptilian extraterrestrial invaders, disguised as human beings, secretly control the governments of the world. It is possible that we recently experienced a violent consequence of that belief.

Daniel Lieberman — Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding

In episode 150 of The Michael Shermer Show, Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology Daniel Lieberman discusses his pioneering researcher on the evolution of human physical activity in his book Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding. Using his own research and experiences throughout the world, Lieberman recounts how and why humans evolved to walk, run, dig, and do other necessary and rewarding physical activities while avoiding needless exertion.

Spin-Doctoring the Yąnomamö: Science as a Candle in the Darkness of the Anthropology Wars

On the occasion of the recent death of Napoleon Chagnon, one of the world’s most famous and controversial anthropologists, we reprint Dr. Michael Shermer’s analysis of the charges leveled against Dr. Chagnon by the journalist Patrick Tierney in his book Darkness in El Dorado.

eSkeptic for October 1, 2019

In Science Salon # 85 Michael Shermer and Deepak Chopra make an attempt at mutual understanding through the careful unpacking of what Deepak means when he talks about the subject-object split, the impermanence of the self, nondualism, the mind-body problem, the nature of consciousness, and the nature of reality. PLUS, on the occasion of the recent death of Napoleon Chagnon, one of the world’s most famous and controversial anthropologists, we reprint Dr. Michael Shermer’s analysis of the charges leveled against Dr. Chagnon by the journalist Patrick Tierney in his book Darkness in El Dorado.

eSkeptic for May 8, 2019

In a special edition of the Science Salon Podcast Dr. Shermer brought a camera crew to Jared Diamond’s home in Los Angeles for an especially intimate portrait of the man and his theories. You won’t want to miss this conversation, one of the best we’ve yet recorded, with one of the most interesting minds of our time, perhaps of all time.

Jared Diamond — Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

In a special edition of the Science Salon Podcast Dr. Shermer brought a camera crew to Jared Diamond’s home in Los Angeles for an especially intimate portrait of the man and his theories. You won’t want to miss this conversation, one of the best we’ve yet recorded, with one of the most interesting minds of our time, perhaps of all time.

eSkeptic for February 24, 2016

In this week’s eSkeptic, scientist and historian, Michael Shermer, responds to evolutionary biologist and anthropologist, David Sloan Wilson, about ancient warfare and the notion the blank slate.

On Slates and Tweets: A Reply to David Sloan Wilson on Ancient Warfare and the Blank Slate

Scientist and historian, Michael Shermer, responds to evolutionary biologist and anthropologist, David Sloan Wilson, about ancient warfare and the notion the blank slate.

13-04-03

In this week’s eSkeptic, L. Kirk Hagen reviews Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Unhuman Subjects, and the End of Anthropology, edited by Neil Whitehead and Michael Wesch (University Press of Colorado, 2012, ISBN 978-1607321897).

13-03-06

In this week’s eSkeptic, we present an excerpt from Frank Miele’s interview with Napoleon A. Chagnon, usually described as “the most controversial anthropologist,” hero to some, villain to others. His studies of the Yanomamö of the Amazon basin formed a cornerstone in the application of sociobiological theory to humankind. Chagnon himself helped found the discipline of evolutionary psychology and the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES). However, his findings were disputed by other anthropologists who argued for the primacy of culture over genes and evolution. An expanded version of this interview will appear in Skeptic magazine, volume 18, number 2 (later this summer).

10-08-18

In this week’s eSkeptic, Dr. Donald. R Prothero reviews Darwin’s Universe: Evolution from A to Z by Richard Milner.

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