Masters of the Planet

Yesterday I wrote about Chris Stringer’s modified version of human evolution. Today, let’s have a look at Ian Tattersall’s new book, Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins (Macsci). Tatersall’s boo, like Sringer’s, is a good overview of the newer evidence in the constantly changing field, but he goes back earlier and provides a much broader context for human evolution. His main thesis is that the features that made modern humans unique have two main characteristics: 1) they were sufficient and causal in the process of making that one species “master of the planet” and 2) the transition to fully modern form, with respect to those features, is relatively late. Tattersall argues for a late and rather sudden development of symbolic abilities and language (I disagree with this) and seems to agree with Klein in something like a “single gene” theory describing this transition as sudden and dramatic. So, I basically disagree with his thesis, but if you want a good source to find out about the “symbolic explosion” version of modern humans, this is accessible and the documentation is pretty thorough.


  1. #1 Roseanne Gammello
    Fort Dodge, Ia
    February 4, 2016

    You should replace the word “thesis” with “hypothesis.” The word “thesis” in science is very strong, and it misused everyday. Tattersall correctly uses the word “hypothesis” where appropriate, whether speaking about his own, or current ones in the field regarding different aspects of the evolution of the human species. We need to be careful with misusing the word “theory,” because when it’s used correctly, people need to understand how powerful that word is in science. Misusing it makes people think that a “theory” is just an educated guess- a statement of supposition based on what has been observed. By scientific definition, that is a hypothesis. That is why some people brush of Evolutionary Theory as “just a guess,” because they think the word “theory” means it’s “just a guess,” when in fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Please edit this post. Take it from a scientist.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    February 4, 2016

    I am well aware of the meaning of these terms, and I think I chose widely! Thanks for the run down, though. :)