Transcendence: How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time

Basic Books. Jan. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9780465094905. $30. SCI
Vinces (Adventures in the Anthropocene) writes a thoughtful and engaging book about the nature (or nurture) of human evolution. "Fire" details how the use of tools helped our species to outsource energy, allowing us to devote ourselves to intellectual advancements. "Language" addresses how communication, including instruction, allowed our species to better connect to one another societally, increasing our chances of survival. "Beauty" speaks to our need for meaning and artistic expression while "Time" emphasizes our desire for objective, rational facts and information. The strongest of the two sections are "Fire" and "Language," with "Beauty" becoming more esoteric and theoretical and “Time” more scattered and difficult to follow. Overall, however, it is a strong, well-written work with solid science to back up the suggested theories. Vince may confuse biologists with her approach to species names and concepts, but that’s a minor quibble for an otherwise enjoyable and engaging read.
VERDICT An engaging, well-researched book for anyone curious about the development of humanity as approached through a social lens.

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