In his new book, The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack, paleoanthropologist and American Museum of Natural History curator Ian Tattersall argues that a long tradition of “human exceptionalism” in paleoanthropology has distorted the picture of evolution. Scientists have repeatedly created convoluted, fanciful stories to explain their finds, rather than face the inconvenient possibility that their assumptions were mistaken. Tattersall offers an idiosyncratic look at the competitive world of paleoanthropology, beginning with Charles Darwin 150 years ago, continuing through the Leakey dynasty in Africa, and concluding with the latest astonishing findings in the Caucasus. With tact and humor, Tattersall concludes that we are not the perfected products of natural processes, but instead the result of substantial doses of random happenstance.
A book signing of The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack will follow.