Incorporating the latest genetic research with data gathered from other scientific fields including anthropology, molecular biology and ecology, Rutherford’s detailed book is fascinating and even enlightening, such as his revelation that a tidied-up Homo sapiens individual from 200,000 years ago would not look out of place today. Who knew? He discusses how culture has changed, not DNA, and writes about the different types of humanoids that were the basis for our current existence ... Rutherford writes with clarity, authority and humor. His research is thorough and so current that most readers will be wowed by all the new information he provides. It’s both humbling and reassuring to know that 'all life on Earth is related by common ancestry, and that includes us.'
In the end, Rutherford nearly runs out of candidates before plumping, somewhat desperately, for one last remaining attribute that he believes defines humanity: our intense social bonding and our desire to share ideas. This is the critical factor that separates Homo sapiens most conclusively from the rest of the animal kingdom, he argues. 'Where we stand apart most significantly is in cultural accumulation and transmission. Many animals learn. Only humans teach' ... It is an interesting but scarcely revolutionary conclusion, though this should not detract from a book that is deftly outlined, concisely constructed and filled with intriguing observations and anecdotes. Rutherford is an engaging, witty writer. He is also a concise one. After several vast but worthy tomes about human nature that have been published recently, that makes this pithy homage to our species all the more welcome. An entertaining and blessedly succinct read.
... a lively exploration ... That humans are conscious, cultured, and much cleverer than any other animal—but an animal nevertheless—is no secret to popular science writers. A steady stream of books explains how we got that way, and readers will not regret choosing this cheerful addition to the genre from British science journalist Rutherford ... Rutherford also ably explores current conceptions and focus on cooperation through communication ... A smooth, expert, and often startling history that emphasizes that no behavior separates us from other animals, but we remain an utterly unique species.
... enlightening ... Rutherford teaches a great deal about the basics of evolutionary relationships, while cementing homo sapiens’s position as just another member, among many, of the animal kingdom. But Rutherford also looks beyond those similarities to explore what makes humanity unique, concluding that while there is a continuum of types of cultures across the animal kingdom, humans reside at one end of that spectrum ... Rutherford’s entertaining work offers a refreshing and perspective-altering view of the complex history of life on Earth.