Although the objective evidence of evolution has received considerable attention in many books over the years, very little has been written about the subjective experienced (mental) side of the lives of the creatures involved. This book is about how we evolved from four-legged mammals with simple minds, through semi-upright apes who are occasionally thoughtful, to mentally complex erect humans.
How We Got to Be Human deals with what science frequently dodges, ignores, or even denies: subjective life as experienced by animals, apes, and humans. Mixing much of what is known from science and the humanities with his own unique perspective, science writer William H. Libaw provides a provocative and stimulating thesis on the origin and evolution of consciousness. Drawing on scientific evidence derived from the use of gestures, deceptive behavior, and language, Libaw shows that the key factor in the evolution of our subjective minds was the expanison of the ability to think with mental concepts, ideas, and generalizations. This expansion of what could be thought about allowed our predecessors to move from animal mentation, which is mostly limited to basic desires, to minds with limitless ideas about the natural world and the unseen supernatural world.
Along the way, Libaw presents a number of intriguing ideas, including: For the earliest animals with the genetic mutation that engendered it, subjective experience was of Darwinian adaptive value in a rapidly changing environment; the use of gestures and deception among apes and some birds suggests conscious concepts in their mental activity; complete spoken language came first from the mouths of a group of children who inherited the previously unused genetic language capability; and human males have retained the animal rutting instinct and amplified it with conceptual prurience, which leads them to eroticize females and sometimes pressure them to have sex.
Free of technical language and accessible to the layperson, How We Got to Be Human offers an interesting and original synthesis of available evidence and theorizing about the origins and nature of our subjective minds.