Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Upright Ape: A New Origin of the Species

To understand how and why we got here, one has to look at the history of how we evolved to the bipedal, upright, and thinking species that we are today. In his book, The Upright Ape: A New Origin of the Species, biologist and neurosurgeon Dr. Aaron Filler proposes that a key element to unfolding the mysteries that have challenged evolutionary biologists for centuries lies within our bones, particularly the spine.

Dr. Filler explains that to fully understand evolution, we must study the early pioneers of evolutionary theory and the influence of their era’s philosophical, religious, and cultural beliefs. Filler proposes that although Darwin’s theory of evolution is a key element to understanding evolution, the concept of a slow process of descent with modification is not the final conclusion of our evolutionary story. By examining the works of a number of evolutionary pioneers such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Dr. Filler is able to build on their early findings and show through his own research that locomotion and the development of the spine is a key feature to understanding how humans evolved.

Drawing on such works of Mendel’s Nature of Heredity as well as Pre-Darwinian and Post-Darwinian researchers, Filler proposes that evolution had the ability to accelerate, even in an instant. Using modern technology to study fossilized species, the bone structure of species such as the ape, fish, birds, as well as the human skeletal structure, Dr. Filler presents compelling evidence that the building blocks within the vertebrate embryo that initiate the formation of muscle, tissue and bone, are a common feature among the species. As well, he explains the bones and spinal segments that all vertebrates have in common. Although the various bones are located in different sections, the link among species indicates a common history with various evolutionary branches. That is, there is a common connection among species, but evolution is not a single straight path. It is more like a tree with various branches that contain common evolution building blocks. Filler proposes that the split between human and chimpanzee on the evolutionary ladder is the result of an upright ancestral ape with the apes we see today having evolved from a different evolutionary branch than humans. He explains in detail how the human spine evolved and how the modern ape is actually a descendant of humans.

The Upright Ape: A New Origin of the Species is a compelling and well-presented analysis of the story of life. With an in-depth examination of evolutionary pioneers and their influences on today’s research, Dr. Aaron Filler presents a convincing theory of evolution that will educate, stimulate, and challenge our perceptions of the history of life. I highly recommend the book not only to science students, but to readers who enjoy engaging and well-researched books that inspire debate and reflection.

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Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: New Page Books (July 2007)
ISBN-10: 1564149331
ISBN-13: 978-1564149336
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