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The Alternative Introduction to Biological Anthropology

Second Edition

Jonathan Marks

Publication Date - June 2017

ISBN: 9780190490997

304 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

A historically centered, big-picture approach to biological anthropology that helps students learn critical thinking skills


In The Alternative Introduction to Biological Anthropology, Second Edition, author Jonathan Marks presents an innovative framework for thinking about the major issues in the field with fourteen original essays designed to correlate to the core chapters in standard textbooks. Each chapter draws on and complements--but does not reconstitute (except for the sake of clarity)--the major data and ideas presented in standard texts. Marks explores such topics as how we make sense of data about our origins, where our modern ideas come from, our inability to separate natural facts from cultural facts and values as we try to understand ourselves, and the social and political aspects of science as a culturally situated mental activity.

New to this Edition

  • New and expanded discussions of the latest issues, including the Denisovans, epigenetics, Homo naledi, creationism, colonialism, and race
  • Updated references throughout

About the Author(s)

Jonathan Marks is Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is the author of several books, including Is Science Racist? (2017) and Why I Am Not a Scientist: Anthropology and Modern Knowledge (2009).


"This is the best introductory book out there. Marks is a very effective and clear writer with an engaging and personal style. He does a wonderful job of placing biological anthropology appropriately within its theoretical and disciplinary context."--Adam Van Arsdale, Wellesley College

"The Alternative Introduction to Biological Anthropology is in a class of its own. It is a very approachable text injected with humor to grab students' attention."--Amelia Hubbard, Wright State University

"I like the critical approach that this book takes. Marks gives great examples that serve to illustrate his points clearly. I also like the direct, dynamic, and intelligent writing style."--Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg, Ohio State University

"The Alternative Introduction to Biological Anthropology is infused with perspective and personality. It is unique, effective, and successful. The book's pedagogical approach is why I use it. It reminds us that science is a human endeavor and therefore subject to human imperfections."--Thad Bartlett, University of Texas at San Antonio

"The most remarkable aspect of this book is how much material is covered in so little space. I am most impressed with Marks's talent for compressing so many important ideas in succinct, meaningful summaries. There is not a wasted word in this book."--Virginia Betz, Phoenix College

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1. What Is Anthropology, What Is Biological Anthropology, and Should I Be Getting Science Credit for This? (On the Philosophy of Science)
    What Is Anthropology?
    The Subfields of Anthropology
    The Anthropology of Science
    The Normative View of Science: Scientific Method
    The Social Matrix of Science
    Relativizing Science
    The Origins of Anthropology
    The Origins of Physical Anthropology
    Biological Anthropology Today
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 2. Where Did Our Scientific Ideas about Ourselves Come From? (On the History of Science)
    The Beginnings of a New View of Nature
    The Scientific Revolution
    The Decline of Degeneration
    The Anatomy of a "Pygmie"
    Biblical Fallibility, or at Least Incompleteness
    Cause and Effect
    The Great Chain of Being
    Buffon's Objection to the Nested Hierarchy
    Natural Theology
    Uniformitarian Geology
    Adam's World
    Human Evolution
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 3. Can You Tell If You Are a Darwinist? (On Theories of Evolution)
    Darwin's Argument
    Where People Fit In
    The Sacrifice
    Implications for Pattern
    Implications for Species
    Implications for Biological History
    Implications for Relating Humans to Other Animals
    Phylogeny: The Core of Darwinism
    Other Darwinisms
    Social Darwinism
    The "Synthetic Theory"
    Evolution at the Molecular Level
    Universal Darwinism
    Atheistic Darwinism

    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 4. Why Do I Look Like the Cable Guy, Daddy? (On Issues of Human Heredity)
    The Theory of Particulate Inheritance: Mendel's Laws
    Ten Non-Mendelian Laws
    The Chromosome Theory
    Polygenic Inheritance
    Environmental Influence on Phenotypes
    Unit Characters
    Properties of Heterozygotes
    Extra-nuclear Inheritance

    The Molecular Genomic Basis of Heredity
    The Alpha-Globin Gene Cluster
    Meanings of the Gene and Genetics
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 5. Are We Here? If So, Why? (On Issues of Microevolution)
    Do Things Exist for a Reason?
    Principal Abstraction: The Gene Pool
    Gene Flow
    Natural Selection
    Genetic Drift
    Sickle Cell
    Why Is the Gene Pool the Way It Is?
    Adaptation or Founder Effect?
    Another Point Illustrated by Sickle Cell and Phenylketonuria
    Sickle Cell, Tay-Sachs, and Genetic Screening
    Kinship as a Biocultural Construction
    Genetic History and the Diversity Project
    Who Owns the Body?
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 6. Building Better Monkeys, or at Least Different Ones (On Systematics)
    Specific Mate Recognition Systems
    Genetic Systems Producing Incompatibility
    Species as Individuals
    Levels and Rates of Evolution
    Developmental Genetics
    Allometric Growth
    Systematics and Phylogeny
    Classical and Cladistic Taxonomy
    Limitations of the Phylogenetic Method
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 7. Is That an Ape in Your Genes, or Are You Just Glad to See Me? (On the Place of Humans in the Natural Order)
    Primate Classification
    Problems of Uniformitarianism
    Genetic and Anatomical Data
    The Mammals
    Our Place in Primate Systematics
    The Living Apes
    The Trichotomy
    Cladism, Reductionism, and the Rise of the Hominins
    What Does It Mean to Be 98% Genetically Chimpanzee?
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 8. Apes Run Around Naked, Live in Trees, and Fling Their Poo. Do You? (On the Relevance of Apes to Understanding Humans)
    What Primates Can and Can't Tell Us
    Primate Fieldwork
    Primates in Groups
    Social Behavior and Ecology
    Sexual Activity and Parenthood
    Models for Human Evolution
    Baboons in the Sixties, Chimps in the Nineties
    Looking Elsewhere for Clues about Human Evolution
    The Ape Mind
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 9. Being and Becoming (On the Relevance of Humans to Understanding Humans)
    Human Nature
    The Most Fundamental Human Adaptation: Bipedalism
    Why Be Bipedal?
    The Second Fundamental Human Adaptation: The Teeth
    Why Reduce the Canines?
    The Third Fundamental Human Adaptation: The Brain
    Why Be Big Brained?
    Social and Life-History Novelties
    Physiological and Sexual Novelties
    What Does It Take to Make a Scenario of Human Evolution Valuable?
    Cultural Evolution
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 10. If History Is Humanities, and Evolution Is Science, What Is Paleoanthropology? (On the Assumptions of a Diachronic Science)
    Scientific Inferences Across Time
    Skeletal Biology
    Sexual Dimorphism
    Geographic Variation
    Sources of Morphological Variation
    Lumping and Splitting
    Other Considerations
    Rights and Responsibilities in Paleoanthropology
    Kinds of Evidence
    Superposition and Association

    Doing the Best We Can with Lost Data
    Making Sense of Human Ancestry
    Classifying the Living Apes and Fossil Ancestors
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 11. The Dental and the Mental (On Making Sense of the Early Diversification of the Human Lineage)
    The Shadow of Piltdown Man
    A Hominid Origin
    Discovery of the Australopithecines
    Australopithecus: Basal Bipeds
    Paranthropus-The Dental Adaptation
    Early Homo: The Mental Adaptation
    The Beginning of Cultural Evolution
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 12. What to Do When Confronted by a Neandertal (On Continuity and Discontinuity)
    The Human Lineage
    The Mental and Social Life of Homo erectus
    Homo sapiens, the Wise Species
    Neandertal Life
    Anatomically Modern People
    The Emergence of Art
    The Political Nature of Ancestry
    Testing Paleontological Models Genetically
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 13. Just How Different Is Different? (On Race)
    Patterns of Contemporary Human Variation
    Why Do We See Races?
    Race as a Biocultural Category
    Asking Scientific Questions about Human Diversity
    Race Is to Ethnicity as Sex Is to Gender, But Not Quite
    What Is Innate?
    Patterns of Human Genetic and Behavioral Variation
    References and Further Reading

    Chapter 14. Nature/Culture, or How Science Manages to Give Little Answers to Big Questions (On the Non-reductive Core of Anthropology)
    Adaptability and the Human Condition
    Folk Theories of Heredity
    The State of the Species
    The Anthropology of Science
    Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA): Who Owns the Bones?
    Origin Myths, Scientific and Otherwise
    Biocultural Studies, or Cyborg Anthropology
    References and Further Reading