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Central to the story is the part played by fossils - first, in establishing the age of the Earth; then, following Darwin, in the pursuit of possible 'Missing Links' that would establish whether or not humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor.
John Reader's passion for this quest - palaeoanthropology - began in the 1960s when he reported for Life Magazine on Richard Leakey's first fossil-hunting expedition to the badlands of East Turkana, in Kenya. Drawing on both historic and recent research, he tells the fascinating story of the science as it has developed from the activities of a few dedicated individuals, into the rigorous multidisciplinary work of today.
His arresting photographs give a unique insight into the fossils, the discoverers, and the settings. His vivid narrative reveals both the context in which our ancestors evolved, and also the realities confronting the modern scientist. The story he tells is peopled by eccentrics and enthusiasts, and punctuated by controversy and even fraud. It is a celebration of discoveries - Neanderthal Man in the 1850s, Java Man (1891), Australopithecus (1925), Peking Man (1926), Homo habilis (1964), Lucy
(1978), Floresiensis (2004), and Ardipithecus (2009). It is a story of fragmentary shards of evidence, and the competing interpretations built upon them. And it is a tale of scientific breakthroughs - dating technology, genetics, and molecular biology - that have enabled us to set the fossil evidence in
the context of human evolution.
John Reader's first book on this subject (Missing Links: The Hunt for Earliest Man, 1981) was described in Nature as 'the best popular account of palaeoanthropology I have ever read'. His new book covers the thirty years of discovery that have followed.
The potato—humble, lumpy, bland, familiar—is a decidedly unglamorous staple of the dinner table. Or is it? John Reader’s narrative on the role of the potato in world history suggests we may be underestimating this remarkable tuber. From domestication in Peru 8,000 years ago to its status today as the world’s fourth largest food crop, the potato has played a starring—or at least supporting—role in many chapters of human history. In this witty and engaging book, Reader opens our eyes to the power of the potato.
Whether embraced as the solution to hunger or wielded as a weapon of exploitation, blamed for famine and death or recognized for spurring progress, the potato has often changed the course of human events. Reader focuses on sixteenth-century South America, where the indigenous potato enabled Spanish conquerors to feed thousands of conscripted native people; eighteenth-century Europe, where the nutrition-packed potato brought about a population explosion; and today’s global world, where the potato is an essential food source but also the world’s most chemically-dependent crop. Where potatoes have been adopted as a staple food, social change has always followed. It may be “just” a humble vegetable, John Reader shows, yet the history of the potato has been anything but dull.
This book argues that identified weaknesses in recent theological engagement with New Materialism can be successfully addressed by incorporating insights from Relational Christian Realism. Central themes are those of the relational and the apophatic as they represent different but essential strands of a materialist theology. The relational refers to the work of Deleuze and its influence upon key New Materialist thinkers such as De Landa, Bryant, and Braidotti but supplemented from Relational Christian Realism by Latour and Badiou and with reference to the concept of the apophatic as found in Keller and Kearney. Examining the concepts of transcendence, human agency, and a New Enlightenment, the book moves into more practical areas of aesthetics and technology concluding with a response to the contemporary apocalyptic of climate change. Being “beyond in the midst” requires developing spaces of faithful dissent and holding the tension between the relational and the apophatic in theology.