Books  Evolutionary Biology  Human Evolution & Anthropology 

Tales of the Ex-Apes: How We Think About Human Evolution

By: Jonathan Marks (Author)

220 pages, 4 b/w illustrations, tables

University of California Press

Paperback | Oct 2015 | #224528 | ISBN-13: 9780520285828
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.95 $24/€22 approx
Hardback | no dustjacket | Oct 2015 | #224527 | ISBN-13: 9780520285811
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £44.95 $55/€51 approx

About this book

What do we think about when we think about human evolution? With his characteristic wit and wisdom, in Tales of the Ex-Apes anthropologist Jonathan Marks explores our scientific narrative of human origins – evolution – and examines its cultural elements and theoretical foundations. In the process, he situates human evolution within a general anthropological framework and presents it as a special case of kinship and mythology.

Tales of the Ex-Apes makes a strong case that human evolution cannot be reduced to purely biological properties and processes given that it has incorporated the emergence of social relations and cultural histories that are unprecedented in the apes. Marks contends that human evolution over the past few million years has involved the transformation from biological to biocultural evolution. Over tens of thousands of years, new social roles – notably, spouse, father, in-laws, and grandparents – have co-evolved with new technologies and symbolic meanings to produce the human species, in the absence of significant biological evolution. We are biocultural creatures, Marks argues, fully comprehensible by recourse to neither our real ape ancestry nor our imaginary cultureless biology.

"Marks's book is a wise and witty analysis of how science and culture are inextricably intertwined as we compose and narrate the science of who we are and where we came from, and it permits us to make just a bit more sense of the science."
– Candida Moss, The Daily Beast

"Great book [...] very much worth the read."
– Greg Laden, Greg Laden's Blog

"In this truly excellent book that simply brims with scholarship, Marks convincingly shows – clearly, pithyly, wittily – why scientific reductionism is a tool, not an explanation. DNA is not a blueprint, and we have a long way to go before we truly understand how genes and environments combine to make us what we are today."
– Robert Martin, Curator Emeritus at The Field Museum, Professor at the University of Chicago, and author of How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction

"Within the field of biological anthropology, there is no one who is able to contextualize scientific information like Jon Marks. Only Marks is able to successfully take evolutionary 'facts' and situate them within the broader spheres of history, science, philosophy, and the humanities."
– Libby Cowgill, University of Missouri



1. Science
2. History and Morality
3. Evolutionary Concepts
4. How to Think about Evolution Non-reductively
5. How Our Ancestors Transgressed the Boundaries of Apehood
6. Human Evolution as Bio-cultural Evolution
7. Human Nature/Culture


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Jonathan Marks is Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the author of What It Means to be 98% Chimpanzee and Why I Am Not A Scientist, both from UC Press.

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