Morgan has been attacked for being unscientific in the debate over the controversial aquatic ape theory (which only features in passing in this volume), but while The Descent of the Child is fairly shallow — it is popular science, after all, and it does touch on most of the major topics in human evolution in under two hundred pages! —, it seemed well informed to me. Morgan provides a decent bibliography and (though I'm not personally familiar with the majority of the sources) the support for most of her claims seems quite compelling. I have only one minor complaint, and that is that the language used was sometimes too informal. To take one example: "Babies, collectively, have one very strong card they can play: they can die. By means of natural selection that would hand the initiative back to them and enable them to say...". This sort of intentional language is used by almost everyone who writes about evolution, but while it is reasonable in academic works, where the audience can be assumed to understand what is really meant, I don't think it is a good idea in popular ones.
As well as those curious about human evolution, The Descent of the Child will interest parents (and prospective parents) who want to know not just what happens during conception, gestation, birth and child development, but why these things happen the way they do. Readable and provocative, it is in the best traditions of popular science writing.
- Related reviews:
- Elaine Morgan - The Scars of Evolution: What Our Bodies Tell Us about Human Origins
- more primates + paleoanthropology
- more popular science