Read epub The Ascent of ManAuthor Jacob Bronowski –

Based on the BBC television series of the same name, The Ascent of Man charts the development of human civilization through the lens of scientific progress Though clearly intended to be only an introduction to its subjects, the book is tremendously wide in scope, taking in paleontology, architecture, alchemy, industrialization, quantum physics and genetics noticeably, it has little to say about psychology It is organised in powerful thematic chapters that are also or less chronological So it begins by looking at human fossils in Chapter 1 Lower than the Angels, and ends by discussing John von Neumann and game theory in Chapter 13 The Long Childhood Since the book was published in 1973, I expect its discussion of contemporary science and perhaps historical events and figures needs updating But, as the chapter titles suggest, the book is not so much concerned with presenting up to date facts as with creating a philosophy for the twentieth century which shall be all of one piece from the Foreword It is a philosophy that puts man at the center of things He is, in this book, the seeker of knowledge, and seek using the tools of observation, reasoning, and conversation I guess the philosophy can be called scientific rationalism And one of the many achievements of this lucid and learned book is to restore the viability of this view It does so by not ignoring the fall out from technological progress, whether it be the harsh factories of the Industrial Revolution or the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski It does so also by reminding us of the responsible actions taken by some industrialists and innovators in their respective situations, and so proves its point that science was not to blame, but man s uses of it were Related to this, Bronowski deplores what he calls the aristocracy of the intellect, scientists who move away from the needs of people, and into the arms of government, industry and corporations Bronowski calls for, instead, a democracy of the intellect By that he means a society that not only allows the specialist to do specialist things, but also educates the non specialists like us on how nature works Jacob Bronowski was a British mathematician, biologist, poet and playwright In reflection of the different facets of his mind, his prose is clear, organizing, poetic, with a strong feel for the dramatic illustration or detail I read all 438 pages of the book in the course of two leisurely days The accompanying pictures are often revelatory as well At his death in 1974, a year after the publication of the book, he was a Fellow of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California. I never thought I d say this, but this book would be better if it had been written by an anthropologist rather than a mathematician The Ascent of Man is the companion book to the 1973 BBC documentary of the same name I didn t realise this when I bought it I haven t seen it , but I remembered I knew of its existence upon reading the introduction It certainly reads like a BBC documentary, with a tediously slow and pompous prose that works better for television narration by David Attenborough or indeed Jacob Bronowski than for a book.It sets out to give an overview of the whole of human history, briefly going over our biological evolution, and then covering in some detail our cultural evolution.It s worth noting that Bronowski isn t, despite what seems to be a sincere effort, a biologist, historian, or anthropologist, but a mathematician with a background in physics Maybe this is why his discussion of our evolutionary origins is often too sloppy for instance, he explains that he does not like the name Australopithecus because it means southern ape , which is confusing for something that for the first time was not an ape , which is obviously wrong I considered that probably to be an artefact of his native Polish, which, like most languages, does not have a colloquial distinction between monkeys and apes but does have one between monkeys and non human apes on the one hand ma pa and humans on the other, but Bronowski made it clear later on that he doesn t speak a word of Polish any , and his discussion of history just repeats a whole lot of layperson misconceptions and ancient canards starting with the idea that nomadic cultures are culturally arid, because nomads don t have time to create artifacts that aren t strictly practical or the ability to cart them around with them, and just continuing on from there until he reaches the 20th century.Or maybe it s just because the book was written in 1973, before many of the things we now know were well known for instance, the reason the New World lagged behind the Old in terms of technology Bronowski suggests it s because it was colonised later, around the end of the last ice age, ignoring his earlier statement that that s also the time period cultural evolution began in earnest in the Old World as well and when the kind of cultural condescension he exhibits casually referring to Europe as the civilised world , completely disregarding China and the Mohammedans though he calls Mohammed Mahomet even as he patronisingly praises the latter for their Golden Age mathematics elsewhere was acceptable I don t know.Either way, and high profile accolades notwithstanding Dawkins, Sagan, Singh , The Ascent of Man could be a lot better than it is Bronowski should have gotten a historian to punch him in the chest from time to time. Lauded By Critics Devoured By Readers, This Companion To The BBC Series Traces The Development Of Science As An Expression Of The Special Gifts That Characterize Humans Make Us Preeminent Animals Bronowski S Exciting, Illustrated Investigation Offers A Perspective Not Just On Science, But On Civilization Itself Lower Than The AngelsForewordThe Harvest Of The Seasons The Grain In The StoneThe Hidden Structure The Music Of The SpheresThe Starry Messanger The Majestic ClockworkThe Drive For Power The Ladder Of Creation World Within World Knowledge Or Certainty Generation Upon GenerationThe Long ChildhoodBibliographyIndex There are two things to remember about this book First, it was published in 1973 it is surprising how, in the course of only 40 years, our knowledge of our evolutionary history has advanced Second, it was originally a TV series made by the BBC the book is arranged into 13 essays, I assume based on the original episodes.The book starts logically enough at our roots in east Africa five million years ago Bronowski doesn t make nearly enough of how touch and go it was, not only then but at several points later when we could easily have gone extinct I think this is mainly because much of what we have learned about the tenuousness of our evolution we have done so quite recently Indeed, several human branches did die out, including the Neanderthal, and if a new book on this topic were to be written, I d like to see attention paid to the possible reasons for these demises.He does make the valid point that our weakness, as well as our strength, lay in the fact that we were not nearly as shaped by our environment as other animals were, honed over time into a perfect fit with those things we ate and those that would eat us Rather, it is the brain hand relationship of the human that caused us rather to shape our environment While this was an eventual advantage, is was not always so things like climate change forced us to migrate or face annihilation.It is also interesting how in 1973 the main source of our information concerning how both Homo erectus and Homo sapiens migrated across the globe was blood groups DNA analysis was then still a young science, but blood groups allowed us a very good guess at the process For example, it enabled us to determine that humans crossed the Bering Strait into North America, not in one but in two separate migrations, something confirmed by DNA analysis, albeit with precision.The next chapter deals with the transition from a nomad culture, tracking the paths of animal herds, to one of agriculture This, according to Bronowski, started 12,000 years ago, which leaves an enormous gap from the appearance of Homo sapiens 150,000 years ago, even earlier in the case of Homo erectus, in which it is assumed our ancestors happily continued their hunting and gathering lifestyle What evidence we have, especially here in Africa, indeed points in that direction, but it is sparse It s as if several chapters are missing from the human story, the bit between the development of tools and the domestication of both animals and plants Again, I should have liked a thorough attempt at fleshing out the gaps.The ensuing chapters spend time on particular human achievements, such as mathematics, architecture, music, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and so on This read like a history book While it was interesting, it was not so much about the ascent of man some may say that he had already ascended when he founded his first city, his first enclosure against the vagaries of the elements as it was about his applying the finishing touches to a remarkable project that had started five million years before, that was not always assured of success, and that would forever be a work in progress.Summarizing, I enjoyed the book, but knowledge moves on, man continues to ascend, and an update would be welcome. Powerful stuffconsistently sublime segues between chapters, historical periods and theories At least a dozen phenomenal insights into several anthropological mainstays A manner of metaphor and analogy that distills entire theses into a single, resonant sentence Humility of expression and thought twinned with a generosity of spirit keep the subject in the spotlight throughout whilst the narrator discretely maintains the tempo unseen, offstage.As suitable for the adept as it is for either the dilettante or the debutante Bronowski unveils his formidable, but never alienating, intellect Top marks. . 1972 D Okumas zaman ald Ancak bilinsel yay nlar zaten hep b yledir Bu kitab di er bilinsel yay nlardan ay ran ise ok daha kolay anla l r dili Taaa ilk insandan ba lam ve k sa bir tarih zeti karm yazar Olduk a faydal Kapaktan evrim anla lsa bile kitap sadece evrimle ba l yor ama s ratle ilerlieyip sanayi devrimi i sava lar avrupa asya kadim medeniyetler ve her eyden k saca bahsediyor. Fifty years from now, if an understanding of man s origins, his evolution, his history, his progress is not in the common place of the school books, we shall not exist. I watched this series right after finishing Kenneth Clark s Civilisation, as I d heard The Ascent of Man described as a companion piece So like my review of Clark s work, this review is about the documentary and not the book though since the book is just a transcription of the series, I m sure it applies to both The Ascent of Man is a remarkable program I had doubts that anyone could produce a series to match Civilisation, but Bronowski made something that might even be better Bronowski was a polymath he did work in mathematics, biology, physics, history, and even poetry In this program, his topic is the history of science Yet for Bronowski, the word science not only refers to the modern scientific method, but rather encompasses all of humanity s efforts to understand and manipulate the natural world We thus begin with Homo erectus, learning how to chip away stone to make tools As Bronowski notes, this simple ability, to chip away at a stone until a cutting edge is left, is a remarkable indication of human uniqueness Since the behavior is learned and is not an instinct, it requires a preconception of what the toolmaker wants to create, a certain amount of imagination is required to picture the goal before it is realized What s , creating a stone tool requires a sense of the structural properties of the rock I ve actually tried making stone tools with various types of rock, and let me tell you that it s not so easy Even with an archaeologist giving me advice, I was only able to create stone tools of the sophistication of an Australopithecus randomly beating the stone until a sharp edge was created Thus both our creative drive and our knowledge are involved in this quintessentially human activity Every animal leaves traces of what he was Man alone leaves traces of what he created This brings Bronowski to one of his main points, one of the themes of this series that art and science are not fundamentally different rather, they are two manifestations of the human spirit What is this human spirit It is a composite of many qualities, what Bronowski calls a jigsaw of human faculties, which include our wide behavioral flexibility, our capacity to play, our need to create, our curiosity about the natural world, our sense of adventure, our love of variety Indeed, these can be pithily described by saying that humans retain many childlike characteristics throughout their lives The name of the last episode is The Long Childhood One of my favorite sequences in this documentary is when Bronowski takes the viewer from the posts and lintels of the Greek temples, to the arches in the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, to the somewhat prettier arches in the Mezquita in Cordoba, to the cathedral at Reims with its magnificent flying buttresses Each of these structures, he explains, is a sophisticated solution to this problem how do you create a covered space out of stone The lintel and post system used by the Greeks leads to a forest of columns, and the Mezquita, although less crowded, is still filled with arches The Medieval Christians achieved a magnificent solution by placing the buttresses on the outside, thus leading to the towering, open interior of Reims.We re used to thinking of this development as an architectural triumph, but as Bronowski points out, it was also an intellectual triumph This progression represents better and better understandings of the structural properties of stone, of the force of gravity, and of the distribution of weight And when you see it play out in front of your eyes, it s hard to shake the impression that these marvelous works are also progressively elegant solutions to a mathematical puzzle This is just one example of Bronowski s talent to see the artistic in the scientific and the scientific in the artistic and he does this by seeing the human spirit in all of it.Here s another example Bronowski wants to talk about how humanity has come to understand space, and how this understanding of space underpins our knowledge of structure How does he do it He goes to the Alhambra, and analyzes the symmetry in the tiles of the Moorish Palace Then, he bends down and spreads a bunch of crystals on the ground, and begins to talk about the molecular symmetry that gave rise to them It s such a stunning juxtaposition How many people would think to compare Moorish architecture with modern chemistry But it s so appropriate and so revealing that I couldn t help but be awed.As the title suggests, this series is not simply about science or art , but about science through history Bronowski aims to show how humanity, once freed from the constraints of instinct, used a combination of logic and imagination to achieve ever deeper conceptions of our place in the universe This is the Ascent of Man a quest for self knowledge It s sometimes hard for us moderns to grasp this, but consider that we are living in one of the brief times in history that we can explain the formation of the earth, the origin of our species, and even the workings of our own brains Imagine not knowing any of that It s hard to envy former ages when you consider that their sense of their place of the universe was based on myth supported by authority, or was simply a mystery I m sure and I earnestly hope that future generations will believe the same about us Bronowski s final message is a plea to continue this ascent This means spreading a understanding and an appreciation of science, as his programs tries to do This strikes me as terribly important I ve met so many people who say things like Science is a form of faith or Science can t solve every problem or Science is dehumanizing and arrogant It s sad to hear intelligent people say things like this, for it simply isn t true It s an abuse of language to call science a faith then what isn t And yes, of course science can t solve every problem and can t answer every question but can anything Science can solve some problems, and can do so very well And science, as Bronowski points out, is the very opposite of dehumanizing and arrogant Science is a most human form of knowledge, born of humility of our intellectual powers, based on repeated mistakes and guesses, always pressing forward into the unknown, always revising its opinions based on evidence Atrocities are committed, not by people who are trained to question their own beliefs, but by ideologues who are convinced they are right.This is Bronowski s essential message But like in any good story, the telling is half of it As I ve mentioned above, Bronowski and his team are brilliant at finding unexpected ways to illustrate abstract ideas This series is full of wonderful and striking visual illustrations of Bronowski s points What s , the man is a natural storyteller, and effectively brings to life many of this series heroes Newton, Galileo, Alfred Russell Wallace, Mendel He s also a poet one of his books is a study of William Blake s poetry This not only gives him a knack for similes, but helps him to explain how science is fundamentally creative One of my favorite scenes is when Bronowski compares abstract portraits of a man to the ways that various scientific instruments radar, infrared, cameras, X rays detect the man s face As he explains, both the portrait and these readings are interpretations of their subjects.The cinematography is also excellent There are some sequences in this documentary that are still impressive, saturated as we are with CGI There are even some quite psychedelic sections One of my favorite of these was a sequence of microscopic shots of human cells with Pink Floyd who contributed music jamming chaotically in the background Unlike in Clark s Civilisation, which uses exclusively classical music and is devoid of special effects, the style of this documentary is surprisingly modern and even edgy Another thing Bronowski does that Clark doesn t, is include some information on non Western cultures, from Meso America, Japan, China, and Easter Island.Yes, there are some parts of this that are outdated Most obviously, much of the scientific information is no longer accurate particularly the information on human evolution in the first episode This is unavoidable, and is in fact a tribute to the ideals Bronowski championed More jarring is Bronowski s somewhat negative assessments of the culture of Easter Island and the lifestyle of nomadic peoples Less controversially, he also has some negative words to say about Hegel Did you know Hegel published an absurd thesis when he was young about how the distance of the orbits of the planets had to conform to a number series Another mark of this program s age is that Bronowski several times shows nudity and even a human birth This would never fly on television today, at least not in the States.But these flaws are minor in such a tremendous program The Ascent of Man is a landmark in the history of science education and of documentary making, and a stirring vision of the progress of humanity by an brilliant and sympathetic man I hope you get a chance to watch it. Brilliant This book inspired me in a way that I ve never been before What is explained by the man, is nothing short of crystal clear descriptions of Humankind s physical, scientific, sociological and theological discoveries from the very first roaming tribes to our modern era It is presented, stripped of the wordy, overly philosophical ramblings and data heavy meanderings found in other books that cover similar subject matter Concise, endearing, earthy, genius A must for anybody who needs a refresher course on general science, anthropology, physics etc.