Dec/Jan 2008

Evolution

Eric Banks


Have a relative who still, in this post-Hitchens, post-Dawkins age, intends to vote Huckabee in the primaries to protest the newfangled idea that Homo sapiens are descended from monkeys? Here’s a seasonal suggestion for a nice present: Evolution, a handsome square-formatted volume that commingles Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu’s text with Patrick Gries’s noirish photos of dearly departed members of the family tree—some close, some not so—provides a stylish retort to the ostriches of the world and their sand-sticking ways. M. de Panifieu’s sharp commentary (he is an acclaimed professor of natural sciences) is the perfect prolix counterpoint to M. Gries’s aestheticized (but bluntly so) images of vertebrate skeletons, mostly from the Gallery of Comparative Anatomy at the Museum of National History in Paris. If we can buy Lynne Cheney’s argument that Dick and Barack Obama are related nine generations back, we should have no trouble seeing ourselves mirrored in these elegant photos of our bony prehistory.

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