Posts Tagged ‘New Scientist’

New Scientist's Top Ten Science Books in 2011, Harnessed is on the right

I’m excited that my new book, Harnessed, is among New Scientist’s top ten science books of 2011, standing aside other authors I admire.

In the book I describe (and present a large battery of new evidence for) my radical new theory for how humans came to have language and music. They’re not instincts (i.e., we didn’t evolve them via natural selection), and they’re not something we merely learn. Instead, speech and music have themselves culturally evolved to fit us (not a new idea) by mimicking fundamental aspects of nature (my idea). Namely speech came to sound like physical events among solid objects, and music came to sound like humans moving and behaving in your midst (that’s why music is evocative). Each of these artifacts thereby came to harness an instinct we apes already possessed, namely auditory object-event recognition and auditory human-movement recognition mechanisms.

The story for how we came to have speech and music is, then, analogous to how we came to have writing, something we know we didn’t evolve. Writing, I’ve argued (in The Vision Revolution), culturally evolved to possess the signature shapes found in nature (and specifically in 3D scenes with opaque objects), and thereby harnessed our visual object-recognition system.

Buy the book here.


Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of
Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN, a novel about our human future.

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The UK Royal Society picked their top six science books of 2009. My Vision Revolution was not chosen.

But Amanda Gefter, editor at New Scientist, wrote a story on the Royal Society’s choices, and Vis Rev was one of the books she suggested may have been a better choice than some that made it in.

These two slots might have been better filled by others, such as Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True, a fabulous book that made the Society’s longlist. Reading in the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene didn’t make even that cut, though it was probably my favourite science read of 2009. The Vision Revolution by Mark Changizi, another fascinating book, was also overlooked, as were Wetware by Dennis Bray and Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham.

You can read the entire story here: online and print version.


Mark Changizi is Professor of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books) and the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella Books).

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