Thumbs, Toes, and Tears by Chip Walter
And Other Traits That Make Us Human

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Synopsis


The fascinating evolutionary links between six seemingly unremarkable traits that make us the very remarkable creatures we are.



Countless behaviors separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom, but all of them can be traced one way or another to six traits that are unique to the human race-our big toe, our opposable thumb, our oddly shaped pharynx, and our ability to laugh, kiss, and cry. At first glance these may not seem to be connected but they are. Each marks a fork in the evolutionary road where we went one way and the rest of the animal kingdom went another. Each opens small passageways on the peculiar geography of the human heart and mind.


Walter weaves together fascinating insights from complexity theory, the latest brain scanning techniques, anthropology, artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, and robotics to explore how the smallest of changes over the past six million years - all shaped by the forces of evolution -- have enabled a primate once on the brink of extinction to evolve into a creature that would one day create all of the grand and exuberant edifices of human culture.


As the story of each trait unfolds, Walter explains why our brains grew so large and complex, why we find one another sexually attractive, how toolmaking laid the mental groundwork for language, why we care about what others think, and how we became the creature that laughs and cries and falls in love. Thumbs, Toes and Tears is original, informative, and delightfully thought-provoking.
 

About Chip Walter

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Chip Walter is a journalist, documentary filmmaker, and former San Francisco bureau chief for CNN. He is coauthor (with William Shatner) of I'm Working on That and author of Space Age, the companion book to the primetime PBS series of the same title. He teaches science writing at Carnegie Mellon University, and currently is a senior manager of strategic communications and public information at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He has been awarded the Christopher Award 1984 for Best Science Documentary.
 
Published May 26, 2009 by Walker Books. 272 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Thumbs, Toes, and Tears

Kirkus Reviews

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Then it’s on to laughter, self-consciousness, tears and kissing: Here, Walter trots out numerous behavioral studies, brain imagings, evolutionary psychology research and anthropological lore to illustrate theories of why the behaviors developed.

Sep 01 2006 | Read Full Review of Thumbs, Toes, and Tears: And ...

Publishers Weekly

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As science journalist and former CNN bureau chief Walter tells readers in this fascinating and superbly written book, there are a handful of characteristics (like crying) that distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom and can be explained in evolutionary terms as having been advantageous...

Sep 04 2006 | Read Full Review of Thumbs, Toes, and Tears: And ...

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