Pascal Picq

Lucy and Obscurantism Publication date : October 2, 2008

In this book an agnostic palaeoanthropologist picks up the torch of science and the Enlightenment and carries on the struggle against religion and obscurantism.

Today, long after Darwin, human evolution remains a fraught subject — a state of affairs that illustrates the extent to which secularism has become problematic and filled with ambiguities. The views that underpin our notions of prehistory and of humankind reflect society's ideological, religious and political conflicts. Yet, argues Pascal Picq, human evolution is one and unique and it will be taught everywhere when our world becomes totally secular. Unfortunately, religious, philosophical and even scientific fundamentalisms have compromised the construction of a common narrative of our origins — despite the fact that the theory of human evolution has been carefully and patiently backed by scientific research.

Now, perhaps more than ever before, any discussion of the origin of humanity is bound to collide head-on with the mythologies and cosmologies that our various belief systems were built on.

Could secularism be no more than a historical interlude that is coming to an end?

Pascal Picq examines the theory of evolution and the findings of palaeoanthropology in the light of recent criticism. Why has the rejection of social Darwinism led to the rejection of natural evolution? What are the aberrations of creationism? Why do we stubbornly insist on seeing humanity as the ultimate goal of evolution?

All the major questions concerning evolution (and the resistance to it in so many sectors, even today) are examined here, simply and brilliantly.

A scientist tackles the philosophical, social and cultural implications inherent in his speciality: the origins of humankind.

Pascal Picq is a palaeoanthropologist at the Collège de France and the author of, most notably, Au commencement était l'homme (2003), Les Tigres (2004) and Les Grands Singes (2005).