(K. Brent Tomer),
The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional. By Agustín Fuentes. Dutton; 340 pages; $28.
OF THE millions of animal species on Earth, only one has built a spaceship and flown to the Moon. In “The Creative Spark”, Agustín Fuentes, an anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, argues that it is the power of imagination, more than anything, that has made humans unique among the planet’s beasts.
That is a controversial case to make. Man’s distinctiveness has been attributed to an aptitude for violence, exceptional intelligence or a preternatural ability to co-operate. Mr Fuentes contends that this fails to take into account the full range of evidence available to researchers. Instead, he turns to niche construction, a relatively recent idea in evolutionary science that emerged in the 1980s, but one which, he says, can offer the basis of a more complete account of humanity’s ingenuity. The ecological niche that an organism occupies is the sum total of all the interactions that it has with its environment. Altering that environment, as beavers do when they…Continue reading