The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease

Daniel Lieberman, Author
Daniel E. Lieberman. Pantheon, $27.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-307-37941-2
Reviewed on: 07/29/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
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Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-84614-393-9
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In thoroughly enjoyable and edifying prose, Lieberman, professor of human evolution at Harvard, leads a fascinating journey through human evolution. He comprehensively explains how evolutionary forces have shaped the human species as we know it, from the move to bipedalism, and the changes in body parts—from hands to feet and spine—that such a change entailed, to the creation of agrarian societies, and much more. He balances a historical perspective with a contemporary one—examining traits of our ancestors as carefully as he looks to the future—while asking how we might control the destiny of our species. He argues persuasively that “cultural evolution is now the dominant force of evolutionary change acting on the human body,” and focuses on what he calls “mismatch diseases” that are caused by lack of congruence between genes and environment. Since the pace of cultural evolution has outstripped that of biological evolution, mismatch diseases have increased to the point where most of us are likely to die of such causes. Lieberman’s discussion of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer are as clear as any yet published, and he offers a well-articulated case for why an evolutionary perspective can greatly enrich the practice of medicine. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Oct.)
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