The Story of the Human Body

The Story of the Human Body

Evolution, Health, and Disease

Book - 2014 | First Vintage Books edition
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In this book the author, a Harvard evolutionary biologist presents an account of how the human body has evolved over millions of years, examining how an increasing disparity between the needs of Stone Age bodies and the realities of the modern world are fueling a paradox of greater longevity and chronic disease. It illuminates the major transformations that contributed key adaptations to the body: the rise of bipedalism; the shift to a non-fruit-based diet; the advent of hunting and gathering, leading to our superlative endurance athleticism; the development of a very large brain; and the incipience of cultural proficiencies. The author also elucidates how cultural evolution differs from biological evolution, and how our bodies were further transformed during the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. While these ongoing changes have brought about many benefits, they have also created conditions to which our bodies are not entirely adapted, the author argues, resulting in the growing incidence of obesity and new but avoidable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. The author proposes that many of these chronic illnesses persist and in some cases are intensifying because of 'dysevolution,' a pernicious dynamic whereby only the symptoms rather than the causes of these maladies are treated. And finally, he advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment. -- From publisher's web site.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2014
Edition: First Vintage Books edition
ISBN: 9780307741806
Branch Call Number: 612 Lieb
Characteristics: xii, 460 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Contents: What are humans adapted for?
Upstanding apes: how we became bipeds
Much depends on dinner: how australopiths partly weaned us off fruit
The first hunter-gatherers: how nearly modern bodies evolved in the human genus
Energy in the ice age: how we evolved big brains along with large, fat, gradually growing bodies
A very cultured species: how modern humans colonized the world with a combination of brains plus brawn
Progress, mismatch, and dysevolution: the consequences-good and bad-of having paleolithic bodies in a post-paleolithic world
Paradise lost?: the fruits and follies of becoming farmers
Modern times, modern bodies: the paradox of human health in the industrial era
The vicious circle of too much: why too much energy can make us sick
Disuse: why we are losing it by not using it
The hidden dangers of novelty and comfort: why everyday innovations can damage us
Survival of the fitter: can evolutionary logic help cultivate a better future for the human body?


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Jul 17, 2018

This was an enjoyable book even though it was written in a talking style, which, for its subject matter and length ran the risk of becoming annoying; rather, it was consistently friendly and clear and spurred the interest of the reader with the use of series of questions. The physical developments of early pre-humans was relatively brief (but he had to keep it relevant ), and his explanation of the illnesses people now suffer, due to the convergence of our physical and cultural evolution was brilliant and insightful. Lengthy notes, and a concluding chapter giving advice.

Feb 01, 2018

Relies on evidence to tell the history of human evolution when available, otherwise postulates developments based on evolutionary theory e.g. explanation for investment of surplus energy into production of brainier offspring in archaic homo. Sometimes this appears just a little too convenient. Very careful to differentiate what is known vs. hypothetical. Details the source and mechanisms of several diseases than develops an argument why an evolutionary perspective can prevent or perhaps reverse these conditions. Occasionally makes tentative recommendations that border on medical advice e.g. chew gum to enhance jaw growth, follow anti biotics with pro biotics. Well organised, each chapter and section introduces, elaborates and re-caps. Extensive annotation. Very easy to read with minimal technical language.

tannazjp Jan 03, 2015

Easy to read and interesting :)

Jan 10, 2014

An anthropological review of our homin ancestors and their eating habits is followed by a discussion of the effects of the agricultural revolution on our bodies and the diseases it generated. The last half of the book discusses the diseases and conditions which we suffer today because of the mismatch between our lifestyles and the bodies we inherited from our hunter gatherer ancestors. I found it interesting that modern hunter gatherer seldom suffer from these diseases and conditions.


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May 02, 2018

Sam_Stewart thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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