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10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution Paperback – 6 Jan 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (6 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465020429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465020423
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Review

"(T)antalising...an engaging book with valuable information about how advantageous genes spread through the population."
--The Financial Times

About the Author

Gregory Cochran is a physicist and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah. For many years, he worked on lasers and image enhancement in the field of aerospace. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Henry Harpending holds the Thomas Chair as Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. A field anthropologist and population geneticist, he helped develop the "Out of Africa" theory of human origins. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending's research has been featured in the New York Times, The Economist, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, Atlantic Monthly, Science, Seed, and more.

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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes on 7 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Past Is A Foreign Country, February 7, 2009
By William Holmes "semloh2287" (Portland, OR USA) - See all my reviews

Despite the complexity of the subject, "The 10,000 Year Explosion" is clearly written and compellingly argued. The book is devoted to refuting the idea that human evolution stopped 10,000 or 50,000 years ago, as some have argued. Rather, humans are constantly adapting to diseases, cultural innovations, and myriad other changes in the environment. As Cochran and Harpending point out in the Overview to their book, "humans have changed significantly in body and mind over recorded history. Sargon and Imhotep were different from you genetically as well as culturally."

At some level, the idea is plainly correct. Sickle cell anemia, for example, results from an adaptation to malaria. Those who had the gene were more likely to live long enough to have offspring, so the genes that code for malaria resistance are much more frequent in populations originating from areas where malaria has been historically common.

The same principle explains why the New World's inhabitants were almost completely wiped out by diseases imported from the Old World--by some estimates, mortality approached 90% of the pre-1492 population of North America and South America. The denizens of the Old World had been pastoralists and farmers much longer than their New World counterparts, and so had been exposed to a host of nasty diseases that originate from domesticated animals (e.g., smallpox). The farmers who were lucky enough to have a genetic adaptation that could resist the diseases passed the adaptation along to their offspring, and over hundreds or thousands of years the genetic defense swept through the whole population.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Nigel Seel VINE VOICE on 21 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The thesis of this book is that the changing environments encountered by human populations since the original excursion out of Africa ~50,000 years ago - and more recently through the introduction of agriculture, have led to substantial and differential genetic changes in various human populations. Therefore, to understand the deep history of humanity, we need a combined cultural-genetic analysis in which each component couples to the other.

Key ideas include:

* The evolved disease-resistance of Europeans + their diseases effectively destroyed the Amerindian populations of North and South America, which led to a relatively easy colonisation by quite small forces. Compare the European inability to colonise Africa, rich in its own diseases to which the indigenous Africans were far better adapted: *they* didn't die off.

* The spread of the original Indo-European speakers from their Pontic-Caspian Steppe homeland was, the authors argue, driven by a lactose-tolerating mutation which allowed those nomadic invaders to consume milk. This is a far more efficient energy source than slaughtering cattle, supporting five times as many warriors per square kilometre.

* And then the explanation of the superior intelligence (~0.7 std. dev.) of the Ashkenazi Jews due to strong selective pressure in their taxation, money lending and management niche over the last thousand years in northern Europe ... and the price in genetic diseases of the nervous system they pay for their IQ-boosting mutations.

I suspect the enemies of applying evolutionary theory to human development will have to die-off before the paradigm gets decisively shifted, but to an honest evolutionist, the approach of this book cannot be faulted.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this fascinating book the authors explain how human evolution has continued since the invention of agriculture, and how it has affected the course of history.

This is a very compelling account of how and why human evolution could not have stopped and indeed has accelerated over the past tens of millenia, and especially since the onset of agriculture. Radically changed environments (first Europe/Asia/etc. instead of Africa, then agricultural environment and gradually strenghening law enforcement instead of hunting-gathering and tribal or even lower level anarchy) and a swelling population (supplying an ever increasing number of useful mutations) meant a huge acceleration of evolution.

The book doesn't shy away from questions of race. They convincingly argue what others (most notably Vincent Sarich and Frank Miele in Race: The Reality of Human Differences) have already shown, that race is much deeper than skin-deep.

It's not very long (a bit more than 200 short pages, including a number of pictures) and is well-written and easy to read, I finished it on a Sunday afternoon, so if you take it with you for a long vacation take some other books as well...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The premise of this book, that evolution of the human species has continued (perhaps even accelerated) over the last 10,000 is a very interesting one. I am not a professional in the genetics space, but I found the book useful, readable and entertaining. Thinking about issues such as genetic differences in particular populations over a few hundred years, and applying some basic and undeniable statistical techniques gives rise to some very interesting ideas about how humans developed so quickly in a variety of different ways - in relation for example to lactose tolerance and its ability to have a direct impact on survival rates quite quickly.

My one thought is that sometimes (and again I'm not an expert) there is a need to link the advantage confered by a particular genetic pattern to something that makes you more likely to reproduce. If one is going to see rapid changes in the genetic pattern of a population, in the space of only a few generations, then the advantages conferred by the mutation need to be important to reproduction rate in some way in order to be effective. For example if the genetic mutation makes the male produce more sperm or allows more children to mature to reproductive age, then I get it immediately. A simple example is lactose tolerance, where one can imagine that being able to feed (and feed one's children) on a highly nutritional source from another animal would confer almost immediate benefits in terms of survival and reproduction. However, to take another example, the author uses the particular resistance of residents in an Italian village to arterial disease caused by cholesterol as a further example. This sort of example seems less compelling to me because most of the people who die of arterial diseases seem to me to have passed their childbearing age.
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