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10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution [Paperback]

Gregory Cochran , Henry Harpending
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Jan 2011
Resistance to malaria. Blue eyes. Lactose tolerance. What do all of these traits have in common? Every one of them has emerged in the last 10,000 years. Scientists have long believed that the "great leap forward" that occurred some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago in Europe marked end of significant biological evolution in humans. In this stunningly original account of our evolutionary history, top scholars Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending reject this conventional wisdom and reveal that the human species has undergone a storm of genetic change much more recently. Human evolution in fact accelerated after civilization arose, they contend, and these ongoing changes have played a pivotal role in human history. They argue that biology explains the expansion of the Indo-Europeans, the European conquest of the Americas, and European Jews' rise to intellectual prominence. In each of these cases, the key was recent genetic change: adult milk tolerance in the early Indo-Europeans that allowed for a new way of life, increased disease resistance among the Europeans settling America, and new versions of neurological genes among European Jews. Ranging across subjects as diverse as human domestication, Neanderthal hybridization, and IQ tests, Cochran and Harpending's analysis demonstrates convincingly that human genetics have changed and can continue to change much more rapidly than scientists have previously believed. A provocative and fascinating new look at human evolution that turns conventional wisdom on its head, The 10,000 Year Explosion reveals the ongoing interplay between culture and biology in the making of the human race.

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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: 23.1 x 15.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 255,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"(T) 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.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Past is a Foregin Country 7 Feb 2009
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
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evolution, history and intelligence 18 Jan 2011
A Kid's Review
the authors point out that the human genome has changed rapidly - in fact over the past 10.000 years much more rapidly than possible before.

Possibly European history was aided by the Neanderthal genome - but this is still quite speculative and more evidence should be drawn out by recent sequencing of Neanderthal genome. However, more interesting is the change in lcatose tollerance which has aided the Indo Germanic dominance from Europe to India. They were settlers how could digest the milk - this explains why local population was much slower at adaptation.

Interestingly they make the point that European jews may habe been bread for intelligence and thus aquired some genetic deseases like Tay Sachs. This sounded very convincing.

some futher analysis is missing. No treatment of the Flynn effect. Not quite sure whether humans would have actually acquired higher intelligence from North to South - the authors dont give definite answers, but this could not be done given the evidence there is. So they very much manage to stay away from rasism and just look at facts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars radical but true 1 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
10,000 Year Explosion is one of those phenomenal science books, actually a somewhat dangerous book, that will stick in your mind weeks after you put it down.

Before the new genome paradigm, the experts used to say that the Homo Sapien species was fixed and hasn't changed for about 20 thousand years.

The authors, Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, argue that this isn't so; and that the people who fought in the Trojan war and the people who built the Great Pyramid were a different form of human being that you and I. This is unearthing but the science fits this radicalism and the implications can be upsetting for many people.

The authors argue that the genetic evidence fits the idea of an evolving or devolving human and that a racial theory is no longer cod science. There is more to this book than can fit inside a review. It's a phenomenal piece of science. Highly Recommend!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A pure joy to read!
This is a short and extremely well written book about how genetic mutations have changed man kind during the last 10 000 years and also how this change is accelerating. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Strv 74
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Chapter in the Story of Evolution
Did evolution simply stop 10,000 years ago? Of course not. Evolution is a continuous process. Sometimes it moves more quickly than other times. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Oliver
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas - but sometimes a step too far for me
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. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Orpheus
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting topic - well treated
A very interesting topic, and a well written book. The authors do however, in my view, have a slight tendency to overstate the significance of some of the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Frederik
5.0 out of 5 stars Instead of being over, evolution has actually been at its fastest over...
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. Read more
Published on 2 Dec 2011 by Gabor Laszlo Varkonyi
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear and concise
This book is a good read. It is concise and of the right length for a amateur reader like me.
Although some parts are obviously debatable, it is an easy and interesing read.
Published on 6 July 2011 by Eric le rouge
5.0 out of 5 stars A very informative book
Some experts believe that evolutionary change in humans no longer occurs and that human minds and bodies are the same everywhere. Read more
Published on 18 May 2011 by Pauline Aksungur
2.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous half truths
This is apparently what you get when a physicist and a social scientist decide to write a book about human genetics (though I wonder what sort of social science Harpending... Read more
Published on 1 Nov 2010 by Pipistrel
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun read for a piece of non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book! This book is full of anacdotal biological information that is very interesting and fun to read, making you feel happy to carry on reading. Read more
Published on 22 Aug 2010 by Booknose
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