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10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution Hardcover – 3 Nov 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (3 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002214
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,354,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

John Derbyshire, author of Prime Obsession
"Did human evolution come to a screeching halt fifty thousand years ago when Homo sapiens emerged from Africa, thus ensuring the psychic unity of mankind? Don't be silly, say the authors of this latest addition to the fast-emerging discipline of Biohistory. In clear prose backed by a wealth of hard data, Cochran and Harpending add a biological dimension to the history of our species, and hammer another nail into the coffin lid of 'nothing but culture' anthropology."

Bruce G. Charlton, MD; Professor of Theoretical Medicine, University of Buckingham, Editor in Chief of Medical Hypotheses
The 10,000 Year Explosion offers scientists and historians a new and fertile direction for future research, and provides the general public with a better explanation of the past, present, and future of human beings....I was motivated to read the entire book in a single marathon session.”

John Hawks, author of Human Evolution
"For years, human geneticists have been uncovering a picture of human evolution. But now, Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending are encouraging us to 'fast forward' the discussion."

Booklist
“A most intriguing deposition, without a trace of ethnic or racial advocacy, though directed against the proposition that ‘we’re all the same.’"

Publishers Weekly
“There is much here to recommend… and their arguments are intriguing throughout…it's clear that this lively, informative text is not meant to deceive (abundant references and a glossary also help) but to provoke thought, debate and possibly wonder.”

Wall Street Journal
“Important and fascinating…the provocative ideas in ‘The 10,000 Year Explosion’ must be taken seriously by anyone who wants to understand human origins and humanity's future.”

Seed
The 10,000 Year Explosion would be important even if it were only about population genetics and evolutionary biology, but Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending…have written something more. This book is a manifesto for and an example of a new kind of history, a biological history, and not just of the prehistoric era.”

New Scientist
“The evidence the authors present builds an overwhelming case that natural selection has recently acted strongly on us and may be continuing unabated.”

Melvin Konner, MD, PhD, author of The Tangled Wing and The Jewish Body
“For generations, scientists have seen culture as slowing or halting evolution. In this lively and provocative book, Cochran and Harpending, interpreting recent genetic evidence, stick a stiff finger into the eye that holds that view. Their ideas will be intensely controversial, but they cannot be ignored."

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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Top Customer Reviews

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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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: Kindle Edition
“The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution” explains the evolution of non cosmetic racial differences. The vast majority of distinctly human evolution happened when our ancestors were Paleolithic hunters and gatherers. The life of a Paleolithic hunter was exciting, varied, and violent. Fossil evidence and written descriptions of Paleolithic peoples who retained their life style up to modern times indicate that a much higher percentage of males died violently than have more recently, even during the twentieth century with two world wars. Evidence from surviving Paleolithic and Neolithic societies demonstrates that the best warriors usually had more than one wife, and consequently more sons who inherited their violent proclivities.

Farmers needed to be able to endure tedium. Clearing fields and planting, tending, and harvesting crops is not exciting. Nevertheless, an acre of farm land produces many more calories than an acre of hunting ground. Hunters only needed to plan for the next hunt. Farmers needed to plan ahead for at least the next growing season. Hunters did not need to defer gratification. What they did not eat spoiled. No matter how hungry farmers got they could not eat their seed corn. They could not butcher all of their farm animals.

With the beginning of urban civilization there was population pressure in favor of superior intelligence, and against physical aggressiveness. Men who had the intelligence to become merchants, money lenders, government officials, artists, and so on tended to become prosperous. They tended to have more descendants than laborers. Men who were physically aggressive tended to be removed from the breeding population by criminal justice systems.
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