on 6 December 2006
I read this book as a layman, interested in the general argument that society has changed a lot faster than our bodies are able to cope.
The book is fascinating. It makes the convincing argument that, as a result of better diet and mother's experience during pregnancy that children mature faster than society is equipped to accept. It gives many examples of how our bodies are now mismatched to what society and we expect of them, leading to obesity and diabetes as a direct consequence.
Just like Guns, Germs and Steel, this new book Mismatch explains the background to the major themes of how we occupy our world.
It seems to be aimed at the general reader who has an interest in society and that general reader will understand more about the way we live now. As a non scientist I found this very easy to read and the limited jargon is easy to understand. The science seems to be well backed up by some intriguing and detailed notes, some technical, some historical giving confidence in the research that has gone into book.
on 8 March 2009
Written by two leading medical professors 'Mismatch' is the exploration of the idea that mankind's long evolutionary heritage sets parameters upon modern man/woman's ability to adapt to the seemingly endless rate of societal change and that this disjunction or 'mismatch' escalates the risk of the proliferation of disease, illness and other problematic scenarios in our contempory, complex societies, not least in respect to such 'lifestyle diseases' as Diabetes.
This is perhaps a simplistic rendering of the arguments of the book but essentially the authors propose that despite homo sapiens seemingly endless ability to adapt to almost any environment the planet has to offer, the sheer rate of societal change (espiecally in the last 150 years) has stretched this capacity to breaking point. The authors cite three 'mismatches' in particular as cause for concern:-
(1) The mismatch between physical/sexual maturation - which due to advances in nutrition, hygiene and healthcare has receded - and an extended psychosexual maturation which has created the situation whereby " a class of 15-year-olds in a school today, many of whom will be physically mature, if not sexually active. Their acting out and exploratory behaviours represent their attempts to live in a society which expects them to function as adults just because they physically look like adults. They cannot do so because their psychosocial maturation is not yet complete - there are so many aspects of how our society works which they cannot get into perspective."
(2) The mismatch between mankind's evolved taste for fatty and sugary foods - designed to prevent starvation - and the current plentiful supply of foods high in fat and sugar coupled with the reduced energy expenditure of living in contempory, westernised societies which has lead to a growing obesity epidemic and associated lifestyle diseases such as Diabetes.
(3) The third mismatch is increased longevity - where we actually designed to live this long? - the rising incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease force us to confront these difficult questions.
Whilst the authors are weak on what actually can be done to remedy the growing mismatch between our evolved constitutions and the changing environments we currently face they are strong on promoting the idea that, what could be described as 'evolutionary medicine', has been a hitherto largely neglected area of study and could yield fresh and important insights into the problems we now currently face. Surprisingly easy to read and fascinating. Five stars.