From Publishers Weekly
Wells examines the positive and negative impact civilizations have had on the planet, from court hearings on genetically designed babies to the threat of environmental degradation on the Tuvalu Islands. His story brings the listener from a precivilized world to future possibilities that depend on the course of the next hundred years. Wells balances anecdotes and data with real world examples that embody the abstract concepts he proposes. However, his narration works against the material; the projection is inconsistent throughout, and at times, sentences that start strong sound breathless by the last few words. Wells's emphasis and modulation do not match the sophistication of the prose and fail to fully engage the listener. A Random hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 5).
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A geneticist and author of two general-interest titles (The Journey of Man, 2002; Deep Ancestry, 2006), Wells in this work concentrates on the beginnings of agriculture some 10,000 years ago. Intrigued by traces of the transition from hunter-gatherer times that can be interpreted from the human genome, Wells chats with researchers on this topic and translates their methods and findings into jargon-free language. Combining the DNA discussions with descriptions of archaeological evidence, Wells maintains that putting away the spear and taking up the plow have not been unalloyed boons to humanity. Ascribing obesity, diabetes, malaria, dental decay, and other maladies to the carbohydrate- and sugar-rich diet unboxed by Pandora and the agricultural revolution, Wells further indicts another product of agrarian society, civilization, for contributing to mental illnesses. Pursuing this line of argument to modern anxieties about genetic selection in human reproduction and about climate change, Wells will appeal to a variety of science readers, including those interested in genetic anthropology, health, and the future course of human evolution. --Gilbert Taylor