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The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution Paperback – October 19, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Arguing that human genetic evolution is still ongoing, physicist-turned-evolutionary biologist Cochran and anthropologist Harpending marshal evidence for dramatic genetic change in the (geologically) recent past, particularly since the invention of agriculture. Unfortunately, much of their argument-including the origin of modern humans, agriculture, and Indo-Europeans-tends to neglect archaeological and geological evidence; readers should keep in mind that assumed time frames, like the age of the human species, are minimums at best and serious underestimates at worst. That said, there is much here to recommend, including the authors' unique approach to the question of modern human-Neanderthal interbreeding, and their discussion of the genetic pressures on Ashkenazi Jews over the past 1,000 years, both based solidly in fact. They also provide clear explanations for tricky concepts like gene flow and haplotypes, and their arguments are intriguing throughout. Though lapses in their case won't be obvious to the untrained eye, 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Cochran and Harpending dispute the late Stephen Jay Gould’s assertion that civilization was “built with the same body and brain” Homo sapiens has had for 40,000 years. Humanity has been evolving very dramatically for the last 10,000 years, they say, spurred by the very civilizational forces launched by that evolution. They initially retreat, however, to Gould’s 40,000-year benchmark to consider how H. sapiens replaced H. neanderthalensis and to argue for genetic mixing such that modern humans got from Neanderthals the innovative capacity for civilization. Later, agricultural life created problems necessitating adaptations, most importantly to disease and diet, that persist to this day among inheritors of the populations that made them. Lighter skin and eye color arose from other genetic reactions to environmental challenges, and less immediately obvious changes further discriminated discrete populations, as recently as late-eighteenth-century Ashkenazi Jews, among whom intelligence burgeoned in, Cochran and Harpending contend, adaptive response to social pressure. A most intriguing deposition, without a trace of ethnic or racial advocacy, though directed against the proposition that “we’re all the same.” --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
And there is quite a bit of meat. Many books on human evolution have one main narrative arc; e.g., the Out-of-Africa migration, or the discovery of the Hobbits of Flores. In contrast, works which focus on world events tend to take a broad "peoples & places" vantage point, with little concern for non-human dynamics. As the authors note, *The 10,000 Year Explosion* is actually a work of genetic history, so naturally its purview is broader and its foundation more varied than is normally the case with narratives which attempt to sketch out the shape of human history. In fact, it is fundamentally different than other popular works of genetic history, such as *The Journey of Man* or *The Seven Daughters of Eve*. While those books attempt to infer prehistoric population movements from the patterns of particular genes today, *The 10,000 Year Explosion* aims to give full treatment to the evolutionary power of natural selection in shaping human history. Human migrations may shape genetics, but *The 10,000 Year Explosion* shows how genetics may shape human migrations, how culture may shape genetics, and how genetics may shape culture!
The abstract models which serve as the theory are fleshed out with specific case studies and familiar dynamics. For example, how did the Indo-European language family get to be so geographically expansive? There might be a genetic reason for this having to due with a particular adaptation. *The 10,000 Year Explosion* outlines the possibilities in detail. In a more general vein, the authors offer that agriculture might have sped up evolution, not resulted in its end. This seemingly counterintuitive claim on the face of it is eminently logical upon further inspection, and in fact has some empirical support. Finally, *The 10,000 Year Explosion* puts the spotlight on even relatively recent events. For example, the peculiarities of the genetic history of the Ashkenazi Jews over the past 1,000 years, and the impact of this upon the occupational profiles of the Ashkenazi Jews today.
*The 10,000 Year Explosion* is bursting with ideas big & small. Some of them require a bit of algebra for clarity, but much of it is amenable to common sense aided with illustration. Many of the ideas will have a "Why, that makes total sense!" quality to them, while other claims are of a type that many may find troubling if true. This is a book which will enlighten even if it infuriates.
One thing that is certain is that evolution never ceases and can occur quite rapidly. Clearly people evolving within the context of civilization are going to be exposed to different selective pressures than those who do not. People whose ancestors evolved within advanced civilizations are, in essence, selected to be civilized, whereas those whose ancestors did not, are not. This simple concept goes a long way towards explaining the state of the world as it is today.