The Story of the Human Body
Evolution, Health, and Disease
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In this landmark book of popular science, Daniel E. Lieberman—chair of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and a leader in the field—gives us a lucid and engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years, even as it shows how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and advancements in the modern world is occasioning this paradox: greater longevity but increased chronic disease.
The Story of the Human Body brilliantly illuminates as never before the major transformations that contributed key adaptations to the body: the rise of bipedalism; the shift to a non-fruit-based diet; the advent of hunting and gathering, leading to our superlative endurance athleticism; the development of a very large brain; and the incipience of cultural proficiencies. Lieberman also elucidates how cultural evolution differs from biological evolution, and how our bodies were further transformed during the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.
While these ongoing changes have brought about many benefits, they have also created conditions to which our bodies are not entirely adapted, Lieberman argues, resulting in the growing incidence of obesity and new but avoidable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Lieberman proposes that many of these chronic illnesses persist and in some cases are intensifying because of “dysevolution,” a pernicious dynamic whereby only the symptoms rather than the causes of these maladies are treated. And finally—provocatively—he advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment.
(With charts and line drawings throughout.)
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
Working to modify food-related behaviors among people with diabetes is a challenge, And Dr. Lieberman hits the nail on the head. I loved the mix of biology, sociology and touch of politics related to today's biggest health challenges.
I don’t take the time to review many books, but I’m doing so as a thank you to Dr. Lieberman for telling this amazing story in a clear and accessible way, bringing fresh insights, and tying together so many loose threads. The first eight chapters are a tour de force, and so rewarding for anyone interested in the very big trends and very small details that spawned human evolution. Dr. Lieberman connects human evolution with today’s “mismatch” maladies quite well, but spent a lot of time with familiar territory there.
This is a very important book for physicians to read. I definitely think that the evolutionary perspective of human disease should be added to medical school curriculums.