Book Review: The Story of the Human Body

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The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease

I read another wonderful book I wanted to share with you: The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease. If you interested in how we humans got to be the way we are, I would pick this book up. It’s incredible.

The first half of the book is all about evolution – how we went from being very similar to our first chimp ancestor to becoming the unique creatures that we are. Did you ever wonder:

  • Why are we the only mammals that primarily walk upright?
  • Why are we the only animals that need assistance giving birth?
  • How did homo sapien differ from the other species that existed during the same time periods?

Daniel Lieberman goes through all this a whole lot more. This part is interesting enough, but it is the next part of the book that blew me away.

He then talks about cultural evolution. How culture has been changing humankind. Evolution is a fairly slow process, but cultural evolution is changing us as people at a rapid pace. From developing agriculture to the changes that have taken place since the industrial revolution, what we have done is changing our bodies. For example, problems that many people face now – diabetes, myopia, fallen arches, even impacted wisdom teeth – these are all issues that are common. However, they weren’t problems for our hunter-gatherer forebearers.

He also looks at how things we have done to increase work efficiency, lifespan and availability of food have also created problems of their own. I thought that the reasons we were seeing more problems with heart disease, cancer and diabetes were the result of two things: 1) people living longer (so more likely to experience cancer) and 2) better technology that could identify the exact problem. But Mr. Lieberman makes really compelling arguments that that is not the case. What is interesting is that he looks at this from the view of an evolutionary scientist. He shows how our bodies evolved naturally to do one thing, but then culturally we have started doing something else. Wisdom teeth, for example, it doesn’t make sense for the body to have created teeth that needed to be removed. And in fact, it appears hunter-gatherers did not have problems with wisdom teeth. Their jaws were much larger and stronger than ours, due to their diet.

This is the kind of stuff I completely geek out on. This book answers so many questions. I could not put it down! If you decide to purchase it, here’s an affiliate link so you can support the GRLIFE blog with a few pennies:

The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease

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