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Story of the Human Body explores how the way we use our bodies is all wrong. From an evolutionary perspective, if normal is defined as what most people have done for millions of years, then it's normal to walk and run 9 -15 kilometers a day to hunt and gather fresh food which is high in fibre, low in sugar, and barely processed. It's also normal to spend much of your time nursing, napping, making stone tools, and gossiping with a small band of people.
Our 21st-century lifestyles, argues Dan Lieberman, are out of synch with our stone-age bodies. Never have we been so healthy and long-lived - but never, too, have we been so prone to a slew of problems that were, until recently, rare or unknown, from asthma, to diabetes, to - scariest of all - overpopulation.
Story of the Human Body asks how our bodies got to be the way they are, and considers how that evolutionary history - both ancient and recent - can help us evaluate how we use our bodies. How is the present-day state of the human body related to the past? And what is the human body's future?
Daniel Lieberman is the Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard and a leader in the field. He has written nearly 100 articles, many appearing in the journals Nature and Science, and his cover story on barefoot running in Nature was picked up by major media the world over. His research and discoveries have been highlighted in newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Discover, and National Geographic.
In thoroughly enjoyable and edifying prose, Lieberman, professor of human evolution at Harvard, leads a fascinating journey through human evolution. He comprehensively explains how evolutionary forces have shaped the human species as we know it, from the move to bipedalism, and the changes in body parts from hands to feet and spine that such a change entailed, to the creation of agrarian societies, and much more. He balances a historical perspective with a contemporary one examining traits of our ancestors as carefully as he looks to the future while asking how we might control the destiny of our species. He argues persuasively that cultural evolution is now the dominant force of evolutionary change acting on the human body, and focuses on what he calls mismatch diseases that are caused by lack of congruence between genes and environment. Since the pace of cultural evolution has outstripped that of biological evolution, mismatch diseases have increased to the point where most of us are likely to die of such causes. Lieberman s discussion of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer are as clear as any yet published, and he offers a well-articulated case for why an evolutionary perspective can greatly enrich the practice of medicine.