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The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution

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Overview

Resistance to malaria. Blue eyes. Lactose tolerance. What do all of these traits have in common? Every one of them has emerged in the last 10,000 years.

Scientists have long believed that the “great leap forward” that occurred some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago in Europe marked end of significant biological evolution in humans. In this stunningly original account of our evolutionary history, top scholars Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending reject this conventional wisdom and ...

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The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution

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Overview

Resistance to malaria. Blue eyes. Lactose tolerance. What do all of these traits have in common? Every one of them has emerged in the last 10,000 years.

Scientists have long believed that the “great leap forward” that occurred some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago in Europe marked end of significant biological evolution in humans. In this stunningly original account of our evolutionary history, top scholars Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending reject this conventional wisdom and reveal that the human species has undergone a storm of genetic change much more recently. Human evolution in fact accelerated after civilization arose, they contend, and these ongoing changes have played a pivotal role in human history. They argue that biology explains the expansion of the Indo-Europeans, the European conquest of the Americas, and European Jews' rise to intellectual prominence. In each of these cases, the key was recent genetic change: adult milk tolerance in the early Indo-Europeans that allowed for a new way of life, increased disease resistance among the Europeans settling America, and new versions of neurological genes among European Jews.

Ranging across subjects as diverse as human domestication, Neanderthal hybridization, and IQ tests, Cochran and Harpending's analysis demonstrates convincingly that human genetics have changed and can continue to change much more rapidly than scientists have previously believed. A provocative and fascinating new look at human evolution that turns conventional wisdom on its head, The 10,000 Year Explosion reveals the ongoing interplay between culture and biology in the making of the human race.
 

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Editorial Reviews

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Most of us regard human evolution as past tense, a series of prehistoric events that culminated in the species that now dominates the earth. Scientists Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran think that this "done deal" mind-set ignores very real genetic evidence that evolution is not only continuing but is actually accelerating. Citing examples as disparate as blue eyes and resistance to malaria, they describe how the storm of change continues to ripple through our species. Some of their conclusions raise highly contentious issues: They argue, for instance, that natural selection during medieval times enhanced the intelligence and creativity of Ashkenazi Jews. A breakthrough certain to be widely debated.
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465020423
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/19/2010
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 301,724
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Cochran is a physicist and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah. For many years, he worked on lasers and image enhancement in the field of aerospace. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Henry Harpending holds the Thomas Chair as Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. A field anthropologist and population geneticist, he helped develop the “Out of Africa” theory of human origins. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s research has been featured in the New York Times, The Economist, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, Atlantic Monthly, Science, Seed, and more.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Overview: Conventional Wisdom 1

2 The Neanderthal Within 25

3 Agriculture: The Big Change 65

4 Consequences of Agriculture 85

5 Gene Flow 129

6 Expansions 155

7 Medieval Evolution: How the Ashkenazi Jews Got their Smarts 187

Conclusion 225

Notes 229

Glossary 243

Bibliography 253

Credits 267

Index 269

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2013

    Good read.

    Well written. Wish I would have bought the paperback version so I could physically leaf through the book. Anyone interested in human evolution during the last 50,000 years will find this book intriguing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2010

    Condensed Book Review: The 10,000-Year Explosion

    This book is creative in the sense that is presents a different and radical version of human evolution. I would recommend it to those interested in evolution and believe in evolution and would like to see a new aspect of it. It does fail to provide concrete evidence to support a theory most of it is based on assumptions. They did however provide some interesting examples that could or might support their theory yet I still think they should have waited to publish this book and done more research because I am not entirely convinced of this new theory of human evolution. Some parts of the books are confusing and may require rereading and patience. The theory provided may seem like a possibility but that is all it is, a probable possibility.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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