Genes, Peoples, and Languages / Edition 1

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Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza was among the first to ask whether the genes of modern populations contain a historical record of the human species. Cavalli-Sforza and others have answered this question—anticipated by Darwin—with a decisive yes. Genes, Peoples, and Languages comprises five lectures that serve as a summation of the author's work over several decades, the goal of which has been nothing less than tracking the past hundred thousand years of human evolution.

Cavalli-Sforza raises questions that have serious political, social, and scientific import: When and where did we evolve? How have human societies spread across the continents? How have cultural innovations affected the growth and spread of populations? What is the connection between genes and languages? Always provocative and often astonishing, Cavalli-Sforza explains why there is no genetic basis for racial classification.

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Editorial Reviews

New Scientist
A thoroughly readable account of some of the most fascinating ideas around.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520228733
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/3/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 239
  • Sales rank: 804,865
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza was born in Genoa in 1922 and has taught at the Universities of Cambridge, Parma, and Pavia. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Genetics at Stanford University and is the author of The History and Geography of Human Genes.
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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Acknowledgments ix
1. Genes and History 3
2. A Walk in the Woods 33
3. Of Adam and Eve 57
4. Technological Revolutions and Gene Geography 92
5. Genes and Languages 133
6. Cultural Transmission and Evolution 173
Bibliography 209
Index 215
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2003

    Insightful Reading

    Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza answers questions that has had man wondering since time immemorial. A classic research into the human dispersion, starting from the first appearance of Homo-Sapiens to today's wide variety of races and peoples. First the author illustrates the findings of a more authoratative research technique of comparing genes of different peoples, and estimating the 'distance' between peoples. Later on, he uses other, rather subjective techniques to demonstrate how the results of the genetic comparison can be substantiated. With an interest in anthropology and linguistics, and having read a few books in this area, I found this book a great source of information. Very concisely written, yet touching on all major topics within the scope. A good book to read on a Sunday afternoon, but can be dissappointing if you expect it to be an encyclopedia. One can also notice the author's stance against racism, especially given the author's exposure to scientific research on various races and their differences.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2000

    Finding someone to agree with you is not science.

    This Italian geneticist at Stanford thinks that the history of the human race(s) can be figured out by looking at DNA and mitochondria. He says groups that are similar in DNA must have come from the same stock of people in the past, and that the grouping and hierarchy building can be done as far back as he wants to go. The whole research (?) program however assumes that there is no loss or mixing of information in the genetic process. Everything is kept intact and simple, like tinker toys. If that assumption is wrong - in other words if genetics is organic rather than mechanical - then his conclusions fall apart. One of the best comments about science is that ideas or discoveries should be of the sort that can be determined to be either true or false. The author can say all he wants about his reconstruction of ethnic groups from 5 to 50 thousand years ago, and say what he wants about gene mixing as people migrated around the world, but nobody will ever be able to test it, because whatever DNA we have from those times is from a few isolated mummies. At the end of the book, he looks through the range of ideas about how language groups in the world might be related, and in particular languages in the Americas. He finds a simplified theory (Greenberg) that says the hundreds can be reduced to three clusters, and he says, without evidence or argumentation, that this one is the best. All those who say the language situation is too mixed and too complicated to put into three boxes are rejected because of what 'seems' best to him, as a non-linguist. Then his conclusion about how the simplest theory is the best is employed as a support for his previous statements about DNA groups. Instead of getting facts to verify his ideas, he picks out a conveniently similar theory from linguistics to put parallel to his. Since they are parallel, they must verify each other, he insists.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2000

    interesting ideas, needs editing

    I bought this book following a very interesting review in the NY Review of Books, but I found it something of a disappointment. It seems to me heavy on genes, and somewhat lighter on people and language, so I would not recommend it unless one is interested in the science involved. I also found a persistent mismatch in the amount of explanation given. Some concepts are explained redundantly throughout the book, but other explanations are, in my view, too brief or unclear. I also didn't care for the chatty digressions in some spots, like the introduction to the Chapter 5. The story this author has to tell is a fascinating one, but he hasn't written a very readable book, at least for the layman.

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