Thursday, December 8, 2011

100 Books 72 - Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending's THE 10,000 YEAR EXPLOSION: HOW CIVILIZATION ACCELERATED HUMAN EVOLUTION

I actually read this book a while ago. I try not to put too much significance on the fact that I'm only blogging it now. The 10,000 Year Explosion is a fine book. It covers a subject I'm genuinely interested in. It makes an argument that I do find compelling.

But, like with Sex at Dawn, I'm probably very much a singer in the choir this book is preaching to.

It is always seemed obvious to me that human beings are still evolving. We talked in middle school about how our earlobes and pinky toes seem to be disappearing, physiological variations among ourselves, the uselessness of the appendix... So I don't find the argument that evolution did not stop when species Homo sapiens sapiens first thought to bang the rocks together, guys, to be at all controversial.

Nonetheless there's lots of neat stuff to explore here. The authors do a wonderful job of pointing out just how much we been able to learn about ourselves due to modern advances in the science of genetics. The study of genetic drift, the research into just how much Neanderthal DNA we might all still have, how certain have come to prevail in certain human populations, is all quite fascinating.

For instance, I am lactose tolerant because early herders in the steppes of Eurasia somewhere gave rise to a genetic sport who was able to keep drinking milk into adulthood, who thus thrived and produced just enough offspring to let his mutated gene drift into the population. Human migration and the fact that were not as a species really completely monogamous help to spread and become commonplace among my ancestors.

I love that I can drink milk eat yogurt (which I quite enjoy making myself) and have bones so strong that no bicycle crashes yet broken them. I am descended from a long line of stupendous badass evolutionary successes. And so are you.

Unfortunately none of my ancestors developed any helpful mutations that make me well-suited to sit in an office frantically typing and mousing (mousing with two hands by the way) for 10 hours a day. The people who do will own the future and have an obligation to have a lot of unprotected sex. For the good of the species.

But meanwhile, someone smarter and maybe a little more patient than I am, heritable traits perhaps both, developed the software I'm using to create this blog entry.

Dragon, baby: when you can't afford to wait for evolution.

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