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Genes, Peoples, and Languages Paperback – Apr 3 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 239 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (April 3 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520228731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520228733
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14.4 x 1.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #401,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bernie Koenig TOP 100 REVIEWER on May 5 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Natural Law, Science, and the Social Construction of Reality

An interesting well presented work tying together biology, language, agriculture, and the migrations of people.

The main point That Cavalli-Sforza makes is that there is one human race and all our differences are due to various evolutionary factors.

The meat of the book is how migrations patterns of humans can be traced using both genetics and language. genetic changes and linguistic changes occur for similar reasons, though linguistic changes occur much more rapidly. But by showing how languages have evolved, along with how people have evolved, we get a good picture of both the genetic and the social aspects of the evolutionary process.

Much of the information in the book was not new to me. A lot of it is contained in other books I have reviewed here. But what makes this book stand out is how all the factors are tied together and how the same kinds of factors that lead to biological or genetic change also lead to linguistic and social change.

Indeed, again as other people have pointed out, social conditions can lead to biological change. Cavalli-Sforza develops this theme.

The point is that there are many many factors that are present in the evolutionary process and they influence each other.

A good book to get an overview of the evolutionary process from a wide perspective.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roberto P. De Ferraz on Jan. 21 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the type of book you don't want to stop reading. After reading, you jump to the site again to see what else the author made in order to buy it. The number of (explained) genetic information the author provides is astonishing. Did you know, for instance, that the American autoctone populations (at least from the European point of view) are 98% blood types O? The author, also, goes the extra mile explaining that this happened because of only one of two possibilities. Want to know? Just read the book and you find why. I am sure you will not be disappointed by the writting style of the Italian author who explains difficult things (genetic vocabulary) in a very easy and unpretentious manner. His adamant position against racism is also pretty interesting, given the scientific data presented, which contradicts all the so-called Aryan theories of the nazi era. Good reading..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. P. Rushton on Aug. 15 2002
Format: Hardcover
Cavalli-Sforza likes to avoid the word "race" but his maximum likelihood tree made on the basis of molecular genetic markers (page 70) substantially agrees with the traditional racial groupings that have been confirmed across cultures and methodologies for decades. I recommend this book to "liberals" and "conservatives" on the race issue alike for enlightenment (although you have to sometimes read between the lines). His data support the currently most accepted view of human origins, the "Out of Africa" theory, which posits that Homo sapiens arose in Africa about 150,000 years ago, expanded northwards beyond Africa about 100,000 years ago, with a European-East Asian split after that. Africans are the most distant group, with Europeans and Asians being closer together. As Cavalli-Sforza observed, "All world trees place the earliest split between Africans and non-Africans, which is expected given that all humans originated in Africa" (p. 72).
Although the methodologies described in this book are still in their infancy, even on the basis of existing surveys, an individual's racial group can be determined by testing his or her DNA at 100 random sites along the genome, or at 30 specifically chosen ones. Even different ethnic groups within a race can be distinguished using only some 50 specifically chosen sites. The fuzziness of racial definitions does not negate their utility. In race differences research, for example, a genetic hypothesis predicts that for those Black individuals who possess more White genes, their physical, behavioral, and other characteristics will approach those of Whites. Of course, in talking about population or racial group differences we are discussing averages. Individuals are individuals, and population groups overlap substantially on almost all traits and measures. Nonetheless, there are very clear group differences to be found, in brain, bone, and behavior, not just genes and language.
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Format: Paperback
Like its title, this book is a disjointed work. There is no central thesis in this work. Narratively, it is modeled like how "101 {Concepts|Mechanisms|Analyses|Facts} of Evolution" would be organized. Nevertheless, there are some interesting ideas and data presented, like the correlation of language classification and genetic groupings, or the possible (and probable) outgrowth and expansions of human settlements, arising from Africa. Less interesting, but worth a look, is the narrative on transmission of culture.
However, this is a work best avoided, if only in favour of the abridged version of the same author's History and Geography of Human Genes.
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Format: Paperback
Granted, the author is a respectable scholar in historical genetics. And the topic is interesting. However, this book is poorly written:
1) Translation is generally sloppy. The English text is often funny, e.g. not sure which nouns a dangling clause actually refer to in running sentences. Either the original text is sloppy, or the translation is, or both.
2) Lack of information. Not a lot of actual scientific info is presented. E.g. Maps for principal component analysis for Asia genes would be of interest I think
3) Big gaps in the whole picture: the origins of both Chinese and Indians are poorly explained. It might reflect low level of scientific research in those countries; but from the writing itself, it seems the author does not really care about these people which account for ~45% of the world's population; at the same time, the author keeps pointing out that the Basques are unique.
4) Putting my Chinese head on here:
The language family that includes Na-Dene (in N. America), Caucasian (mainly Georgian), and Sino-Tibetan languages is called the 'Dene-Caucasian' family. I just can't help wondering how the scientific community name things. How can the Chinese language, with at least 800MM native speakers, not part of the name of the language family? It is probably not the author's fault, but as a founding scientist in the inquiry of human origins from genetic & linguistic point of view, the author has some responsibity for the bias I think.
5) Is the scientific evidence robust? In the early section on genetic mapping, each of the dots showing 'races' such as 'Basques', 'South Chinese', 'Dravidians', etc. are defined using considerations in 'location and languages' of the human samples.
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