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Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins Paperback – Apr 1 2003

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Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins + Seven Daughters Of Eve + Deep Ancestry: Inside The Genographic Project
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618352104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618352104
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #121,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"Olson raises the level of discourse to a new high, assembling powerful evidence to support the no-races hypothesis." Kirkus Reviews

"An engaging and fast-paced look at a subject that has profound implications for our everyday lives." Publishers Weekly

"An instructive overview of human history." Boston Herald --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Steve Olson’s Mapping Human History was a National Book Award finalist and won the Science-in-Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers. Olson has also written for the Atlantic Monthly, Scientific American, and Science. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, where he coaches the math team at a public middle school.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joe Kidd on June 11 2003
Format: Paperback
Steve Olson's "Mapping Human History" spews non-stop ideas and concepts that are politically fashionable in today's society, but have no basis in fact.
I generally enjoy reading almost anything. Whether it inspires me to change or reaffirm my opinion on an issue, look at something in a new way. or just come up with good discussion material with my friends, it's generally a rewarding experience. But this book is on a very short list of non-fiction that I couldn't bring myself to finish reading.
From the very first page of the preface, he starts making unsupported claims that racism of some form is the source for all the human-induced suffering in the world, and that it is unfounded. He cites examples of racially diverse areas of the world, such as slavery-era America, the Balkan peninsula, and most of the middle east to show the violence and hate that can spread when people indulge in racially motivated activity. He conveniently overlooks the fact that the same pattern of behavior has emerged from more racially homogenous areas as well. How does he explain the behavior of certain areas of northern Europe, pre-Columbian America, and China without the convenient excuse of racism?
Yes, Steve, genetically speaking I'm 99% identical to people from every continent and racial group. But the same quantity my DNA is identical to that of a chimpanzee, and nearly as much to a rat, horse, or any other mammal. What's your point? In those other racially homogenous areas, people still tended to separate themselves into tribes, clans, or other social structures in order to take advantage of the benefits of a close-knit society. This social splintering happened even without any mentionable racial differences. Why don't you investigate this instead of spouting pseudo-science?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4 2004
Format: Paperback
Steve Olson's Mapping Human History is an excellent introduction to historical genetics, and indeed it has been called by the New Scientist as "the most balanced, accessible and up-to-date survey of the field currently available." It is written by a renowned science journalist, not a scientist, who quotes and discusses the leaders in the field in a quite readable and entertaining fashion. The book has apparently offended some people by discounting ancestry (and racist offshoots) in light of the overwhelming evidence against the concept. However its scientific credentials are impeccable.
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By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 6 2004
Format: Paperback
Although many words have been written attempting to show the unity of the human species, Steve Olson makes yet another attempt. He feels the need is there to be met. Instead of basing his effort on philosophical or moral grounds, he turns to our genetic record to make his point. It's a valid quest using unimpeachable methods and Olson presents it well. Some of the material, such as Wilson and Cann's "mitochondrial Eve" may be a bit shopworn, but it's an essential element of Olson's scenario. He builds his structure carefully and solidly, so a bit of used material isn't out of place. After all, he's not attempting any new, revolutionary concept in this book. He merely wishes to displace old, traditional ideas with a new reality.
Given the entrenched thinking about "race" in human cultures, calling Olson's task daunting is grievous understatement. The human diaspora from Africa he traces reaches across 150 millennia. Unlike most other species, humanity developed at an astonishing rate. Tracing genetic changes with humans migrating across the planet, not always in one direction is staggeringly difficult. Olson struggles, usually successfully, to reconcile the paleoanthropological finds with genetics research. He demonstrates the likely origins of the Chinese, Europeans, Australian and Western Hemispheric Aborigines. One subset of our species, the Jews, receives some special attention.
Olson recognises that much of the information he addresses is "highly contentious", but he bravely sets out to reconcile the views of many researchers. He examines in some detail, for example, hotly disputed notions about linguistic evolution. Given that the human population at the beginnings of language was already "on the road", his own description of language origins seems a bit thin.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a fascinating overview of the work of the many scientists engaged in a truly scientific treatment of heritage (which would complement both our origins both mythical and religious). It's their hope that one day in the future there will be an accurate map of human history which will trace the migration of modern humans from northeast Africa to the Middle East and their subsequent diffusion throughout the world.
But this book also contains several concise arguments against the concept of human "races," a construct that does not hold up to scientific scrutiny at all (but which has been used for the past three hundred years to justify the worst crimes against humanity). The main points are that 1) while there are averages to the features of ethnic groups, these do not hold when taking individuals individually, that is, the variations between individuals of a given "race" are greater than average variations between the races themselves; 2) the vast majority of humans have "mixed" ancestry beyond about four generations; 3) every human being alive today is descended from the groups which left Africa some 65,000 years ago. Racism should really be called "contingencism", that is, when one discriminates against a group of persons based upon the wholly accidental adaptations of their ancestors to local geographical/climatic conditions.
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