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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars genes, languages, prehistoric human migrations
The most rewarding part of this popular science book is the middle, fifth to seventh chapters, in which Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Professor of Genetics at Stanford Medical School, draws on scientific research in human population genetics, in which he has been a well respected pioneer, to describe the migration of human populations beginning about 100,000 years ago out of...
Published on Sept. 21 2002 by los desaparecidos

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2.0 out of 5 stars Wandering through human nature
This collaboration between one of the great population geneticists and his filmmaker son promises much but lets down on delivery. The style and content of the book are uneven. Some topics are told in detail and with compelling narrative, particularly the account of L. L. Cavalli-Sforza's work since the 1960s to establish correlations among genetic, linguistic, and...
Published on June 5 2000


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars genes, languages, prehistoric human migrations, Sept. 21 2002
By 
los desaparecidos (Makati City, Philippines) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
The most rewarding part of this popular science book is the middle, fifth to seventh chapters, in which Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Professor of Genetics at Stanford Medical School, draws on scientific research in human population genetics, in which he has been a well respected pioneer, to describe the migration of human populations beginning about 100,000 years ago out of Africa until recent times. Because patterns of genetic and linguistic evolution exhibit high intercorrelations--even though their respective elements and mechanics differ--he also cites linguistic evidence for this account of migratory prehistory.
The most valuable contribution of this book to popular understanding is that population genetics provides possibly the best though not sole scientific basis on which to construct the prehistory of human "races." By this evidence, we learn, for example, about the migration of modern Homo sapiens to Southeast Asia and Australia approximately 55,000 to 60,000 years ago or about the spread of Neolithic farmer-cultivators from the Middle East into Europe beginning about 9,000 to 10,000 years ago. I suspect that readers unfamiliar with modern human evolution will find the genetic tree of the world's populations on page 119 intriguing. The diagram shows, for example, that Northeast Asians are more closely related to Europeans than Northeast Asians are to Southeast Asians.
For as rapidly advancing a science as human population genetics, it should not be surprising that some findings are dated. Recent evidence suggests, for instance, that North Asians descended from both southern China populations that gradually migrated northward as well as Caucasian populations that migrated eastward, so that some genetic mixing all across North Asia took place and is the source of the observed racial connections between North Asians and Caucasians.
In other chapters, Cavalli-Sforza tackles related topics somewhat unevenly. His anecdotes about the African pygmies are light and sympathetic. While his description of the hominid line is accurate for the time of publication, there are more insightful not to mention updated accounts now in print. His discussion of the links between genes and culture is engaging and humane but from the standpoint of science, no better than educated. His rejoinder to the controversial The Bell Curve (1994) is scientifically persuasive.
I very much enjoyed reading this book, the first I purchased at amazon.com.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good account of human history, Oct. 26 2002
By 
Neel Aroon "jaroon7648" (Lexington, KY United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
Great Huaman Diaspporas covers the history of humanity from its origins in Africa and how it spread through different parts of the world. It goes into homo saphiens forefathers and how homo saphiens forefathers evolved into modern man. It also deals with how gene environments influenced genes. It also deals with how language language and race developed.
Overall, a account of how humanity developed it in terms of genes, race and langage.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but no clear objective., May 28 2002
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algo41 "algo41" (philadelphia, pa United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
Much interesting material, and some difficult concepts explained clearly for the general lay person. However, the book has no clear objective. It is best read as a supplement to the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Jared Diamond, "Guns, Germs and Steel".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Really good, I Recommend it, May 14 2002
By 
Sergio A. Salazar Lozano (Tampico, Tamaulipas Mexico) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
Ok, this will be a short one. The book is really good, I recommend it vastly. As a molecular biologist I am impressed with the expertise of L. L. Cavalli-Sforza in varios areas of science. He does not only manage to comunicate in an easy manner the complexities of genetics and molecular biology (related to this subject), but also accomplishes to clarify lots of linguistic information gathered through his life studies. This last topic was the hardest for me to understand, though I believe language studies are not easy. So, as said in the beginning, this book is highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Recovering human prehistory, Aug. 6 2001
By 
Geoff Puterbaugh (Chiang Mai, T. Suthep, A. Muang Thailand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
This book is an excellent presentation of the life-work of Luca Cavalli-Sforza, and his apparently successful attempt to recover human pre-history.
It was (and is) an amazing feat: linguists did a bunch of research and theorizing, and geneticists did a bunch of research and theorizing, and when the two camps compared their results they were identical! (That is an oversimplification, but not by much.)
Brian Sykes' new book, "The Seven Daughters of Eve," adds a lot more interesting information to this slowly developing picture.
Highest recommendation!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Wandering through human nature, June 5 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
This collaboration between one of the great population geneticists and his filmmaker son promises much but lets down on delivery. The style and content of the book are uneven. Some topics are told in detail and with compelling narrative, particularly the account of L. L. Cavalli-Sforza's work since the 1960s to establish correlations among genetic, linguistic, and archaeological evidence for the history and relationships of the major human groups. Much weaker, however, is his grasp of cultural anthropology, whether in details or in methods. He attempts to convey an impression of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle (predominant through almost all of human history until the last 10,000 years) through extended references to his field research among African pygmies.
Unfortunately, though he is quite sympathetic to the pygmies and their way of life, much of the effect is lost in empty generalities (p. 16: "The forest may look gloomy to us but pygmies feel entirely at home and safe there. It is a place where little that is untoward can happen to them, where danger is limited and life very pleasant."), and his cross-cultural examples come almost exclusively from pygmies or from his personal experience of various Western Europeans. Some points of history, used as examples, are in error (Bede was an English monk who lived from 672 or 673 to 735; not a "sixth-century Irish monk" p. 80).
Cavalli-Sforza also seems to have little knowledge of modern cultural anthropology. Chapter 8 "Cultural legacies, genetic legacies" is particularly weak, treating a number of topics in a very superficial way, showing no knowledge of the huge body of literature on, among others, marriage patterns and the incest taboo, national character, or "cultural evolution". Some of the problems with this book undoubtedly rest with the translator, who seems to have chosen occasionally awkward or confusing phrasings in English.
The book is best when it recounts Cavalli-Sforza's personal experiences and the quest for a unified picture of the relations among human groups. His anecdotes and observations add a human and historical perspective to the story of population genetics, and the technical matters are explained in a comprehensible and even entertaining way. He makes a strong case that differences among human "races" are only skin deep, reflecting adaptation to different climates over the last sixty thousand years, and tells some of his own part in the battle over the IQ and race debate (recently re-ignited with the publication of _The Bell Curve_). One suspects that he would be a great conversationalist at a dinner party, and the portrait of the author (along with his substantial knowledge of human genetics and historical linguistics) is what keeps one reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating History of how human types & languages developed, May 6 2000
By 
John A. Werneken (Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
So easy to read: no science degree required. And so full of the actual scientific information, that I could also play armchair scientist, develop my own theories a few pages ahead of the authors' telling me theirs, and shout AHA! or groan "AW" as further reading showed if I had understood, or not.
The author has been studying for sixty years what we can learn now, from differences in human body types, body chemistry, and DNA, about the past travels of the human race as it came to populate the entire world. I am astonished at how far I could see into the distant past through their work and words.
Words are a second theme of the book, how languages in general seem also, like modern people, to have had one ancient source and then diversified as early humans expanded. He shows how frequently languages spread without the populations involved being in any way replaced, and explains how some changes, such as inventing farming, were so beneficial that not only the new tongues but also the new body types spread widely from small original sources.
There are apparently four great streams of body types: African; Australian; what is called Caucasian; and what is considered Asian, with the last two at different times providing peoples who still have descendants living all the way from Span to different populations of American Indians.
Languages seem to include mainly the results of the four body types plus the results of four separate independent inventions of farming, in Palestine, in north China, in south China, and in central America. Finally the gunpowder and trading revolution in Europe largely replaced American languages, and then the industrial revolution, like farming, vastly expanded our total numbers.
It is fascinating to understand how the body type and language migrations left traces here and there around the globe that on the surface imply that there is no order to our genetic or linguistic inheritances, but that can be explained on historical grounds as relics of great and ancient migrations.
Finally the authors turn to a third theme, which I suspect is their motivation not only for the book but also for the work that made it possible. The Cavalli-Sforzas explain in detail how very similar all peoples are in both genetic heritage and in measurable ability.
We are all brothers and sisters and perhaps may come to treat each other more as all our great religions and philosophies suggest that we should, if we can come to better understand and accept our common heritages.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Politics disguised as science, May 1 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
This book is a rather embarassing political tome under the guise of science. Cavalli-Sforza has undoubtedly been in the cross-hairs of the politically correct given his field of population genetics, and his response is to insist that he is a good servant of the Party. The book consists of ten chapters plus a postscript diatribe against "The Bell Curve", but only chapters 5&6 are worth reading. The initial chapters are exceedingly basic biology (in addition to an irrelevant paen to pigmies), and the remainder consists of the author's pronouncements on politics, religion, and other matters about which he apparently knows nothing, all presented in a pseudo-authoritative tone. Examples include the author's assertion that Broca's speech area of the brain is in the temporal lobe (actually the frontal), his repeated excoriation of the Catholic Church for its courageous defense of the unborn, and his reference to the "Hoover depression". In his Bell Curve diatribe, the author writes,"I cannot avoid feeling scared by the arrogance with which the authors always know what interpretation of data is right or wrong, what is good for the country, and what we should do...I have never found scientists who know the sure answer." With the exception of himself, of course. Cavalli-Sforza's son, a film director, is listed as co-author; apparently the book is aimed toward his fellow brain-dead Hollywood types. Given the author's many errors and unproven assertions, one finds oneself doubting the data presented in the small part of the book which actually deals with his population genetics research.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Politics disguised as science, May 1 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
This book is a rather embarassing political tome under the guise of science. Cavalli-Sforza has undoubtedly been in the cross-hairs of the politically correct given his field of population genetics, and his response is to insist that he is a good servant of the Party. The book consists of ten chapters plus a postscript diatribe against "The Bell Curve", but only chapters 5&6 are worth reading. The initial chapters are exceedingly basic biology (in addition to an irrelevant paen to pigmies), and the remainder consists of the author's pronouncements on politics, religion, and other matters about which he apparently knows nothing, all presented in a pseudo-authoritative tone. Examples include the author's assertion that Broca's speech area of the brain is in the temporal lobe (actually the frontal), his repeated excoriation of the Catholic Church for its courageous defense of the unborn, and his reference to the "Hoover depression". In his Bell Curve diatribe, the author writes,"I cannot avoid feeling scared by the arrogance with which the authors always know what interpretation of data is right or wrong, what is good for the country, and what we should do...I have never found scientists who know the sure answer." With the exception of himself, of course. Cavalli-Sforza's son, a film director, is listed as co-author; apparently the book is aimed toward his fellow brain-dead Hollywood types. Given the author's patent intellectual dishonesty, one finds oneself doubting the assertions of the small part of the book which actually deals with his population genetics research.
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5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, March 29 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution (Paperback)
A fascinating discourse on human evolution and diversity- he mentions many different methods by which one can trace human migration, the spread of agriculture and the diversities of languages. better written and a more scholarly discussion than Jared Diamonds rather shallow: "Guns Germs and Steel" which shares some of the same topics.
I am inspired to buy the more indepth book on the same subject which Cavalli Sforza has written.
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The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution
The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution by Luigi Luca Cavalli Sforza (Paperback - Nov. 6 1996)
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