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The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution Hardcover – Jan 27 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (Jan. 27 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002214
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #472,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


John Derbyshire, author of Prime Obsession
"Did human evolution come to a screeching halt fifty thousand years ago when Homo sapiens emerged from Africa, thus ensuring the psychic unity of mankind? Don't be silly, say the authors of this latest addition to the fast-emerging discipline of Biohistory. In clear prose backed by a wealth of hard data, Cochran and Harpending add a biological dimension to the history of our species, and hammer another nail into the coffin lid of 'nothing but culture' anthropology."

Bruce G. Charlton, MD; Professor of Theoretical Medicine, University of Buckingham, Editor in Chief of Medical Hypotheses
The 10,000 Year Explosion offers scientists and historians a new and fertile direction for future research, and provides the general public with a better explanation of the past, present, and future of human beings....I was motivated to read the entire book in a single marathon session.”

John Hawks, author of Human Evolution
"For years, human geneticists have been uncovering a picture of human evolution. But now, Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending are encouraging us to 'fast forward' the discussion."

“A most intriguing deposition, without a trace of ethnic or racial advocacy, though directed against the proposition that ‘we’re all the same.’"

Publishers Weekly
“There is much here to recommend… and their arguments are intriguing throughout…it's clear that this lively, informative text is not meant to deceive (abundant references and a glossary also help) but to provoke thought, debate and possibly wonder.”

Wall Street Journal
“Important and fascinating…the provocative ideas in ‘The 10,000 Year Explosion’ must be taken seriously by anyone who wants to understand human origins and humanity's future.”

The 10,000 Year Explosion would be important even if it were only about population genetics and evolutionary biology, but Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending…have written something more. This book is a manifesto for and an example of a new kind of history, a biological history, and not just of the prehistoric era.”

New Scientist
“The evidence the authors present builds an overwhelming case that natural selection has recently acted strongly on us and may be continuing unabated.”

Melvin Konner, MD, PhD, author of The Tangled Wing and The Jewish Body
“For generations, scientists have seen culture as slowing or halting evolution. In this lively and provocative book, Cochran and Harpending, interpreting recent genetic evidence, stick a stiff finger into the eye that holds that view. Their ideas will be intensely controversial, but they cannot be ignored."

About the Author

Gregory Cochran is a physicist and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah. For many years, he worked on lasers and image enhancement in the field of aerospace. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Henry Harpending holds the Thomas Chair as Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. A field anthropologist and population geneticist, he helped develop the “Out of Africa” theory of human origins. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s research has been featured in the New York Times, The Economist, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, Atlantic Monthly, Science, Seed, and more.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By A. Volk #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on April 24 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wasn't sure if this book deserved a 5 star or a 4 star rating. It could go either way, and I'd like to give it a 4.5, but I settled on 4 as a conservative rating.

1- The idea (hypothesis) that humans have continued to evolve over the last 10,000 years is a powerful idea well worth exploring. Traditional human evolutionary thought suggests that once agriculture and civilization rolled around, we pretty much stayed as we were because culture kept shifting too quickly for us to adapt to any particular environment. Not so suggest Cochran and Harpending. They point to persistent changes in the environment that could be associated with significant differences in fitness (e.g., lactose tolerance). Clearly, mortality rates remained significant until the 20th Century, so there's probably a lot of meat on this theoretical bone. Certainly, I'm very sympathetic to their argument that human evolution didn't freeze 20-40K years ago. Perhaps, and I mean perhaps, there wasn't time for random mutations to come up with complex adaptations. But there certainly was plenty of time for simple, but important mutations to occur, as well as for the frequency and activation of existing genes to radically change. This is an idea that more evolutionary psychologists, anthropologists, historians, and human theorists need to consider more carefully.

2- Unfortunately, there isn't yet a ton of data to support their theoretical assertion. At least, not a lot of clear-cut behavioral data supported by clear genetic and historical data. Cochran and Harpending present a lot of circumstantial evidence that is compelling, but we (not just them) simply don't have the level of data at this point to make an iron-tight case for recent evolution.
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Format: Paperback
Did evolution simply stop 10,000 years ago? Of course not. Evolution is a continuous process. Sometimes it moves more quickly than other times. When a species' environment changes, the species is likely to evolve to meet the new circumstances. About 10,000 years ago, humans began shifting from hunting and gathering to farming. That changed nearly everything about our environment. We ate different foods, including grains and milk. We also started living in the same place, rather than roaming. Perhaps most importantly, we began to live in larger groups, which means we had to learn to get along differently and we became subject to different kinds of diseases. All of these changes in circumstances changed us. Different environments favor different genes, and we began the process of adjusting to a new life, a process that goes on to this day. This book tells that story in a lively and informative way. Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This theme I've seen in a "A Study of History" and "Guns, Germs, and Steel" but more looking into genetic drivers. There a decent logical conclusions with some genetic and historical data. One thing I hope to see is in the future is analysis of epigenetics in changing the populations over time because this may even more impact on population divergence.
The theory implies natural eugenics in populations driven by significant pressures (environmental, biological, societal). You WANT the porridge to be too hot or too cold. Given the improvement in standard of living for all people including lower IQ's, then we may be facing dysgenics now in the world. When the Holocene interglacial ends ( anytime now) we should we should see a major uptake in natural eugenics (if we survive :-))
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