HEALTHY




"The Wild Life of Our Bodies" by Rob Dunn

(1) "On our bodies are a kind of living wonderland. There are more bacterial cells on you right now than there ever were bison on the Great Plains, more microbial cells, in fact, than human cells. Each of those cells are tiny but perhaps consequential."

(2) "Major systems of our bodies, including our immune system, evolved to work best when other species lived on us. We are not simply hosts to other species; we live lives intimately linked to them, and even the boundaries between the simplest categories of "us" and "them" and "good" and "bad" are blurry to the tools we have so far."

(3) "The wild workings of our bodies influence who we are. They influence our behavior, our weight, our metabolism and nearly everything else. We are what we eat, but we are also, it appears, what eats us."

"The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease" by Daniel Leiberman

In this landmark book of popular science, Daniel E. Lieberman gives us a lucid and engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years. He illuminates the major transformations that contributed to key adaptations to the body: the rise of bipedalism; the shift to a non-fruit-based diet; the advent of hunting and gathering; and how cultural changes like the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions have impacted us physically. He shows how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and advancements in the modern world is occasioning a paradox: greater longevity but increased chronic disease. And finallyóprovocativelyóhe advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment and pursue better lifestyles.†

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In thoroughly enjoyable and edifying prose, Lieberman, professor of human evolution at Harvard, leads a fascinating journey through human evolution. He comprehensively explains how evolutionary forces have shaped the human species as we know it, from the move to bipedalism, and the changes in body partsófrom hands to feet and spineóthat such a change entailed, to the creation of agrarian societies, and much more. He balances a historical perspective with a contemporary oneóexamining traits of our ancestors as carefully as he looks to the futureówhile asking how we might control the destiny of our species. He argues persuasively that cultural evolution is now the dominant force of evolutionary change acting on the human body, and focuses on what he calls mismatch diseases that are caused by lack of congruence between genes and environment. Since the pace of cultural evolution has outstripped that of biological evolution, mismatch diseases have increased to the point where most of us are likely to die of such causes. Lieberman's discussion of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer are as clear as any yet published, and he offers a well-articulated case for why an evolutionary perspective can greatly enrich the practice of medicine. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc.

From Booklist

Like it or not, we are slightly fat, furless, bipedal primates who crave sugar, salt, fat, and starch. Harvard professor Lieberman holds nothing back in his plea that people listen to the story of human evolution consisting of five biological transformations (walking upright, eating a variety of different foods, accumulating physical traits aligned to hunting and gathering, gaining bigger brains with larger bodies, and developing unique capacities for cooperation and language) and two cultural ones (farming and reliance on machines). Unfortunately, human beings now create environments and presently practice lifestyles that are clearly out of sync with the bodies theyíve inherited. This mismatch results in myriad problems, including Type 2 diabetes, myopia, flat feet, and cavities. Lieberman cleverly and comprehensively points out the perils of possessing Paleolithic anatomy and physiology in a modern world and bemoans just how out of touch we have become with our bodies. Natural selection nudges all life-forms toward optimality rather than a state of perfection. If we want to continue our phenomenal run as a species, it is essential to understand (and embrace) our evolutionary legacy. --Tony Miksanek -


Editorial Reviews

Review

ìA pleasure to read. He is not a biologist moonlighting as a writer; he is both. Dunn also does a wonderful job interspersing history, research, and speculation with real-life human beings. He has a natural flair for drama and tension . . . a highly readable, informative mashing of ideas and disciplines.î (Boston Globe)

ìGrabbing the reader from the start . . . Dunn moves through the answer to these and other questions with a sure use of language, scientific research, and humor-all of which combined keep the reader highly engaged. . . . Mr. Dunn is a thorough and talented writer.î (New York Journal of Books)

ìAn extraordinary book about a previously little explored subject. With clarity and charm the author takes the reader into the overlap of medicine, ecology, and evolutionary biology to reveal an important domain of the human condition.î (Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University)

ì[Dunn is] a master at applying the principle of administering a spoonful of sugar (i.e., humor) to make the ìmedicineî of complicated scientific information not merely interesting but gripping. Nothing less than an every-personís handbook for understanding life, great and small, on planet Earth.î (Booklist (starred review))

ìAdding touches of humor along the way, Dunn deftly explains complex biological systems for the general reader. [Ö] Highly recommended for nature aficionados, this book should inspire many lively discussions.î (Library Journal)

From the Back Cover

A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to usóand always will.
We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and try to remove whole kinds of lifeóparasites, bacteria, mutualists, and predatorsóto allow ourselves to live free of wild danger. Nature, in this new world, is the landscape outside, a kind of living painting that is pleasant to contemplate but nice to have escaped.
The truth, though, according to biologist Rob Dunn, is that while "clean living" has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others. We are trapped in bodies that evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. As Dunn reveals, our modern disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that immunologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and other scientists are only beginning to understand. Diabetes, autism, allergies, many anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even tooth, jaw, and vision problems are increasingly plaguing bodies that have been removed from the ecological context in which they existed for millennia.
In this eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and well-reasoned book, Dunn considers the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Through the stories of visionaries, Dunn argues that we can create a richer nature, one in which we choose to surround ourselves with species that benefit us, not just those that, despite us, survive.


About the Author

Rob Dunn is an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University and the author of several books, including Every Living Thing. A rising star in popular-science journalism, he writes for National Geographic, Natural History, Scientific American, BBC Wildlife, and Seed magazine. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with many thousands of wild species, including at least one species of mite living on his head.

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"The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease" by Daniel Leiberman

In this landmark book of popular science, Daniel E. Lieberman gives us a lucid and engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years. He illuminates the major transformations that contributed to key adaptations to the body: the rise of bipedalism; the shift to a non-fruit-based diet; the advent of hunting and gathering; and how cultural changes like the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions have impacted us physically. He shows how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and advancements in the modern world is occasioning a paradox: greater longevity but increased chronic disease. And finallyóprovocativelyóhe advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment and pursue better lifestyles.†

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In thoroughly enjoyable and edifying prose, Lieberman, professor of human evolution at Harvard, leads a fascinating journey through human evolution. He comprehensively explains how evolutionary forces have shaped the human species as we know it, from the move to bipedalism, and the changes in body partsófrom hands to feet and spineóthat such a change entailed, to the creation of agrarian societies, and much more. He balances a historical perspective with a contemporary oneóexamining traits of our ancestors as carefully as he looks to the futureówhile asking how we might control the destiny of our species. He argues persuasively that cultural evolution is now the dominant force of evolutionary change acting on the human body, and focuses on what he calls mismatch diseases that are caused by lack of congruence between genes and environment. Since the pace of cultural evolution has outstripped that of biological evolution, mismatch diseases have increased to the point where most of us are likely to die of such causes. Lieberman's discussion of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer are as clear as any yet published, and he offers a well-articulated case for why an evolutionary perspective can greatly enrich the practice of medicine. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc.

From Booklist

Like it or not, we are slightly fat, furless, bipedal primates who crave sugar, salt, fat, and starch. Harvard professor Lieberman holds nothing back in his plea that people listen to the story of human evolution consisting of five biological transformations (walking upright, eating a variety of different foods, accumulating physical traits aligned to hunting and gathering, gaining bigger brains with larger bodies, and developing unique capacities for cooperation and language) and two cultural ones (farming and reliance on machines). Unfortunately, human beings now create environments and presently practice lifestyles that are clearly out of sync with the bodies theyíve inherited. This mismatch results in myriad problems, including Type 2 diabetes, myopia, flat feet, and cavities. Lieberman cleverly and comprehensively points out the perils of possessing Paleolithic anatomy and physiology in a modern world and bemoans just how out of touch we have become with our bodies. Natural selection nudges all life-forms toward optimality rather than a state of perfection. If we want to continue our phenomenal run as a species, it is essential to understand (and embrace) our evolutionary legacy. --Tony Miksanek -


Editorial Reviews

Review

ìA pleasure to read. He is not a biologist moonlighting as a writer; he is both. Dunn also does a wonderful job interspersing history, research, and speculation with real-life human beings. He has a natural flair for drama and tension . . . a highly readable, informative mashing of ideas and disciplines.î (Boston Globe)

ìGrabbing the reader from the start . . . Dunn moves through the answer to these and other questions with a sure use of language, scientific research, and humor-all of which combined keep the reader highly engaged. . . . Mr. Dunn is a thorough and talented writer.î (New York Journal of Books)

ìAn extraordinary book about a previously little explored subject. With clarity and charm the author takes the reader into the overlap of medicine, ecology, and evolutionary biology to reveal an important domain of the human condition.î (Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University)

ì[Dunn is] a master at applying the principle of administering a spoonful of sugar (i.e., humor) to make the ìmedicineî of complicated scientific information not merely interesting but gripping. Nothing less than an every-personís handbook for understanding life, great and small, on planet Earth.î (Booklist (starred review))

ìAdding touches of humor along the way, Dunn deftly explains complex biological systems for the general reader. [Ö] Highly recommended for nature aficionados, this book should inspire many lively discussions.î (Library Journal)

From the Back Cover

A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to usóand always will.
We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and try to remove whole kinds of lifeóparasites, bacteria, mutualists, and predatorsóto allow ourselves to live free of wild danger. Nature, in this new world, is the landscape outside, a kind of living painting that is pleasant to contemplate but nice to have escaped.
The truth, though, according to biologist Rob Dunn, is that while "clean living" has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others. We are trapped in bodies that evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. As Dunn reveals, our modern disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that immunologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and other scientists are only beginning to understand. Diabetes, autism, allergies, many anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even tooth, jaw, and vision problems are increasingly plaguing bodies that have been removed from the ecological context in which they existed for millennia.
In this eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and well-reasoned book, Dunn considers the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Through the stories of visionaries, Dunn argues that we can create a richer nature, one in which we choose to surround ourselves with species that benefit us, not just those that, despite us, survive.


About the Author

Rob Dunn is an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University and the author of several books, including Every Living Thing. A rising star in popular-science journalism, he writes for National Geographic, Natural History, Scientific American, BBC Wildlife, and Seed magazine. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with many thousands of wild species, including at least one species of mite living on his head.

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

"The Selfish Gene" is explicitly directed at the layman, and absolutely no knowledge of biology is assumed. While this presents a danger of boring readers (such as myself) who are already familiar with DNA and meiosis, the colorful metaphors Dawkins uses throughout the book do much to keep the reading engrossing and entertaining.
After a lengthy exploration of basic biology, covering topics such as DNA and the origin of life, Dawkins introduces the gene-centered view of evolution that has long been textbook orthodoxy. Dawkins uses the remainder of the book to look at various types of animal behavior in an effort to convey some general conclusions and tools to help the reader understand evolution and natural selection. Much of his effort is devoted to explaining behavior in terms of the 'selfish gene' - especially social behavior that has long been held to have evolved 'for the good of the species.' Dawkins shows that how fundamental axiom of natural selection (that the genes best at surviving and reproducing will eventually spread through the gene pool) leads directly to the selfish gene and the behavior exhibited by nearly all animals (humans being the prime exception).


"This important book could hardly be more exciting."--The Economist


"The sort of popular science writing that makes the reader feel like a genius."--New York Times


"Who should read this book? Everyone interested in the universe and their place in it."--Jeffrey R. Baylis, Animal Behaviour


"This book should be read, can be read, by almost everyone. It describes with great skill a new face of the theory of evolution."--W. D. Hamilton, Science


"The presentations are remarkable for their clarity and simplicity, intelligible to any schoolchild, yet so little condescending as to be a pleasure to the professional."--American Scientist


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