The Story of the Human Body Book Summary - The Story of the Human Body Book explained in key points
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The Story of the Human Body summary

Evolution, Health, and Disease

4.6 (161 ratings)
32 mins

Brief summary

The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman is a compelling scientific narrative that explains the course of human evolution, why our bodies are the way they are, and how our everyday habits harm our health.

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    The Story of the Human Body
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    Evolution works according to the logic of natural selection and adaptation.

    Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. Between its covers was a theory that shook the world. Centuries of religious ideas about the history of humanity were turned on their head.

    So what does this famous book say?

    Let’s start with the fundamentals.

    According to Darwin, the driving force behind evolution is natural selection. This simply means that the best-adapted members of a particular species are “selected” by nature. Because of that, they survive and go on to reproduce.

    Natural selection can be broken down into three separate – but interlinked – components.

    First, there’s variability. By that Darwin meant that each individual organism is different from other members of the same species.

    Next comes genetic heritability. Every organism passes genetic traits on to its offspring.

    Then there’s differential reproductive success. That’s a mouthful, right? What it means is that different organisms will produce a different number of offspring that go on to reproduce in their turn.

    Natural selection is usually driven by negative selection.

    That’s when an organism has “negative” heritable traits. A good example in humans is the genetic disorder hemophilia. These traits lower chances of reproductive success.

    An organism with negative traits is less likely to produce offspring than competitors which don’t have them. That’s because, like humans with hemophilia, these organisms would be less likely to survive – if it weren’t for modern medicine!

    Negative selection, therefore, favors the status quo. It likes to leave things as they are. Organisms without significant new heritable traits come out on top.

    That’s essentially a biological process. But what about the environment?

    Well, when dramatic environmental changes occur, natural selection uses a different tool – adaption.

    This describes how an individual develops new heritable traits that help it adapt to new surroundings. These help both the original organism and its offspring thrive.

    A good example of a large-scale environmental change which triggers this kind of evolutionary adaptation is climate change.

    And that’s Darwin’s theory of evolution in a nutshell! In the following blinks, we’ll dig a bit deeper and explore how the history of the human body fits into all this.

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    What is The Story of the Human Body about?

    The Story of the Human Body (2013) is a fascinating exploration of a story over a million years in the making: the evolution of the human body. Departing from the moment our ancestors first distinguished themselves from their hominid brethren, Daniel Lieberman traces the biological history of humans right down to our office-bound present.

    The Story of the Human Body Review

    The Story of the Human Body (2013) is an enlightening exploration of our evolutionary past and how it impacts our health today. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With in-depth research and scientific analysis, it provides a comprehensive understanding of how our bodies have adapted throughout history.
    • By examining topics such as diet, exercise, sleep, and reproductive health, it offers practical insights into how we can optimize our well-being in the modern world.
    • Through its fascinating storytelling and thought-provoking ideas, the book ensures that learning about human biology is anything but boring.

    Best quote from The Story of the Human Body

    Height is a good measure of health. Before farming, humans were several centimeters taller than they were 300 years ago. Height only increased again after the eighteenth century.

    —Daniel Lieberman
    example alt text

    Who should read The Story of the Human Body?

    • Anyone who’s ever wondered how we got from cave- to city-dwelling
    • Fans of big-picture science
    • Anyone interested in nutrition and fitness

    About the Author

    Daniel Lieberman is a paleoanthropologist at Harvard University, where he is chair of the department of human evolutionary biology. He is best known for his prize-winning research into the evolution of the human head and body. He has authored over a hundred articles for prestigious scholarly journals including Nature and Science. His previous books include The Evolution of the Human Head (2011).

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    The Story of the Human Body FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Story of the Human Body?

    The main message of The Story of the Human Body is that the human body is intricately connected to our evolutionary past, and understanding it can help us navigate our modern lives.

    How long does it take to read The Story of the Human Body?

    The reading time for The Story of the Human Body varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Story of the Human Body a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Story of the Human Body is worth reading as it sheds light on our evolutionary journey and its impact on our present-day lives. It provides valuable insights in a concise format.

    Who is the author of The Story of the Human Body?

    The author of The Story of the Human Body is Daniel Lieberman.

    What to read after The Story of the Human Body?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Story of the Human Body, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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