The Story of the Human Body Book Summary - The Story of the Human Body Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

The Story of the Human Body summary

Daniel Lieberman

Evolution, Health, and Disease

4.6 (141 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.

Table of Contents

    The Story of the Human Body
    Summary of 11 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 11

    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.

    Want to see all full key ideas from The Story of the Human Body?

    Key ideas in The Story of the Human Body

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    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.

    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).

    Categories with The Story of the Human Body

    Book summaries like The Story of the Human Body

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    29 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial