In "The Journey of Man", renowned geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells traced human evolution back to our earliest ancestors, creating a remarkable and readable map of our distant past. Now, in his thrilling and thoughtful new book, he examines our cultural inheritance in order to find the turning point that led us to the path we are on ...
In "The Journey of Man", renowned geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells traced human evolution back to our earliest ancestors, creating a remarkable and readable map of our distant past. Now, in his thrilling and thoughtful new book, he examines our cultural inheritance in order to find the turning point that led us to the path we are on today, one he believes we must veer from in order to survive. "Pandora's Seed" takes us on a powerful and provocative globe-trotting tour of human history, back to a seminal event roughly 10,000 years ago, when our species made a radical shift in its way of life: we became farmers rather than hunter-gatherers, setting in motion a momentous chain of events that could not have been foreseen at the time. Although this decision to control our own food supply is what propelled us into the modern world, Wells demonstrates with the latest genetic and anthropological data that such a dramatic shift in lifestyle had a downside that we're only beginning to recognize. Growing grain crops ultimately made the planet more crowded, sedentary and unhealthy. The expanding population and the need to apportion limiting resources such as water created hierarchies and inequalities. The desire to control o and no longer cooperate with o nature altered the concept of religion, making deities fewer and more influential, foreshadowing today's fanaticisms. The proximity of humans and animals bred diseases that metastasized over time. Freedom of movement and choice were replaced by a pressure to work that is the forebear of anxiety and depression millions feel today. Wells then offers a hopeful prescription for altering a life to which we were always ill-suited, changing priorities and self-destructive appetites before it's too late. A riveting and accessible scientific detective story, "Pandora's Seed" is an eye-opening book for anyone fascinated by the past and concerned about the future.
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Publishers Weekly, 2010-07-26 Wells examines the positive and negative impact civilizations have had on the planet, from court hearings on genetically designed babies to the threat of environmental degradation on the Tuvalu Islands. His story brings the listener from a precivilized world to future possibilities that depend on the course of the next hundred years. Wells balances anecdotes and data with real world examples that embody the abstract concepts he proposes. However, his narration works against the material; the projection is inconsistent throughout, and at times, sentences that start strong sound breathless by the last few words. Wells's emphasis and modulation do not match the sophistication of the prose and fail to fully engage the listener. A Random hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 5). (June) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2010-04-05 More food but also disease, craziness, and anomie resulted from the agricultural revolution, according to this diffuse meditation on progress and its discontents. Wells (The Journey of Man), a geneticist, anthropologist, and National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence, voices misgivings about the breakthrough to farming 10,000 years ago, spurred by climate change. The food supply was more stable, but caused populations to explode; epidemics flourished because of overcrowding and proximity to farm animals; despotic governments emerged to organize agricultural production; and warfare erupted over farming settlements. Then came urbanism and modernity, which clashed even more intensely with our nomadic hunter-gatherer nature. Nowadays, Wells contends, we are both stultified and overstimulated, cut off from the land and alienated from one other, resulting in mental illness and violent fundamentalism. Wells gives readers an engaging rundown of the science that reconstructs the prehistoric past, but he loses focus in trying to connect that past to every contemporary issue from obesity to global warming, and his solution is unconvincingly simple: "Want less." B&w photos. (June 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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