According to the stock evolutionary narratives, humans became “behaviorally modern” some 50,000 years ago and haven’t evolved much genetically since then. But according to Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending’s provocative new book, The 10,000 Year Explosion, human civilization has actually accelerated human evolution.
First, Cochran and Harpending use recently mined genetic data to show that favorable new genes (such as the one for lactose tolerance) still sweep through human populations. Next, they argue that such “sweeps” have created vital differences among evolutionary subgroups. One chapter suggests that long-agricultural Europeans have developed stronger organizational and planning skills than nomadic sub-Saharan Africans. Other, equally contentious chapters address the intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews, and interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals. Cochran and Harpending’s conclusions may or may not pan out — some are more convincing than others — but their interlacing of genetics and anthropology is almost always enthralling.
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