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The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease

Daniel E. Lieberman

Top 10 Best Quotes

“We didn’t evolve to be healthy, but instead we were selected to have as many offspring as possible under diverse, challenging conditions. As a consequence, we never evolved to make rational choices about what to eat or how to exercise in conditions of abundance and comfort.”

“The fundamental answer to why so many humans are now getting sick from previously rare illnesses is that many of the body's features were adapted in environments from which we evolved, but have become maladapted in the modern environments we have now created. This idea, known as the mismatch hypothesis, is the core of the new emerging field of evolutionary medicine, which applies evolutionary biology to health and disease.”

“Our body’s evolutionary journey is also far from over. Natural selection didn’t stop when farming started but instead has continued and continues to adapt populations to changing diets, germs, and environments. Yet the rate and power of cultural evolution has vastly outpaced the rate and power of natural selection, and the bodies we inherited are still adapted to a significant extent to the various and diverse environmental conditions in which we evolved over millions of years. The end product of all that evolution is that we are big-brained, moderately fat bipeds who reproduce relatively rapidly but take a long time to mature.”

“There is nearly universal consensus that we should prohibit selling and serving alcohol to minors because wine, beer, and spirits can be addictive and, when used to excess, ruinous for their health. Is excess sugar any different?”

“Farming is often viewed as an old-fashioned way of life, but from an evolutionary perspective, it is a recent, unique, and comparatively bizarre way to live.”

“An evolutionary perspective predicts that most diets and fitness programs will fail, as they do, because we still don’t know how to counter once-adaptive primal instincts to eat donuts and take the elevator.”

“Your guts also have about 100 million nerves, more than the number of nerves in your spinal cord or your entire peripheral nervous system.”

“The final and most important point about adaptation is really a crucial caveat: no organism is primarily adapted to be healthy, long- lived, happy, or to achieve many other goals for which people strive.”

“Our recent divergence from a small population explains another important fact, one that every human ought to know: we are a genetically homogenous species.”

“Dobzhansky, T. (1973). Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. The American Biology Teacher 35: 125–29.”

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