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Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,662 ratings  ·  348 reviews
An illuminating, entertaining tour of the physical imperfections that make us human

We humans like to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures. But if we are supposedly evolution’s greatest creation, why do we have such bad knees? Why do we catch head colds so often—two hundred times more often than a dog does? How come our wrists have so many useless bones? Why is t
Kindle Edition, 255 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Popular Answered Questions
Regi No, but you could read this (or sections of it) to a child of over 5 years old (depending on their interest) and discuss it with them.
Explaining to c…more
No, but you could read this (or sections of it) to a child of over 5 years old (depending on their interest) and discuss it with them.
Explaining to children how humans have many anatomical parts in common with animals would be fun for them!

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Mario the lone bookwolf
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 0-biology
Over millions of years, a few construction errors can accumulate. Especially when you first get up with difficulty and learn to walk on two legs and then suddenly are just sitting around all day.

In the case of a machine, you need a lot of test models, prototypes and failed attempts until perfect functioning. And even then, an unknown factor in practice can lead to unexpected errors and chain reactions. In a real physical machine like a motor, this is still understandable, in software, however, a
Ross Blocher
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Having consumed many works on evolution and human biology, I was shocked at just how much I learned from this delightful book. In Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes, biology professor Nathan H. Lents presents a quick, conversational and nutrient-dense look at the various problems our bodies have inherited from of our evolutionary past. Even in discussions of features I knew about, such as our backwards-installed eyeballs and pointlessly-long-and-loopin ...more
(3.5) Lents is a biology professor at John Jay College, City University of New York, and in this, his second book, he explores the ways in which the human body is flawed. These errors come in three categories: adaptations to the way the world was for early humans (to take advantage of once-scarce nutrients, we gain weight quickly – but lose it only with difficulty); incomplete adaptations (our knees are still not fit for upright walking); and the basic limitations of our evolution (inefficient s ...more
Jenn "JR"
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, netgalley
I really enjoyed the first half to two thirds of this book -- it was a straight forward, conversational and highly accessible discussion of quirks of evolution such as human vision, overly long nerves, and sinuses that drain the wrong way -- along with explanations of how they came to be and the advantages or disadvantages. It's comprehensive enough and covers comparisons to other species (mammal and non) -- and extremely interesting.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on diet and nutrition -- this
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I came across this on NetGalley but as it had already been published I decided to purchase a copy for myself as I haven't bought a medical text for a few months. I am always drawn to books with a medical element to them and this sounded as though it would be incredibly interesting with the added benefit of learning more about myself.

This intriguing non-fiction book details the design flaws us humans have and their advantages and disadvantages too. Sometimes purely fact driven writing can come ac
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book that was well written & narrated. It's not dry at all considering the amount of data it contains, but it certainly isn't definitive just popular science which is enough for me. It gave me a lot of food for thought. I highly recommend it.

Table of Contents
Introduction: Behold the Blunders of Nature: Evolution is a series of small, random changes that can slowly create some incredibly complex structures, but there are a lot of strange things left over. For instance, our ret
Udit Nair
Next time if a creationist or intelligent design proponent or a religious person who believes god created humans comes and tells me how perfect human body is, I exactly know what needs to be presented or more appropriately slammed on their faces. This book is precisely discussing most of the major flaws in the human body which is sometimes considered as the benchmark for excellency.

The author indeed starts with the acknowledgement that our body is beautifully crafted and adapted for the best bu
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Human Errors is a nonfiction science book all about the mistakes of the human body and brain. It's a book about anatomy, psychology, biological science, and evolutionary history.

Lents goes into detail about not just what is wrong with us but the likely evolutionary path that led to it. He explains the why, which is the best part about this book. He gives a lineage instead of just a list.

For instance: humans are the only animals on Earth that don't produce their own vitamic C and require it throu
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book more. But it has serious flaws. Lents neglects not only key personalities who shape his world view, but whole areas of research, e.g. palaeontology. It exercises hyperbole at the cost of accuracy, evident in the chapter on junk DNA. A more reasonable discussion would at least mention the huge amount of research in epigenetics; there is more to DNA than protein-encoding.

Then there's the constant assertion that humans are considerably worse adapted than other animals. Bu
Chafic (Rello)
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a surprisingly informative read.
Dare I say it? It was a page-turner, and a nonfiction book at that!

Really entertaining, this book has a great conversational style that I think all biology teachers should strive for. It made learning 'fun'! But seriously, the amount of flaws in the human body is astounding.

Crappy Vitamin C production? Why are there so many bones in your wrists? Why are our eyes weird?
There's also some psychology sprinkled in there too because the brain is also weird.

Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you believe human beings are the most evolved, perfect beings on Earth, this book will definitely make you think otherwise.

The human being, it turns out, has evolved into a very imperfect living being. This book delves into the ways in which our bodies, while amazing and complicated, have some built-in weaknesses.

Have you ever wondered why we tend to get head colds while other beings seem immune to them, or at least, get the viruses much less often? Why do we have such problems with our joint
David Wineberg
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
To Err is Human

Human Errors is a page-turner of a biology book. Nathan Lents focuses on mistakes, redundancies and weaknesses that make life a constant gamble for humans. From genetic code destruction to pointless bones, overtaxed muscles, meandering nerves and backward designs, the book combines a million years’ worth of wrong choices, errors, flukes and plain bad luck that is the human body. At several points, Lents ventures that no engineer would design such and such a system this way – it’s
Christina Dudley
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I tore through this fun and fascinating look at human flaws, both physiological and mental, especially enjoying the physiological, since it was almost wholly new to me. Backwards retinas? Incomplete adaptation to walking upright? Extra bones? Broken-down Vitamin C production? The flaws in our thinking were more familiar to anyone who's studied any psychology, but it was still interesting. My family was subjected to many, "Did you know...?"-type comments out of the blue, so I'm sure they're relie ...more
A better future is within our reach. The question is, will we be able to grasp it? Or, to put it in a different way: Will our advanced intelligence prove to be our biggest asset or our biggest flaw? We already have the science that can save our species from itself. We are waiting only for the will. And if we can't muster it in time to prevent a global collapse, we will have the ultimate proof of our poor design.

All in all, this was really enjoyable. Nicely accompanies The God Delusion. Also, de
Cindy Lauren
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book- it answered lots of questions that I had about why certain things about the human body and how it operates, some things that simply don't make sense.
The research is thorough and the writing is entertaining.
It's helpful to know, fascinating to learn and fund to read. Recommend.
May 29, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
The grumpus23 (23-word commentary)
Takeaway: The operating system of our body is flawed because evolution works by random mutations and survival of the fittest, not the perfect.
Feb 21, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a super easy read for the layman. I read it completely in one sit down. You don't need to know tons of human biology or physicality either. But it doesn't hurt. Lents' prose is friendly and the tone is rather fun filled in the "eyes" of the telling. Not always the case with any science based material, IMHO.

The errors of poorly evolved systems (breathing and eating through the same tube is a HUGE one) are explained. And the author gives some mutation "oops" for other species, as well.

Review written: May 4, 2018
Star Rating: ★★½☆☆
Heat Rating: N/A

An Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book was received free via Netgalley for an honest review.

Human Errors got burned badly by expectations. When I saw the title and blurb on Netgalley, it suggested a very specific and narrow focus to me. I was looking forward to some very medical discussions, even some interesting evolutionary discussions. Unfortunately, the bulk of this book did not focus on the things I was expecting.

From bad knees to backward retinas to autoimmune disease and the uptick in peanut allergies, Professor Nathan Lents' book Human Errors is told in a conversational tone that brings anatomy and physiology to the masses. Since the beginning of time we humans have been in awe of ourselves and what makes us especially unique creatures. Usually we emphasize that which makes us "more complex" or "more highly evolved" ignorant of the randomness of mutations and the misdirection of evolution. Here, Lents ...more
Book Him Danno
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to netgalley for the advance copy of Human Errors for an honesty review.
Human Erros by Nathan H. Lent is the biology book I wish I had head in school. The authors makes human biology fun, humors and fun.
Several quote that stuck with me because of cancer in the family. “You cannot have sexual reproductions, DNA and cellular life without also having cancer."
My children have eye issues and have to wear glasses so learning about the human eyes was beyond fascinating.
I learned by I get so
Olga Miret
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Facts, anecdotes, some opinions, and a very engaging way of learning about the human body. Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
When I saw this book on offer, I could not resist. I studied Medicine and have been fascinated by Biology and the Natural Sciences for ages. I have also thought and often commented on our (mostly mine, but yes, most of the issues are general, not exclusive to me) flawed
Rachel Noel
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
*Book provided via NetGalley for an honest review.

This book is clearly meant for lay people like myself. It is written at an accessible level and has plenty of humor to make the reading engaging. If my high school biology class had used this book, I would have learned a lot more. As it is, I feel a lot more informed about human anatomy than I used to be. From the structure of our eyes to the interconnections of the bones in our ankles and wrists. This is a very educational book that keeps your i
Michael Perkins
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Caveat: for a book that’s supposed to be for lay people, it’s pretty detailed. I liked that for the most interesting topics to me (e.g. autoimmune diseases), but less so for some other topics.

The book does live up to its title. And it brought up a memory from some time ago. Back in the 70’s, someone gave me an article to read from Christianity Today magazine which then, and still seems to be, THE evangelical magazine.

The article was written by a surgeon and titled “Fearfully and Wonderfully Ma
Steven Meyers
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Part of the reason I was smiling so much while reading ‘Human Errors’ is knowing deeply religious people who believe evolution is bunk would probably think Mr. Lents is doing Satan’s work or is a woefully misguided soul. Unfortunately for their ilk, the author is a biology professor who knows how to explain evolution in layman terms. You do not need one of the big brains to understand what is written in his entertaining book. A long-term religious friend who does not believe in evolution once ar ...more
Karen Sadler
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
We have too many bones! We have to rely too much on our diet for survival! We suffer from too many cognitive biases! Reading about our design flaws was kind of interesting, but the best part of this book were the few pages toward the end about the possibility of alien life. Specifically this quote: "...some current estimates predict that the universe harbors around seventy-five million civilizations." WHAT?! This possibility more than anything else I've ever heard or read gives me a better idea ...more
Noah Goats
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Human Errors is about all the weird little quirks and monstrosities left in the human body after eons of evolution. It turns out evolution is an incompetent designer and has screwed us up in many ways. We have extra bones we don't need, frequently illogical mental processes, and even a massive number of dead viruses woven into our DNA. Like any book of this type, some sections were more interesting than others, but, on the whole I enjoyed it and I learned a bunch.

I read this on Kindle with an w
Chuy Ruiz
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, psychology
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I feel like I learned a lot about human genetics, and many other things. I liked the writing style, it never felt dry or like it dragged. I will definitely seek out any other books he has written.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I find the book very interesting. The language is easy to understand, there are good examples, and it is full of very interesting fun-facts that, for a person without deep knowledge of biology and anthropology, were sometimes really suprising! Quick and nice read.
Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Instagram) knows I'm obsessed with anatomy (and by extension to a lesser extent, physiology). It borders on pathological. I have anatomical charts and skulls as decoration all over my apartment, and an entire bookshelf devoted to various anatomy texts across a lot of timespans. (But to be fair, I was a TA for college anatomy classes for five years, so it's not like it's a completely random interest). So when this showed up in my Netgalley options, I snagged ...more
Phil Smith
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes by Nathan Lents admits from the get-go that there are more than enough books about how great and wondrous the human body is. Lents takes a whole different tack: how human bodies have huge design flaws, from big system like our bones to the DNA in every cell.

Why do we have a blind spot in each eye? It is because the retina is wired backwards. Why are the drains for our sinuses in the wrong place? To make room for our
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Nathan H. Lents is professor of biology and director of the Honors College at John Jay College of the City University of New York.

His research has been published in a dozen leading science journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular Cell, the Journal of Forensic Sciences, and the American Journal of Physiology, as well as science education journals such as the Journal of Co

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Twists, turns, red herrings, the usual suspects: These books have it all...and more. If you love mysteries and thrillers, get ready for dozens...
126 likes · 29 comments
“There are species that can run faster, climb higher, dig deeper, or hit harder, but humans are special because we can run, climb, dig, and hit. The phrase jack of all trades, master of none fits us perfectly. If life on earth were like the Olympic Games, the only event that humans would ever win is the decathlon. (Unless chess became an Olympic sport.)” 4 likes
“We have retinas that face backward, the stump of a tail, and way too many bones in our wrists. We must find vitamins and nutrients in our diets that other animals simply make for themselves. We are poorly equipped to survive in the climates in which we now live. We have nerves that take bizarre paths, muscles that attach to nothing, and lymph nodes that do more harm than good. Our genomes are filled with genes that don’t work, chromosomes that break, and viral carcasses from past infections. We have brains that play tricks on us, cognitive biases and prejudices, and a tendency to kill one another in large numbers. Millions of us can’t even reproduce successfully without a whole lot of help from modern science. Our flaws illuminate not only our evolutionary past but also our present and future. Everyone knows that it is impossible to understand current events in a specific country without understanding the history of that country and how the modern state came to be. The same is true for our bodies, our genes, and our minds.” 2 likes
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