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

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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 the vast majority of our genetic code pointless? And are we really supposed to swallow and breathe through the same narrow tube? Surely there’s been some kind of mistake.

As professor of biology Nathan H. Lents explains in Human Errors, our evolutionary history is nothing if not a litany of mistakes, each more entertaining and enlightening than the last. The human body is one big pile of compromises. But that is also a testament to our greatness: as Lents shows, humans have so many design flaws precisely because we are very, very good at getting around them.
 
A rollicking, deeply informative tour of humans’ four billion year long evolutionary saga, Human Errors both celebrates our imperfections and offers an unconventional accounting of the cost of our success.

255 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 1, 2018

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About the author

Nathan H. Lents

3 books72 followers
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 College Science Teaching and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

He also maintains The Human Evolution Blog and blogs for Psychology Today under the tagline, "Beastly Behavior: How Evolution Shaped our Minds and Bodies." His articles occasionally appear in magazines such as Skeptic.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 473 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
742 reviews3,403 followers
February 13, 2020
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, almost too complex. Understanding how a decades-old program with thousands of programmers created a hierarchical family tree is very difficult to impossible.

The same problem arises with the human source code. The physical manifestation of a design flaw such as an appendectomy, finding intervertebral discs, retina, superfluous bones and muscles, cecum, autoimmune diseases, paranasal sinuses, knees, breathing and eating through the same tube, poor nutritional utilization, etc., is simple. The evolutionary history of mammals in general and the ability to conduct direct research greatly facilitate this endeavor. But finding out how the not so obvious flaws originated in is a mammoth task.

Not only the body but also the DNA is full of bugs, burdens, glitches and deactivated dormant gene sequences. As rare hereditary diseases, malformations, etc. show, the replication motor can start again at any time and it will get scary and interesting when epigenetic factors that are created by millions of environmental toxins or targeted gene manipulation begin forming new variations. Then the random errors become deliberate super mutations with unpredictable effects.

The development of human physical defects is unique because we cause them through a complex interaction with the environment itself. No other animal has empowered itself to play such a massive role in its physique and both the physical steps to "incarnation" and the dark sides of civilization have set in motion two separate evolutions.

Take for instance the upright walk with all his aches and pains and now, for just 50 to 75 years, the evolutionarily very short established, permanent sitting or moving very less. It is unimaginable how the environments of space and other planets will help evolving new adaptations and the final consequences in a million or billion years would be interesting and hopefully funny.

The even bigger experiment is the epigenetic adaptation to new technologies. How the use of various input devices will affect the body and mind, hands and eyes and the brain. And subsequently, AR, VR, medicine and biological-digital-technological fusion in humans, be it fixed parts or updates that have to be renewed with doses of whatever. There is no lack of thought experiments and hypotheses and in the best case, the contentious breaking of the skin barrier is not necessary. This merging of man and machine into cyborgs as a step to immortality. It just takes time for nature to adapt to the new circumstances and integrated new, painful and entertaining mistakes in future designs.

Extrapolating this development to millions of years into the future, pretty much all manifestations could come real. On other planets, on space stations or only in virtual worlds, different subspecies of humans would develop. It could reach the point where the original shape is no longer recognizable when looking at the own great-grandchild because it joined a group of extreme cyborgs, gene enhancers, hybrid breeders, etc.

Nature has always been dealing with finding a compromise between optimization and sudden, new developments in the gene pool, climate change, etc. Therefore, evolution always tries to strike a balance between harm and benefit. Without mutation, there is no cancer and no progression. With too much mutation, the population dies of too frequent, fatal mistakes and illnesses. Save stagnation or insecure evolution.

Just the use of the smartphone and computers have already left their mark on people's brains and even bodies and these will evolve into genetic adaptations to the new conditions to breed new, unique humans with unimaginable capabilities.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real-life outside books:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigene...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disease...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_e...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution
Profile Image for Ross Blocher.
429 reviews1,337 followers
October 21, 2019
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-looping-through-the-heart laryngeal nerve, Lents manages to present new information or frame it with new insights. Our bodies are amazing, for sure... but they are riddled with many absurd and self-destructive flaws.

One question that I had long pondered but never pursued was how animals can live on much simpler diets than we require. Cows can build their entire bodies by eating grass... why can't we? Why do we need so many "essential" nutrients from a wide variety of sources? As it turns out, most other mammals still have the genes to synthesize their own vitamin C, B vitamins, fatty acids and amino acids; not to mention absorption of nutrients like calcium and iron... whereas our varied diets allowed evolution to ignore the loss of our ability to do the same. The genes are still there, sitting dormant and error-ridden in our genome, and we can identify them. Ironically, we do produce B12 (a vitamin vegans must supplement because it typically comes from animal sources), but the bacteria who do so are in our lower intestine, and B12 is only ingested in the small intestine. So, we build up sufficient levels of B12, only to get rid of them as waste material.

Speaking of dormant genes, our genome is riddled with copies of ancient viruses that inserted themselves at some point in our evolutionary past (we can identify roughly when based on which other animals have the same insertions). One in particular, called Alu, makes up 10 percent of our genome. Our coccyx, the vestige of a tail, serves no meaningful purpose. Our two-bone shins and fore-arms are needlessly complex. We lose our ability to absorb calcium as we age. The ACL ligaments in our knees are small and weak and tear easily, ending many sports careers. The conception process is needlessly wasteful (some half of pregnancies end in natural abortion, and ovaries aren't even connected to the fallopian tubes). The birthing process is also far more difficult and dangerous than it is for our primate cousins. Our immune systems can be triggered to attack us, deciding that the non-existent danger of a peanut or other allergen is sufficient cause to kill the entire body. The section on auto-immune diseases is particularly frustrating: sometimes the body just starts running rampant and treating itself as an enemy. Cancer is a similar perversion of what is in other contexts a healthy process (cell division).

There is much more here, and all of it is brilliantly and engagingly explained. I recommend this for everyone, as an important insight into our bodies and how they work (and don't), and how the indifferent process of evolution got us here. It's a great collection of interesting facts about the body (some depressing, but all fascinating) that you'll want to share with anyone sitting near you.
Profile Image for Jenn "JR".
433 reviews75 followers
May 21, 2018
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 is one of the most clear discussions around micronutrients I have read. I could actually hear this in my head like it was a seminar or an interview on "Fresh Air." The chapter on DNA and then disease were also interesting -- with particular focus on how autoimmune diseases are puzzling (esp lupus). Even the chapter on reproduction being a rather flawed process was interesting.

Then, the book makes a bit of a switch into neuroscience and cognition -- talking about how humans carry certain errors with them (like gambler's fallacy) and the advantages of young people being reckless. Near the end -- the author turns more to a bit of an existential and philosophical discussion around the impending demise of humanity due to our selfishness and potential solutions.

I can't help but feel that this is at once sincere but also a reaction to the usual charge of social science books not providing enough of a solution to the issues they raise. It's sort of general and helpful/not-helpful and doesn't really fit as a conclusion to the first 2/3 of the book: "Our population growth, environmental destruction, and poor stewardship of natural resources threaten the prosperity that we have sought to create for ourselves."

I hope future editions have a more relevant conclusion or summary -- this conclusion seemed a bit disconnected.

Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,455 reviews2,319 followers
February 7, 2022
Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes
by Nathan H. Lents
This is a very interesting book but being in the health field and loving science, I already knew a great deal of this but it was still very intriguing! The author explains many faults that mankind has and compares that to other animals. Explains how these flaws came about, if known. We really are just walking around with a lot of junk material! Lol! It really is interesting!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,509 reviews2,511 followers
May 21, 2018
(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 systems such as the throat handling both breath and food, and the recurrent laryngeal nerve being three times longer than necessary because it loops around the aorta). Consider that myopia rates are 30% or higher, the retina faces backward, sinuses drain upwards, there are 100+ autoimmune diseases, we have redundant bones in our wrist and ankle, and we can’t produce most of the vitamins we need. Put simply, we’re not a designer’s ideal. And yet this all makes a lot of sense for an evolved species.

My favorite chapter was on the inefficiencies of human reproduction compared to that of other mammals. Infertility and miscarriage rates are notably high, and gestation is shorter than it really needs to be: because otherwise their heads would get too big to pass through the birth canal, all babies are effectively born premature, so are helpless for much longer than other newborn mammals. I also especially liked the short section on cancer, which would eventually get us all if we only lived long enough. As it is, “evolution has struck an uneasy balance with cancer. Mutations cause cancer, which kills individuals, but it also brings diversity and innovation, which is good for the population.”

Lents writes in a good conversational style and usually avoids oversimplifying the science. In places his book reminded me of Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong and Mark O’Connell’s To Be a Machine. It’s a wry and gentle treatment of human weakness; the content never turns depressing or bitter. Recommended for all curious readers of popular science.

Favorite lines:
“While lithopedions [“stone babies”] and abdominal pregnancies are quite rare, they are also 100 percent the result of poor design. Any reasonable plumber would have attached the fallopian tube to the ovary, thereby preventing tragic and often fatal mishaps like these.”

“to call our immune system perfectly designed would be equally inaccurate. There are millions of people who once happily walked this planet only to meet their demise because their bodies simply self-sabotaged. When bodies fight themselves, there can be no winner.”

Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,658 followers
Read
February 7, 2021
Easy read analysis of all the ways in which human bodies suck. Our knees and backs aren't designed for upright, we can't make vital vitamins or absorb vital minerals properly, we're actively crap at reproduction, and our immune systems hate a lot of us. Basically natural selection is a blind watchmaker who doesn't make very good watches, and human tech and medicine is a watch repair shop. Although lots of culture is pretty much set up to make our design flaws worse, not better.

I'm not sure where any of this information really gets us, but there we are.
Profile Image for Viktor Stoyanov.
Author 1 book150 followers
May 28, 2020
Скенер на тялото, какъвто никога не са Ви правили!

Изумен съм, че в училище не ползваме такива книги. Че не разказваме най-важните истории по този начин. По биология ни караха да учим всичко наизуст, като стихотворение - и ние учехме. Имах по 7-8 шестици на срок, защото изпитванията бяха всеки час. И каква полза? Не си спомням и 10% от материала. Просто не е представен интересно, човешки. Парадокс, особено, ако говорим за биология на човека. Ето, че има преподаватели / учени, които могат да разказват интересно. Така, че да ти направи впечатление, па и да се позамислиш. Знаем толкова малко за самите себе си. Знаем повече характеристики на последните модели смартфони, отколкото на собственото си тяло. Незнам, може би, съм само аз? Да пробваме с някои от нещата, които ми направиха силно впечатление:

1. Колко % от ДНК-то ни е пълен буклук, безмислено от биологична гледна точка, junk? Предположете и после вижте ... - над 80%! Добре, това съм го чел и в други книги (забележете - сега, не в училище). Някъде го дават 70%, 75%, или дори повече. Но за първи път чувам, че си носим някакви мъртви копия на древни вируси, които са се "вплели" в него и си се реплекира по ред. Има един такъв вирус, който съставлява 10% от генома! Копирал се, копирал се ... и така. Пълно е с безмислени копия и грешки. Веднага си представих как отваря�� на компютъра програма за дефрагментация и виждам, че 80% от твърдото пространство е фрагментирано, junk! Ми, веднага щях да изхвърля машината вероятно, или просто да преинсталирам windows-a. Но това сме го гледали и обсъждали за машините си, за нас не.

2. Има някакъв нерв, който е останал още откакто сме били риби, който от т.А до т.Б разстояние от няколко см., го взима за ... 80 см. От главата обикаля през аортата и се връща обратно в главата. Създава куп проблеми при операции и по всевъзможни начини. Това е при всички животни - помислете за горкия жираф!

3. Това ще е интересно за дамите - менопаузата настъпва, за да ... бабите да са пазители на знанието / преданията в една социална група?!? Какво? Добре, това е дълго, ще ви оставя да си го прочетете сами.

4. Знаете ли за какво служат синусите. Да, това са кухини в черепа ни, около очните ябълки. По една случайност бяхме на УНГ преди 2-3 седмици и той ми обясни функции и проблеми, които чух за първи път в живота ми. Какво по дяволите сме учили по Биология? Или е било толкова скучно, че съм го забравил още на следващия час. Общо взето - много, много poor design.

Като цяло - книга, която ще сложи край на живеещия у Вас мит (ако живее такъв, де), за човешкото еволюционно свръх творение. Нищо подобно. Да, мозъкът ни, социалните умения и тнт. са ни изтикали на челно място сред организмите в даден аспект, обаче ...
трябва да познаваме слабите си места. Не може да се разхождаме гордо като един Ахил, без да знаем за "петата" си. Защото четем множество книги, които ни оисват като върха на еволюцията (те са fiction, разбира се). Като преднамерено последователно удряне на 8 шестици от тотото. Цялата Вселена работила милиарди години, за да ни създаде - нас, перфектните. Трябва да има противовес на тези разсъждения, за да сме обективни.

Първата 1/3 от книгата е за биологичното ни тяло и за мен тя беше най-интересна, най-информативна с нови за мен знания. На нея давам 5+
Втората 1/3 е по-скоро за когнитивните гличове, или триковете на ума - безспорно интересна, но за мен не съдържаше нови знания и идеи - лична оценка 4
Последната 1/3 от книгата за мен не се вписваше концептуално. Опит да се разсъждава и отговори на въпроси, които са вечни, върху които се е писало с тонове и ще продължава да се пише, като "има ли друг разумен живот", "накъде води еволюцията" и подобни. Разбирам, че авторът е искал да надскочи специалността си и да навлезе в по-философски и интердисциплинарни въпроси, но цялостното водене на темата не го предполагаше и не донесе нищо ново и полезно за мен. - Максимум 3 за края на книгата.

Така общата оценка е 4 и силна препоръка за прочит.

Направи ми още впечатление на места твърде разговорният език. Нещо, което не очакваш от fiction, но се приема приятно за четене. Да си призная, английският ми речник за термини от биологията също куцаше на места. Налагаше ми се да проверявам думи за превод. Надявам се в бъдеще да получи превод на български и с удоволствие бих си я добавил в семейната библиотека, тъй като мисля, че е много полезна и за деца. За ученици със сигурност. Препоръчвам на МОН да я преведат за лятно четиво на учениците. Може пък някой да прояви интерес към биологията. Това е почти невъзможно само със сегашните учебници.
Profile Image for Lou (nonfiction fiend).
2,771 reviews1,625 followers
May 25, 2018
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 across as both tedious and heavy but I didn't feel this at all here.

I have mentioned before that I read quite a few books that I can learn something from and this fits perfectly into that category. Nathan H. Lents has ensured that the writing is straightforward and easy to follow so that it can be read and understood by those who are not part of the medical profession, and has excelled in penning a thoroughly engaging narrative for readers to appreciate.

Highly recommended to everyone! I mean, who doesn't want to learn more about their own body and its evolution?
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 6 books2,016 followers
February 28, 2020
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 retina points inward. That makes it fairly easy to detach, requires more light than it should, & gives us a blind spot. For all its similarity in appearance, the eyes of cephalopods such as the squid, managed to evolve with it right side out. The strange, long path left laryngeal nerve makes no sense except in context with how it evolved from fish. The superior laryngeal nerve does take the short route, though. Weird. Definitely no intelligence in that design.

Pointless Bones and Other Anatomical Errors: Wrists & ankles have a lot more bones than make sense, unless evolution is taken into account. Similarly, eating & breathing through the same tube, the trachea, makes no sense. He describes how it could be engineered better & is on some animals. It was 'good enough' for us, so has stuck around, though.

Our Needy Diet: We've lost the ability to make 9 of the 20 amino acids that are essential for life plus a host of other micronutrients. We can't even make our own vitamin C which most other animals can due to the GULO gene breaking. How & why did such a mutation not die off? It causes scurvy & was a bad mutation once we'd moved out of an area where we had access to foods with vitamin C, but until then, it didn't bother anyone. He lists a host of other such defects, all of which are interesting & are really important to people with odd diets like vegans. In our modern, First World society, they can buy supplements, but that's not the case for those in poor areas nor was it for most of our history. Some examples make me wonder how we survived.

Junk in the Genome: His explanations were pretty basic. For instance, he didn't mention that a lot of the 'junk' was noncoding DNA that actually does perform a function, controlling how coding genes are expressed, but he did get into some pretty wild territory with just how much baggage we've picked up & how often there are issues.

Homo sterilis: I had no idea how bad we were at reproducing ourselves. It's tough to swallow in this overcrowded world, but he makes a good case for it. Sperm can only turn right in ever widening circles & it takes something like 200 million of them for one to find the egg. Wow!
I'd like everyone who thinks that life starts at conception to read this. If it does & God is involved then it is the biggest & best abortionist of all.

Why God Invented Doctors: As good as we are at fixing ourselves, we have a lot of issues to overcome, some lost genetically. Others are just due to poor evolution, such as our sinuses. He covered some before, but hits them from a new angle this time & adds in a bunch more.

A Species of Suckers: Our brains are a real mess. He does a good job hitting the main ones. I recommend Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives for an even better look at some of these issues.

Epilogue: The Future of Humanity: He has some interesting thoughts & questions. Has humanity stopped evolving naturally? One was pretty awful, though. He said the current thinking on the Drake Equation shows there should be 75 million alien species around, so where are they? Even old estimates suggest there were about 200 billion galaxies & a few years ago that went up to 2 trillion. There are likely 100 billion planets just in the Milky Way. Why would we even think we could contact another civilization over those distances even if they lasted a million years each? He wonders if we'll last another century, at least at our present level of civilization. We might well knock ourselves back to the Stone Age, though. Depressing.
Profile Image for Amanja.
508 reviews52 followers
November 15, 2019
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 through their diets.

Human sperm cells can't turn left and therefore can take up to 3 days to travel what could be done in under an hour.

Unlike humans, migrating birds can see magnetic fields and look directly into the sun without damaging their eyes.

The book is full of fun tidbits of information like this but with the whole scientific backing of explanation that helps you actually remember it.

This book could easily be longer but Lents kept it concise. Personally, I would've liked more of the physiological mistakes and fewer of the cognitive bias mistakes but that's just because I've read other books that go into much more detail of the latter and started to get bored toward the end of this book.

An interesting note about the style of the book is that it's one of the few I've seen that has opted to use female pronouns as the default instead of the traditional male ones. Just wanted to point out that it did not go unnoticed and I appreciate shaking up the patriarchy.

Overall this book was a nice science nonfiction book that actually taught me some new things and never once came off as condescending. It was refreshing to read a science book that knows its audience and teaches instead of dumbing down or swinging the other direction into dense technical jargon.

for more reviews and content please visit my new blog amanjareads.com
Profile Image for Neli Krasimirova.
160 reviews83 followers
September 9, 2020
Benim de vaktiyle kafa yorup zaman zaman araştırarak cevap aradığım "İnsan yazıldığı kadar mükemmel mi?" sorusuna cevaben eğlenceli bir üslupla yazılmış yarı bilimsel bir metin.
Yarı bilimsel dememin sebebi kitabın dilinin basitliği ya da altyapısız olması değil sonuna doğru bilimsel literatür ve araştırmalardan biraz uzaklaşıp kendi fikirlerini sıralamasıdır. Ama elbette bu fikirleri beyan edenin bir okutman olduğunu bilmek bunları biraz daha kıymetli kılıyor çünkü yazarın konu hakkında tarafsız bilgileri var.

Özellikle dinsel doktrinlerle beslenmiş homo sapiens egosunu tümöre dönüşmeden törpülemek için tavsiye edilebilecek bir kitap olmuş. Okunurluk açısından bir yetişkini tatmin edecek kadar basitlikten uzak, bir genç yetişkinin merakını canlı tutacak kadar sohbet havasında.
Profile Image for Udit Nair.
306 reviews58 followers
June 21, 2020
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 but yet it is not perfect as one would assume it to be. He starts with the complex structure of eye and covers the various lacuanes in the design of the organ. The first chapter addresses about the anatomical absurdities which no engineer would ever design. The discussion ranges from the pointless bones to uneven nerve connections to absurd supply routes. The mention of Achilles and ligament tears with respect to flawed design really explains the recurrence of these injuries in sports arena so frequently.

The second chapter on the human diet is extremely insightful and informative. The need for obtaining vitamins and minerals and many other essentials is explained through evolutionary point of view. Also one would be amazed to know that lot of problems with respect to diet is unique to humans only. Other animals either manufacture eseentials internally or have other organisms within which take care of it.

The third chapter deals with the human genome. This actually helps in understanding the evolution in a better way. The author has given ample examples to suggest how humans have traded off many things for a evolutionary cost. The discussion on fatal diseases like Huntington's or HIV is again very enlightening.

The fourth chapter is the most counterintuitive. Given that humans have successfully outcompeted every other species on the planet, you might think that we’ve mastered this whole reproduction thing. But in fact, human reproduction is inefficient. Extremely inefficient. We are some of the most inefficient reproducers in the animal world because we have errors and flaws throughout almost the entire reproductive process, from the production of sperm and eggs to the survival of our children.

The fifth chapter deals with the most threatening diseases we face as a species. The special focus is on autoimmune diseases. Along with it is the larger implications for the immune system as a whole. The chapter ends towards discussing about the elephant in the room which is the cancer.

The last two chapters are bit philosophical with author discussing about his thoughts vis a vis the humanity as a whole.

The most appropriate conclusion I can derive from the flaws in the human body is that " "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" as rightly said by Theodosius Dobzhanksy.
Profile Image for Jigar.
37 reviews5 followers
December 27, 2018
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. But there's no real attempt to justify this view; for this, you would also need to be sure that animals are extremely well adapted to their environments. Rare human diseases and disorders are given disproportionate attention, so to use this as an argument for "human errors" Lents should be pretty sure that other animals don't themselves suffer from rare diseases; of course, such logical analysis is blissfully omitted.

As a positive, Lents does attempt to pull together many areas of scientific thought, although if you want to study these in more detail you're out of luck: there's no bibliography. We start with unneeded bones, then genes, the last chapter drifts off into psychology, the epilogue is more about survival of the human species. If you can spare the time, you will find it more rewarding to cover each area in more detail:-

Palaeontology / evidence for evolution: Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

History of genetics: The Gene: An Intimate History

Epigenetics: The Epigenetics Revolution [more technical, not covered by Lents, eye-opening nonetheless]

Behavioural psychology: Thinking, Fast and Slow

Development of civilisation / scientific method: Cosmos

My core problem is why this book and why now. There's nothing really groundbreaking, no layman's course on the cutting edge of genetic research, no new discoveries to share with the world. It's an amalgamation and simultaneous watering down of some of the earlier works listed above.
July 7, 2021
Można by rzec, że książka nie na temat. Dwa pierwsze rozdziały są nawet ciekawe i mówią o niedoskonałościach człowieka, a autor tłumaczy nam z czego to wynika. Kolejne są już nudnawe, przepełnione medycznymi terminologiami i dotyczą raczej działania ludzkiego ciała i mózgu, chorób i dolegliwości i nie ma to nic wspólnego z błędami ewolucji. Taki pseudonaukowy bełkot.
Profile Image for Chafic (Rello).
445 reviews24 followers
July 5, 2019
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.

Really enjoyed this book!
4.37 / 5
Profile Image for Camelia Rose.
625 reviews82 followers
May 22, 2022
Nathan H. Lents is a professor in biology. He has broad knowledge of evolution and human biology. I enjoyed the book until the last chapter (Future of Humanity). I disagree with his view on global population growth. Population growth will slow down along with the combination of economic growth and improvement of gender equality–this has been proven around the globe over and over again. China is an exception, because its population growth is a state-controlled affair. Unlike what the author says, gene mixing is nothing new. The history of homo sapiens is a history of gene mixing (see Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past for details).
Profile Image for ♏ Gina Baratono☽.
723 reviews110 followers
December 24, 2019
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 joints? Why do a majority of people need vision correction? Why do we still carry the DNA of ancient diseases in our cells?

This book was very interesting and well-written and researched.
Profile Image for David Wineberg.
Author 2 books663 followers
February 6, 2018
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 just wasteful, inefficient or crazy.

The human body is the sum of all its travels through time. It has vestiges of other forms it took, corrupted DNA that was not immediately fatal (so it was able to be passed on) and evolutionary benefits that have outlived their usefulness. The result is a being that needs an outsized amount of care and feeding, technology and medicine. We are the only animal with this need.

-Our sinus cavity drainage (from the top!) gives humans headcolds far more often than any other animal.
-Our backs are optimized for four-legged living.
-Human eyeballs are built backwards, causing a large blindspot in each eye that is more or less overcome by having two eyes and therefore stereo-vision. Cephalopods got our kind of eye right, among the two dozen totally different kinds of eyes, each adapted to the bearers’ environment.
-Our procreation equipment is so inefficient, both mother and child are at risk of death from the act of birth, unlike any other primates. Lents says primates will continue to care for other offspring while giving birth, something unimaginable for women. Cows often barely notice they are giving birth.
-There is an entire a la carte menu of autoimmune diseases unique to humans, and often only to women, for which we have no cures and no idea why they occur. Our own cells attack our systems until they kill us. Another unique feature of humans.

One recurring theme is food. We are both blessed and cursed with the need for a variety of food. Most animals eat the same thing day in and day out all their lives, but have finely balanced metabolisms, because they produce whatever they need internally. Humans need constant interventions with different vitamins, minerals and meds. That humans could subsist and thrive on multiple foods started out as a giant Darwinian advantage. Now that we actually need that variety for a balanced diet, it is a liability. We are the only animal with this need, too. Our DNA is so corrupted we now require this variety and intervention – or die.

Our failing DNA gets its own chapter. The GULO gene in humans is the stub of something that was once very useful. GULO produces vitamin C – just not in humans. Somewhere along the way, an ape had a gene mutation that disabled GULO. It must have lived in an environment filled with citrus, because it didn’t die off, but produced offspring that also had the gene disabled. As animals dispersed from those food sources, scurvy killed off those who had no access to citrus. Today, we have vitamin supplements and imported fruit all year. Lents says our bodies will simply never be able to accidentally repair and restore what’s left of GULO to active duty. There are now too many missing factors for such a complex mutation to occur.

“You cannot have sexual reproductions, DNA and cellular life without also having cancer,” Lents says. It is a natural bug in our design. He says there is a 100% chance of developing cancer if something else doesn’t kill you first, because “cell division is dangerous game” and innumerable mutations can trigger uncontrollable tumors.

As he says in the epilogue: “It’s survival of the fittest, not the perfect.”

David Wineberg
Profile Image for Christina Dudley.
Author 15 books103 followers
January 31, 2018
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 relieved I'm done.

This book is going next to my teenage son, and many thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to review it.
Profile Image for Roberta.
119 reviews28 followers
June 25, 2020
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, definitely interesting enough to keep your mind off of saying shit like "Uhh, you're already tired, please stop" when going for a run. The only chapters that weren't as fascinating were the ones about genes and viruses, but that's on me, cause I know nothing about that. Well, I mean now I know that there are more weird virus particles in our bodies than genes. What are the implications of that? Don't remember. Still, a fun fact's a fun fact.
It definitely ended with a bang though, that second to last chapter about cognitive biases was just perfect. And the last one about our potential future was interesting too.
I've been accidentally bumping into evolutionary biology lately and it's pretty damn cool. I definitely didn't need another subject to be interested in though.
Profile Image for Cindy Lauren.
205 reviews2 followers
March 7, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Grumpus.
498 reviews240 followers
July 1, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,169 reviews542 followers
February 21, 2020
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.

Our extra bones, our infertility compared to other species, the poor mechanical designs that come from walking upright- all the inner and outer human body parts glitches (like our digestion system lacks for absorption etc.) - that's all 4 stars. What I thought was barely 3 stars were the last 2 or 3 chapters about human cognition and homo sapiens future. Most of that is his strongly educated opinion. 90% correct most probably but it's "too easy". Especially upon his summations of cognitive bias, anecdotal experience "truth" and all the rest of guessing upon the future of extinction or not.

I learned some interesting things about nutrition, wrist and ankle bones, and nerves that help activate the voice box. This is NOT a book that approaches any Grey's Anatomy parsing, but it did have some helpful diagrams and sketches for location and comparisons.
Profile Image for Dovilė Stonė.
138 reviews71 followers
May 12, 2020
Koks įdomus būdas nagrinėti žmonijos evoliuciją - per šiuolaikinio žmogaus kūne išlikusias "klaidas" ir savo nepraktiškumu stebinančius anatominius liapsusus.

"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.


Labai daug įdomybių sužinojau. Jei kažkas bando teigti, kad žmogaus kūnas per daug tobulas, kad būtų galėjęs susiformuoti natūralios atrankos metu (eee, kreacionistai?), jam reikėtų paskaityti šitą knygą. Skaitant vis lydėjo pasigėrėjimas, kad, eina sau, kokiu įdomiu keliu gali nusukti evoliucija. Nu kas per procesas!

Knyga lengvai skaitoma, šiek tiek ironiška, tik pilno bibliografinio sąrašo nėra. Reikia googlintis, jei kažkas sudomina ar kelia abejonių. Siūlau visiems smalsiems žmonėms.

O dabar rant'as apie pabaigą:

Mane kažkaip erzina autorių pagunda knygų pabaigoje pasamprotauti apie žmonijos ateitį. Atrodo, viskas racionalu, empiriškai patikrinta, ir tada ateina ta nepamatuotai optimistinė, kokčiai užhaipinta pabaiga. Šįkart autorius užsivedė apie mums ranka pasiekiamą amžiną gyvenimą ir išsilaisvinimą nuo senėjimo bei ligų. Nes, matai, CRISPR galimybės "beribės" ir dar mokslas moka pagaminti visokius ten dirbtinius organus. Ir dar kažką ten su kamieninėm ląstelėm būtų galima padaryt, tik dar nežinom, ką ir kaip, ir išvis nežinom, ar tai išspręstų senėjimo "problemą". Plius, nanotechnologijos, seniukai, va kur ateitis. Galų pagalėj, galėtume persodinti galvą ant kito kūno - tada reikėtų tik išspręsti, ką daryti, kad galvos audiniai ir smegenys su laiku nedarytų to, ką paprastai daro gyvenimo eigoj - nenyktų ir negestų. Eaaaasy. Iš kur gauti kūnų, nesvarbu, per daug mėsiškas klausimas, mąstykim plačiau. Ai, ir jei netilpsim Žemėj, nes kad ir kokia nevykus mūsų reprodukcija būtų, vis tiek esam vislūs - taigi į kitas planetas persikeltume. :D

Pafantazuot faina, bet, ta prasme, toks nepadoriai praktinis ir egzistencinis klausimas - KAM tas amžinas gyvenimas?

Jau net matau Black Mirror epizodą, kurio nebuvo, bet galėtų būti, kur šimtamečiai žmonės neišeina iš gydytojų-mechanikų kabinetų, nes išvien reikia kažką taisyti: tai akis iškrito, tai alkūnės sąnariui šakės, širdies implantą keist reikia, koja nupuvo, nes nanotechnologinis šūdukas laiku kamieninių ląstelių injekcijos neatsiuntė. Ir dirba jie penkiolikoj darbų kaip paklaikę, kad tik galėtų susimokėti už visas tas "palaikančiąsias" procedūras. Nes amžinas gyvenimas pats savaime mums yra kažkokia tai vertybė - intuityviai.

Man, suprantat, fantazija gali išnešti visus tuos galvos persodinimus, dirbtinius organus, whatever, bet ko ji neišneša, tai kad tokios "ilgaamžiškumo" procedūros galėtų būti visuotinai prieinamos. Tai aišku, kad jos bus brangios ir jomis galės naudotis tik privilegijuotieji. Arba reiks art, art, art, kad galėtum ilgai gyventi ir ilgai arti, kad galėtum gyventi, kad artum, bla bla bla. Nes vertybė.

Gerai, sakykim, visgi tai galėtų būti visuotinai prieinama. Tikrai verta ir įmanoma šitiek resursų skirti vieno žmogeliuxo gyvybei N metų palaikyti? Kiek ilgai įmanoma ribotų išteklių Žemėj išlikti? Ai, bet gi galima persikelt į kitą planetą. SEEMS LEGIT, ranka pasiekiama.

Dabar tokią laukinę idėją pasiūlysiu. Būkit atviri ir neteiskit, ok?

Gal, sakau, geriau jau išmokt kažkaip susitaikyti su savo baigtinumu? Gal, sakau, koksai psichologas galėtų padėti? Ne? Tik pasiūliau...
Profile Image for Monique.
925 reviews62 followers
May 4, 2018
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.

That's not to say that the opening chapters didn't have some fascinating medical and evolutionary discussions, because they did. I loved learning about the eye and its structure, for example. That was fascinating and even moreso because this eye type evolved twice and in wildly different animals. There was talk of our wrist and ankle bones and other structures that seem foolish or redundant or just poorly designed. Sometimes it was accompanied by discussions of evolution and why certain things might have been selected for even when they were bad (like sickle cell anemia and its relationship with malaria). These parts were my favorites.

But, when the book began discussing things in terms of how an engineer might design and then arguing that something was an error because an engineer wouldn't design it that way, it gradually began to lose me. The curious discussions about the flaws in the human reproductive system were interesting, but the author never makes the kinds of intellectual jumps I would have expected. The discussion on out digestive tract, our diet needs, and how evolution ended up selecting things that could be considered detrimental (like that we can't make all the enzymes, proteins, etc that we need to survive) was interesting. But again, it lacked any real discussion about how or why this may have been selected for. He doesn't even explain why this is an error beyond the idea that it is just poorly engineered.

And then he gets into ways the brain is fooled. It was at that point that I mostly checked out. That isn't a defect or wrong or whatever you want to call it unless you want to argue, as he does, that all humans should be perfectly logical at all times. And what exactly is the definition of perfectly logical, you might ask? Well, it appears to be what the author thinks is logical.

In the end, it appears that the book was little more than a set up for his epilogue: a discussion on whether this is other life in the universe and whether we will adapt or kill ourselves. I was deeply disappointed because I wanted way more of those opening bits and way less of the judgmental and, in my opinion, arguable discussions in the lat roughly 2/3 of the book.

I did learn some interesting things, notably about the eye, and am grateful for it. In that sense, the book was good. But the rest of it seemed difficult to accept at face value when so many value judgments were being put on it as opposed to just facts. I did like the illustrations that accompanied some of the examples.

This review is ©May 2018 by Monique N. and has been posted to Netgalley.
Profile Image for Michelle.
650 reviews182 followers
January 25, 2019
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 instead focuses on these evolutionary "glitches" and explains how they lead to different ailments and diseases that impact humans.

I initially picked up this book to see if I would be able to incorporate any of the material into my own biology lectures. I especially liked some of the analogies Lents used:
~Pseudogenes likened to cars with missing spark plugs -- on the outside all appears in tip top shape but you will never get from Point A to Point B without that missing piece.
~Dietary diseases described as the "dystopian novels written by the human body"
~Predisposition to developmental septal defects: odds of tripping -- both dependent on a variety of different factors (laces tied or untied, long vs. short laces, etc.) with a range of probability.

Reminiscent of one of my all time favorite biology books, Why We Get Sick:The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams, Human Errors definitely deserves a place on my physical bookshelf.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Edelweiss, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Nathan Lents for the opportunity to review this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Book Him Danno.
2,394 reviews54 followers
March 15, 2018
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 many sinus infections and the flaw in the design of the human body. Which isn't a flaw but more a reason we are created to have struggles physically.
Humans are so different from the rest of the animal kingdom and again another quote that I loves was.
"It’s survival of the fittest, not the perfect.

My 11 year old son loves this book and can't get enough of it. I can't wait for this to be published to buy a physical copy for my kids.
Profile Image for Olga Miret.
Author 24 books229 followers
June 7, 2018
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 design, no matter how superior we feel to the rest of the species that share the planet with us. In a later chapter of the book, the author sums it up observing that if we participated in an Olympic Games-style contest that included all of the Earth’s species, we would not win at anything, apart from perhaps decathlon (or chess if it was included), as we are generalists. We might not be able to compete with the physical prowess shown by many other species (we are not the fastest, the strongest, the best hunters, the ones who jump higher or who can run for longer), but we can do many things to a reasonable level. And yes, we are pretty intelligent (however we choose to use our minds).
There is enough material to fill several books under the general title of this book, and Lents chooses pretty interesting ones (although I guess some will appeal to some readers more than others). He talks about pointless bones and anatomical errors, our diet (here he talks about our tendency to obesity and our need to eat a varied diet due to the fact that our bodies have lost the ability to synthesise a number of vitamins, amino acids… while other species do),junk in the genome (issues to do with our DNA), homo sterilis (we are not very good at reproducing as a species), why God invented doctors (about our immune system and autoimmune diseases, cancer…), a species of suckers (about cognitive biases. The title of the chapter refers to P.T. Barnum’s edict ‘a sucker born every minute’ although as the author notes, this is an underestimate), and he discusses the possible future of humanity in the epilogue. There is a fair amount of information contained in this book, and that includes some useful illustrations, and notes at the end (I read an ARC copy, but it is possible that the final version contains even more documentation and resources). It is an educational read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I listened to the book thanks to the text-to-speech facility, and it suits it well, as it has a very conversational tone and manages to impart lots of information without being overbearing or obscure.  I read some reviews suggesting that it was so packed with facts that it was better to read it in small bites. Personally, I read it in a few days and never got bored of it, but it might depend on the reader’s interest in the subject.
I was familiar with some of the content but I appreciated the author’s take and the way he organised the materials. Although I enjoyed the whole book, I was particularly interested in the chapters on genetics (the DNA analysis and the identification of specific genes have moved on remarkably since I completed my degree) and on cognitive biases. As a doctor, I also agreed with his comments about autoimmune diseases, the difficulties in their diagnosis, and how these illnesses can sometimes be confused with psychiatric illnesses (being a psychiatrist, I know only too well this can happen). Of course, as is to be expected from the topic, the book reflects on the development of the species and discusses natural selection and evolution, and I was fascinated by the reviews of people who took his arguments as personal attacks on their beliefs. I agree that some of his interpretations and his hypothesis of the reasons for some of these flaws can be debatable, but that does not apply to the facts, and I did not feel the book is intended as a provocation but as a source of information, and entertainment. As the writer notes, we remember better (and believe in) anecdotes and stories than we do dry data. (I am not an expert on the subject but was fascinated by the comments on his blog.)
I found the book fascinating, and as a writer, I thought it was full of information useful to people thinking of writing in a variety of genres, from science-fiction (thoughts about how other species might evolve crossed my mind as I read it), historical fiction (if we go back many years), and any books with a focus on human beings and science.  I would recommend checking a sample of the book to see if the writer’s style suits the reader. I highlighted many lines (and was surprised when I learned that female Bluefin tunas don’t reach sexual maturity until they are twenty years old and was pleased to learn about the important roll old female orcas play in their society) but I particularly like this one:
Scurvy is a dystopian novel written by the human body.
A great read for those who prefer non-fiction and fact-packed books, perfect for people with little time, as it can be picked up and savoured in bite-size instalments, and a book that might pique our interest in and lead to further research on some of the topics. Experts are unlikely to find new information here, but other readers will come out enlightened and with plenty to think about. I strongly recommend it.
Profile Image for Philip.
329 reviews29 followers
September 14, 2020
I'm a bit torn about this book. I want to like it more than I do.

I love the idea of the book. How awesome isn't it to discover all our little inherited quirks and flaws compounded over hundreds of millions of years of evolution!? Brilliant, right!?

To a degree, Lents delivers. However, it seems like he's cherry-picked the most commonly known oddities about our genetic make-up. If you already have some basic knowledge - or even familiarity - with our "design" flaws, you likely won't learn much. You may even stumble on a few things where he's apparently wrong - or, at least, where he's oversimplified something to the point of being wrong. Not to mention that - and, fyi, this may just be me - it makes my stomach churn when he illustrates something like our anecdotal bias and how it's so very wrong with - drum roll please... - yup, an anecdote! (I wish I had a pukey face emoji right about now). I'm also not stoked about the last part of the book where he ventures away from the actual topic into things like extraterrestrial life (or lack thereof), the Fermi paradox, and other things like that. Not that it isn't interesting, it is, but it just feels off in this book (also, same thing here, if you're reading a book like this, the Fermi paradox likely isn't a new concept to you... right?).

Regardless, despite my little whine-fest above, I do like the book. It's a light read - which might actually be a positive to some (?), even if I would have preferred a little more substance - and it's fun to contemplate how things could end up so bonkers. I just wish there would have been more! I also think a lot of our problems today could be alleviated if more of humanity had the flaws he mentions, as well as others, in mind before going off half-cocked on each other!

I also want to mention that my rating would have been different if Lents would have kept to the science of our evolutionary flaws (that s**t is awesome!). He could have then honed in a little more on each particular flaw and fleshed it out - as well as explored more of them. Had he done this I would say it's a solid 4-star, and we would probably have learned a ton more.

But anyway... and in summary, if you happen to stumble on this quick little read, it's totally worth the half-day (or so) it takes to read :).
Profile Image for Rachel Noel.
201 reviews11 followers
February 18, 2018
*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 interest and is easy to read.

And it's not just the physical aspects of humanity that are discussed. As interesting as it is to question why our ACL, even after all these years, is still better designed for a species that walks on four limbs, our brains are even more confounding! Lents doesn't have all the answers, but he is really good at explaining the problems and their theorized origins in our evolutionary history. And not just the physical stuff, either. The social and mental stuff gets discussed at length as well.

I really liked this book and highly recommend it for anyone who needs a refresher on biology or has questions on anatomy. The book is very comprehensible for those of us without a lot of background on the topic. There is an excellent blend of information, theory and humor.
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