A neuroscientist looks at evolution and the future of Homo sapiens.
Brown (Neuromuscular Function and Disease, 2002, etc.) offers a neurologist’s perspective on human physical and cultural development and offers his conceptions of a future that may result from natural processes and technological innovation. The book begins with a look at the Big Bang and current astronomical evidence of the universe’s development. It then tackles the creation of life, moving from single-celled organisms to hominids and modern humans, tracing their growth from an evolutionary perspective and exploring genetic advances. Subsequent chapters explore some of the more nebulous aspects of humanity’s journey, from art to religion to altruistic behavior. The book concludes with a look at trends and developments in genetic technology that could shape physical and mental attributes of humans and other species in years to come. Brown brings a working scientist’s perspective to his work, offering wry asides (“Like Darwin’s work, Mendel’s was tedious”) and anecdotes from his own years of practice. The book shows thorough research, citing scholarly and popular works with equal ease. At times, though, its arguments rely too heavily on a single source—in particular, speculation about the genetic and neurological roots of traits found among Ashkenazi Jews—and some of Brown’s predictions seem overly optimistic, such as, “With synthetic DNA, humans will probably be capable of creating life from scratch less than a century after Watson and Crick revealed the structure of DNA.” On the whole, though, the book provides a solid synthesis of existing research, bringing together the work of evolutionary biologists, anthropologists, and physiologists to offer a clear explanation of how we became what we are today.
A coherent, comprehensive exploration of evolution, genetics, and what it means to be human.