Pandora's Seed

Pandora's Seed

The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization

Book - 2010
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In The Journey of Man , renowned geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells traced human evolution back to our earliest ancestors, creating a remarkable and readable map of our distant past. Now, in his thrilling new book, he examines our cultural inheritance in order to find the turning point that led us to the path we are on today, one he believes we must veer from in order to survive.

Pandora's Seed takes us on a powerful and provocative globe-trotting tour of human history, back to a seminal event roughly ten thousand years ago, when our species made a radical shift in its way of life: We became farmers rather than hunter-gatherers, setting in motion a momentous chain of events that could not have been foreseen at the time.

Although this decision to control our own food supply is what propelled us into the modern world, Wells demonstrates--using the latest genetic and anthropological data--that such a dramatic shift in lifestyle had a downside that we're only now beginning to recognize. Growing grain crops ultimately made humans more sedentary and unhealthy and made the planet more crowded. The expanding population and the need to apportion limited resources such as water created hierarchies and inequalities. The desire to control--and no longer cooperate with--nature altered the concept of religion, making deities fewer and more influential, foreshadowing today's fanaticisms. The proximity of humans and animals bred diseases that metastasized over time. Freedom of movement and choice were replaced by a pressure to work that is the forebear of the anxiety and depression millions feel today. Wells offers a hopeful prescription for altering a life to which we were always ill suited, recommending that we change our priorities and self-destructive appetites before it's too late.

A riveting and accessible scientific detective story, Pandora's Seed is an eye-opening book for anyone fascinated by the past and concerned about the future.
 
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781400062157
Branch Call Number: 304 .2 WEL
Characteristics: xvii, 230 p. :,ill. ;,25 cm

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r
rswcove
Jul 31, 2015

This book is interesting, but not quite satisfying, although I would argue that the problem is the opposite of what the other reviewers have argued is the problem. The problem is that the author has convincingly synthesized evolutionary biology and anthropology to conclude that we are in deep trouble, and then he lacks the intellectual courage to point out just of screwed we are.

s
stewstealth
Jul 10, 2013

This book is more of an essay on the author's beliefs then a true scientific approach to the varied subjects that he introduces. The basic premise is that when you change things there can be unforeseen consequences. Nothing to argue there. The problem for the prognosis of the future in the book ( and in other media ) is all the unforeseen advancements that will help humanity. Too much "Chicken Little" but it at least wasn't a polemic so it is worth reading,As in any complex system the author is right on some issues but rarely includes the counterpoints. If you hate your current world and your lifestyle you'll probably love this book.

h
horthhill
Apr 30, 2012

Pandora's Seed: Why the Hunter-Gatherer Holds the Key to Our Survival by Spencer Wells was somewhat disappointing. The early part of the book does a good job summarizing recent research in human genetics. Its strength is Wells expertise on using genetics to unravel human evolution and prehistoric migration. Unfortunately,the book falls apart in the final third and his travel anecotes were mostly neither compelling nor to the point.

r
ranXerox
Apr 24, 2011

An interesting book that suggests the rise of agriculturalism and the benefits of surplus food has implications far deeper than just the concomitant rise of government. He pairs this new form of organization with the biological reprecussions, suggesting that obesity, diseases such as malaria and mental health issues are a direct consequence. For example, you'll find out why sweetness was a good thing when we were finding food to eat as hunter/gatherers, but the strong selection attributes for this ability don't necessarily bode well when nearly everything has sugar added to it...
As with many of these types of books, it does drag on a bit...
Still, worth a read...

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