Science Book a Day Interviews Daniel E Lieberman


Special thanks to Daniel E Lieberman for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease

Author’s mini-bio: Daniel E. Lieberman is a paleoanthropologist at Harvard University, where he is the Edwin M Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, and chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. Wikipedia

#1 – What was the impetus for The Story of the Human Body?

As I wrote in the book, much of the impetus was from my teaching. My students want to know more than just what happened in human evolution, but also why it is relevant to their bodies today. I also want to help promote more understanding of how and why an evolutionary perspective is relevant, indeed vital to more than just understanding why we get sick but also to preventing illness.

#2 – You focus on a number of evolutionary adaptations that human have undertaken. Why limited you to these particular adaptations in particular?

My focus is on the body as a whole. Although much happened in evolution, I tried to focus on the key transformations that make humans different from our closet relatives, the great apes, and how our bodies have changed profoundly since farming and industrialization.

#3 – Have our ideas of evolution changed over the last few decades? If so, how have they changed?

Gosh, that’s too big a question! On the one hand, we have learned so much from genetics, fossils, and other new data. On the other hand, our basic understanding of how natural selection works has remained rather stable.

#4 – How have people responded to the idea that we are still evolving?

Well. It should not be a controversial statement, and the evidence that humans are still evolving is strong. I think, however, people still get hung upon on the issue to which we are evolving through natural selection or cultural evolution. Both are occurring, but one must admit that cultural evolutionary changes swamping natural selection these days.

#5 – Are you working on any projects/books that you can tell us about?

I am mostly focusing on research in the lab and in the field on feet, backs, running, walking, and other ways in which we use our bodies differently than we used to.

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