Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Have you heard? Did you read?

The book "The 10,000 Year Explosion" was suggested to me by Amazon's software.  I had never heard of it but as soon as I read the title, I knew I was interested. I actually way underestimated how exciting and interesting the book would be.  It has led me to quite a few others, the more inclusive of which seems to be "A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History" by a mature science writer, Nicholas Wade.  I had already been tipped off by the Australian writer, Dr. Christine Kenneally in her book "The Invisible History of the Human Race", that anything to do with race and ancestry can be surprisingly touchy and even dangerous.  The history of African Americans and their treatment by others and the business of Jews in Nazi Germany are two strong examples of how hatred, mistreatment and murder can be closely tied to heredity and biological descent.

"The 10,000 Year Explosion" is about the most recent ten thousand years of human life.  During this period, humans began farming and that really changed many aspects of their lives.  Being hunter-gatherers is a relatively precarious, low-yield way of life.  But it has been both asserted and by others, more or less quietly assumed that evolution, physical changes in our bodies and minds, either ceased during the last ten thousand years or proceeded so slowly as to not matter very much.  This idea comforted people but it is being discredited over time.

When people farmed, they mostly had grains and such to eat, which meant little or no meat, which meant seriously deficient diets as far as protein goes.  Extended tolerance of lactose in several different human populations developed instead of the usual cessation of lactose digestion after weaning.  That extended tolerance allowed for the continued digestion of milk, a source of protein.

But the more valuable and important development was continued improvement in speech, especially in vocabulary.  What?  Vocabulary?  What the hell does that matter?  Given the emergence of writing and the increase in experience, knowledge and contact between humans, increased vocabulary allows for discussion, education, merchandising and improvement in all the things we can discuss, learn, buy/sell and modify.  Above, when I wrote "protein", you were able to grasp that I meant a component of our diets.  When you read "tolerance" and "lactose" and other words, you can tell what I mean because of our shared vocabulary.  Yay, WORDS!

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