The Human Inheritance: Genes, Language and Evolution

The Human Inheritance: Genes, Language and Evolution


Edited by Bryan Sykes

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 144mm x 218mm x 20mm | 358g
  • Publication date: 24 February 2000
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0198502745
  • ISBN 13: 9780198502746
  • Illustrations note: line illustrations

Product description

Very little excites human curiosity quite so much as contemplating human origins. More than any other branch of science, evolution - and human evolution in particular - is fraught with controversy. Working from what is essentially the same data, schools of opinion have come to diametrically opposed conclusions. Are we adapted Neanderthals, or a new species altogether which wiped them out? Did the first Americans enter the continent 30,000 or 12,000 years ago? Did the Polynesians sail against wind and current to an unknown fate, or were they just blown across from South America while out fishing? Why do we speak different languages? Is it because language traces our biological history, or are the two things completely unrelated? Evolution, because it deals with a past that can never conclusively be known, was once ideal material for perpetual debate. Enter genetics with a completely new source of objective data. Surely these old questions would soon be settled one way or another. Or would they? Bryan Sykes brings together a world-class set of contributors to debate these questions. The result is eight lively essays, each of which offers a different opinion about what the links between genes, language, and the archaeological record can tell us about human evolution - and indeed, whether they can tell us anything conclusive at all. This stimulating and challenging book poses more questions than it offers answers, eschews jargon, and pursues controversy. Guaranteed to fascinate anyone who has ever wondered how the fossil record, the incredible diversity of human language, and our genetic inheritance might combine to give a glimpse of human origins.

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Author information

Dr. Bryan Sykes is based at the Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DS. Tel. 01865 222404 Fax 01865 222498 Email bsykes@molbiol.

Review quote

' This is a thought-provoking and extremely readable book in which the arguments are uniformly cogent and the exemplifications admirable' Human Genetics

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. Reflections on the archaeology of linguistic diversity ; 2. The fossil record of the evolution of Homo sapiens ; 3. Language classification: scientific and unscientific methods ; 4. Human evolution: our turbulent genes and why we are not chimps ; 5. Using genes to map population structure and origins ; 6. Ancient DNA ; 7. Language and genes in the Americas ; 8. Human genetic diversity and disease susceptibility