❰EPUB❯ ✷ Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors Author Nicholas J. Wade – Uroturk.info
I cannot believe it took me 3 4 of the book to realize who this author was I really could have saved myself a lot of time if I had only connected the name with his newer, even racist, book.This book had an incredible amount of potential It highlights all the best material I learned in my Anthropology of Evolution class Wade uses a mix of solid science some stellar science, actually and a bunch of unsubstantiated old school evolutionary psychology bullshit to tell the epic story of human ancestry from as early as the evidence will allow, to help the reader understand their human lineage This book was like a roller coaster One minute Wade would present a balanced and thrilling description of some evolution phenomenon, e.g evolution of language, in which he would present hypotheses from contradictory sources, so that his reader could understand what the experts are saying He is so good at delivering up the arguments for both sides, it is surprising that he, at times, becomes absolutely incapable of seeing than one skewed and unscientific side to various arguments Immediately after presenting excellent science, Wade would begin presenting pretty shoddy evidence to make an argument, e.g humans are naturally aggressive and that violence was high in prehistoric times and is lower now To make the aggression argument, Wade used the old, tired chimps are aggressive, and since chimps are our closes ancestors, we too must have been this aggressive, argument Never mind that he didn t even mention the species bonobo, who we actually have in common with than non bonobo chimps In addition to that, the aggressive chimps studies themselves have an observation bias effect The aggression is much higher in chimps than bonobos, but it may not be as high as we once thought Wade repeatedly used chimps as our model, without any actual evidence from genetics or from artifacts or fossils to back it up And why Because no such evidence exists The implications became clear as the book went on and Wade explained how our white ancestors were superior in intelligence to our black ancestors He did this by using genetic evidence that has not been substantiated in any way Main stream science is against him on this I could not believe what I was reading I had gotten over my annoyance with his bad aggression research and decided to ignore it, because so many things in this book were presented and supported with excellent science When I read about how our Caucasian ancestors had superior brains, I felt shocked I was about to email my anthropology of evolution professor and ask her, Who was that guy who wrote that unbelieveable racists and scientifically inaccurate book Then I sat down at my computer and typed in Nicholas Wade racist, and sure enough, this 2006 book was followed by his even racist book in 2014.This is what the Dawkins, Pinker, Buss, Fisher, and other old school neo Darwinist thinking leads to I cannot wait until the gene jocks are fully replaced once epigenetics and thermodynamics make their way into the Modern Synthesis of Evolution I have had enough science backed racism to last a lifetime. The first half of this book is a fascinating look at what light DNA and current studies of genetics shed on human evolution I learned much abour our ancestors, the origin of language, and genetics than I ever did in school.But the second half of the book goes into quesionable territory He starts drawing conclusions from the still developing understanding of the human genome that I just don t think are yet supported by the evidence The science in this half of the book is somehow both too complicated for the lay reader, and over simplified to support controversial conclusions For example, he argues that race has a genetic basis and acknowledges, but minimizes concerns raised by social scientists about the implications of such an argument Overall, this part of the book really made me question the validity of what I had read in the first half. Nicholas Wade S Articles Are A Major Reason Why The Science Section Has Become The Most Popular, Nationwide, In The New York Times In His Groundbreaking Before The Dawn, Wade Reveals Humanity S Origins As Never Before A Journey Made Possible Only Recently By Genetic Science, Whose Incredible Findings Have Answered Such Questions As What Was The First Human Language Like How Large Were The First Societies, And How Warlike Were They When Did Our Ancestors First Leave Africa, And By What Route Did They Leave By Eloquently Solving These And Numerous Other Mysteries, Wade Offers Nothing Less Than A Uniquely Complete Retelling Of A Story That Began Centuries Ago In my experience, it has been hard to find good, popular books about human evolution and prehistory The most interesting books I ve found on the subject are Jared Diamond s The Third Chimpanzee and Guns, Germs and Steel Nicholas Wade s book Before the Dawn is an excellent addition to that short list, bringing us up to speed on what scientists are currently saying about human origins and prehistory Reporting on a wide range of research, including paleo anthropology, genetics, and historical linguistics, Wade provides us with a comprehensive story of how our ancestors became anatomically, and then behaviorally, human What seems to be different about Wade s account of prehistory is his pervasive use of genetic research as the final arbiter when there is a conflict among scientific disciplines The conclusions drawn by paleo anthropologists and historical linguists are either confirmed by a genetic line of reasoning, or called into question As a result, Wade flirts with controversy by suggesting that the emergence of art in the caves of France and Spain, some 32,000 years ago, was probably the result of genetic influences, implying that distinct human characteristics, such as art and cognitive capacities, have evolved in distinct population regions This is the kind of reasoning that Guns, Germs and Steel was trying to remedy However, Wade offers the qualification that, although distinctly human qualities may have developed in one population at an earlier date, these characteristics, which truly are universal, have evolved convergently This is a common idea in evolution, one good example being the wing Insects, birds, pterosaurs, and bats have all received the anatomy of the wing through four distinct lineages In other words, evolution has hit upon the idea of wings four different, independent times Humans, according to Wade s line of reasoning, may have evolved the capacity for art and culture through selective pressures at the local level, when anatomically modern humans had already left Africa and occupied the Eurasian and Australian continents.Another point of divergence between Wade and Diamond is the issue of human settlement Diamond s book tells the very interesting story of the first domestication of grain in the Near East, which consequently lead to a settled way of life Evidence now suggests that humans began sedentary village life as long as 18,000 years ago, much earlier than the first era of agriculture and stock rearing in the ninth and eighth millennia BC Not surprisingly, Wade offers a genetic explanation for the origin of settlement It is commonly held that behaviorally modern people have existed for about 45,000 years, meaning that they displayed the basics of human behavior, art, religion, and presumably language, and have not evolved significantly since Wade, on the other hand, espouses the opinions of biologists who think humans have continued to evolve in the past 45,000 years, and human settlement may therefore have been the result of some particular evolutionary adaptation.Wade goes on to offer a genetic explanation for racial development, a tack that has been highly criticized since mid 20th century, for good reason Scientists do not currently study race as a biological phenomenon, but Wade cites recent medical studies that point to a biological basis for understanding the races. This first half of this book, on what genetics is adding to traditional sciences understanding about the origin of modern humans, language, and settled living and agriculture is very good and interesting The second half of the book, on the origin of modern human populations, is deeply flawed Wade is sneaky He doesn t come out and say white people dominate the world because they re genetically superior to people of color He just hints at it, again and again His only evidence, it seems, is that white people dominate the world not that there are any significant genetic differences between different geographic human populations In the end, I found this book sloppy and racist. Interesting, but speculativeI decided to read this book as a counterpoint to Jarrod Diamond s famous Guns, Germs, and Steel, which focused on geography and domestication of plants animals as an explanation for the rise of human civilization Wade argues that this point of view doesn t take into account recent scientific evidence that human genes have continued to evolve over the past few thousand years, sometimes as an apparent result of civilizing forces.This is an area of political controversy for obvious reasons, but Wade respectfully and even handedly explores the known facts, tracing the divergence of modern humans from a small founding population in Africa to the branches and subgroups that exist today If you re interested in learning about where the state of the art in human population genetics stands or stood in 2006 , and how this field, archeology, and linguistics corroborate each other s findings, there s lots of information in Before the Dawn I particularly enjoyed learning about the quirks of mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA that make them useful tools in resolving questions of ancestry, and about techniques for tracing the roots of language back thousands of years I also was interested in his thoughts on the origins of religion, which he argues emerged from behaviors needed to share resources.Wade, however, doesn t make a very convincing case that Jarrod Diamond is wrong In fact, he grudgingly acknowledges the ingenuity of Diamond s thesis, then makes an unsupported argument that humans might have evolved a settling down gene before they learned to domesticate plants I m not saying that he s necessarily incorrect, but I didn t buy it Diamond never claimed that ancient people instantly went from nomadic to settled, but that they probably lived a hybrid lifestyle for a while.Similarly, some of Wade s other claims feel rather speculative He attributes a decline in violent behavior to genes, but this may not be the primary explanation Consider reading Steven Pinker s The Better Angels of Our Nature for a in depth exploration of the topic In the chapter that explores why Ashkenazi Jews have statistically higher IQs than people of other groups, the data might suggest that evolutionary pressures in medieval times were the cause, since Jews were forced into intellectual non farming jobs and had a scholarly religious tradition that uplifted the brightest, but there could be other explanations for the phenomena After all, people with high IQs crop up in every major group, so there must be many local factors that promote the relevant genes enough to keep them in circulation, or some set of universal ones.As I said in my review of Guns, Germs, and Steel, I think that societies and cultures are a lot malleable than genes are, and likely to change in response to environmental pressures Still, when there is cultural stability in one place over long periods of time, then genes might be selected to fit that culture More research is undoubtedly needed before it can be determined what we really owe to variations in our hardware versus variations in our software.If you re interested in such questions, though, this is a stimulating read Of course, I also recommend Guns, Germs, and Steel Another fine book is Steven Pinker s The Better Angels of Our Nature. Some brilliant stuff glottochronology, for one Of course, it s unreliable, which the author illustrates well enough Some questionable stuff Such as the predominance of high IQ in some populations I m not entirely persuaded in IQ measurements applicability to anything, nor in the suggestion that IQ gets stronger in genetically closed populations that work in accounting and other relatively intellectual endeavors for 500 years For one thing, it just might For another, it could be a case of proactive nurture For yet another, there could be some mutation, both helping this and hindering this The bottom line is, I don t think we ll be able to know one way or another, since all our data is filtered down through the ages Craniometry usability also sounds either severely limited or completely bogus to me Is it the bastard daughter of phrenology Trying to tie thinking processes of Asian and European people to the genome also seems to be an unprovable idea There s a nasty bait and switch at this point, where a psychologically based Nisbett s idea that people of Asia and of Europe do think along different lines gets somehow tied to gene differences Anyway, I did not appreciate this hocus pocus, even for the sake of making a rhetorical exercise There are so many factors in here that it would be impossible to take them all into account There probably is a lot in genes More than we can imagine There also definitely is a lot to humans modern and otherwise that gene lottery Even though this research does not seem to be too reliable, it still suggests a lot of ideas to muse over. It s always a pleasure to read a book about science that s accessible yet still informative Before the Dawn is a refreshing update to Darwinian evolution using the cutting edge tool available to scientists and historians genetics.Wade begins by giving a brief introduction into the application of genetics in the study of human history and prehistory Of particular interest is mitochondrial DNA which is only inherited from the mother and the Y chromosome which a father passes onto his sons unchanged, since, unlike other chromosomes, it never swaps genetic information , through which geneticists can trace lineage, mutation, and genetic drift Wade presents genetics as an additional tool to help clarify controversies stemming from other methods of dating human development, such as the unreliable method of carbon dating He s upfront about the limits of genetics, however, which is also something I appreciate about this book Wade strongly supports his argument but also mentions if other studies support contrary opinions.I appreciate Before the Dawn for small, individual aspects rather than its overall flavour or zest The aforementioned mitochondrial DNA Y chromosome parts fall under this category, as does Wade s anecdotes about how the body louse helped us learn so much about our distant ancestors It would never have occurred to me that lice, such pests as they are, would hold the key to our past As Wade explains in Before the Dawn, however, we can look into the lice genome to see when body lice had to adapt to live in clothing instead of fur and use that to roughly pinpoint when humans began wearing clothes Examples like that help demonstrate to people why genetics is such a useful new tool in the exploration of our past.The first six or so chapters chronicles humanity s expansion out of Africa, starting with a discussion on how we differentiated from our ape cousins and evolved into beings with the anatomical and cognitive abilities to expand all the way to Australia and northern Europe This isn t the same old boring story, however, because Wade s telling it from a genetic point of view, indicating where key mutations in the Y chromosome or mitochondrial DNA reveal when populations split off and to where they emigrated Wade waffles somewhat when trying to explain what happened when behaviourally modern humans encountered their predecessors outside of Africa the Neanderthals in Europe and Homo erectus in Asia Ultimately it seems that the evidence isn t clear, although he suspects that interbreeding wasn t the prevalent outcome.Beyond telling the story of our journey out of Africa, Before the Dawn clearly communicates a very important point about evolution it s random This gets lost, especially when opponents to evolutionary theory pick up the discussion, but it s an essential point that bears repeating Evolution isn t working toward some end goal Wade emphasizes time and again that the mechanisms of genetic drift and natural selection work both helpful and harmful effects upon species we just usually notice the helpful effects because those who carry harmful attributes tend to die off rather than reproduce Sometimes evolution s effects can be double edged did you know that the same mutation that causes sickle cell anaemia is responsible for boosting immunity to malaria I didn t But it just goes to show that if we ever take our genome into our own hands and begin guiding our evolution something Wade mentions in the conclusion of the book we need be very careful.The last six chapters of the book describe human development after we ve spread across the globe These chapters are not as fascinating as the previous six They come across as somewhat padded, particularly the chapter on History , wherein we learn about Thomas Jefferson s illegitimate children with a slave Oh yay On the other hand, there are a couple of highlights.The chapter on Race , of course, is controversial Wade manages to cleverly seize upon race as a genetic concept but is careful to point out this doesn t translate into a physical concept Thus, by the guidelines of the scientists Wade endorses, a person s race is defined by his or her genes but has little to do with his or her appearance someone who is genetically Caucasian may have very dark skin, compared to our classic idea of a Caucasian person as light skinned Race ultimately tells us about where our ancestors came from, Wade opines, but is not inextricably linked to particular genetic attributes.Wade also takes on Jared Diamond s famous book Guns, Germs and Steel, attacking Diamond s thesis that the environment was the major factor in human development I applaud Wade for criticizing parts of Diamond s argument I also found weak, particularly Diamond s peculiar insistence on the intellectual superiority of New Guineans In any event, Before the Dawn is a good companion book to Guns, Germs, and Steel, so I recommend it to anyone who has read the latter.I have little to offer in way of criticism for Wade s arguments As neither an historian nor a geneticist, I don t feel qualified to offer a technical criticism As a reader, the book is accessible than some scientific literature it can get a bit dense from time to time, but you can just skim over those parts The well organized, almost episodic chapters make it easy to read over the course of a few days If you re like me, you won t find the entire book equally interesting some parts will be fascinating, while others will let your interest lapse as you wonder how much longer they ll last Overall, Before the Dawn is a good addition to its field However, if you aren t already interested in evolution and genetics, I doubt it will ignite a fire within you. I found the beginning of this book in fact, the first 8 chapters utterly fascinating A clear, intelligent, well written account of all the essentials of modern thinking on biological and cultural evolution from the emergence of man 1.7 million years ago, thorugh the migration out of Africa c 50,000 BC , and up in fact to the Neolithic period The emphasis is on genetics, but not overwhelmingly so and in any case, according to author at least I know nothing about science, to put it mildly , the study of this entire topic has now been revolutionized by the decoding of the genome The last few chapters were much less interesting as other reviewers have also noted though the topics are not unimportant race, language, genetic history of Jews and Thomas Jefferson, etc Yet they are too technical and too speculative simultaneously An attempt rather meager, imo to do the genetics of altruism simply did not convince or, ultimately, hold my interest Hence, the loss of the fifth star in my rating Still, for those who want a sound and reliable primer to this topic of the paleolithic, which is exactly what I was looking for with interesting sidelights on primatology this is a great book to start with. Review This review will be in 2 parts an overview of how I felt about it a bunch of notes on interesting things I want to remember about it.This book puts together, in layman s terms, the results of anthropologists, biologists, gene mapping into a comprehensive history of the human race Since DNA testing is now possible the human genome project is done, they can sample areas generally people don t move far from where they re born see when where they came from Gene changes aren t exactly timed, but are statistically inferred often based on other evidence, so most dates can vary by thousands of years Much are hypotheses, but they indicate or prove out human evolution in general in far detail than we ve ever known before.This was recommended to me by the owner of the company I work for He s reading it on his Kindle I got it from the library as an audio book If I really wanted to read understand this book well, I would HAVE to get it as a paper book that I could mark up so I could refer back to specific places quickly, faster comprehensively than an ebook allows As an audio book, my ignorance on the subject is a heavy anchor It is well read, though.While it is very interesting, it hops about in time a LOT as different methods trace our history different aspects are discussed The author follows some lines some corroborating evidence through different time lines then comes back to them chapters later with another method or aspect This means there s a lot of confusing overlap since times can be broad, the whole is rather tattered without any ability to refer back to earlier pieces.There s a lot to take away even with my imperfect understanding Each chapter is started by a quote from Darwin s writings The man was a genius how much he got right with the tools he had is absolutely amazing Science has revealed many unpleasant truths which has stifled it at times Unsurprisingly, that s very true of genetics as it reveals nonparental children, apparently a nice term for momma carrying another man s child Even , what it says about the races of man See below for The spread of change by humanity around the globe versus the amazing local homogeneity of populations That humans are still evolving at both a greater recent rate than previously thought All the different bits listed in the notes below Read them if you want.Overall, it was a great read There were parts that didn t hold my interest as much, but generally wonderful full of information It s great to see various branches of science put together to weave a better tapestry of our history I m giving it 4 stars because it wandered a bit too much, but it s highly recommended Notes I missed a lot, should have started these notes sooner Nothing below should be taken as complete nor completely accurate Many are shorthand to myself as it s complicated times are long.The basics The human genome was fully decrypted in 2003, but that s just the book Most of the 2.8 billion codes are junk the rest need to be put into perspective That s comparing individuals to others, breaking them into groups doing comparisons There s still a LOT of work to be done, but already a huge amount of information has been mined.The Y chromosome is passed without change from father to son has had only minimal, statistical changes, so we can trace it back in groups to the original Adam before the diaspora from Ethiopia probably throughout the world 50K years ago That was apparently a very crowded time, about when we developed language, religion, broke free from our birth continent fighting the older versions of man Update While Wade says we didn t interbreed with archaic man, this article is now saying we did with Neanderthalhttp www.iflscience.com plants and The mother passes all her mitochondrial DNA pretty much unchanged to all offspring, so it can also be used to trace historical movement, but goes back even further Adam 50K, Eve 65K So the line of travel can be traced back until the gene change disappears from the population Mitochondrial DNA mutates faster than the Y chromosome, so aligning the two is tough at times which leads to some error.Evolution uses 3 methods for change mutation diversifies, natural selection genetic drift toward fixed, faster in small populations trim the changes down Founding genes are part of genetic drift, generally found when a population is almost wiped out then rebuilds from the survivors Mediterraneans Africans both have a genetic resistance to malaria, but developed it separately convergent evolution same need, different solution The African version was a quick, sloppy evolutionary fix about 5K years ago If one parent gives it to a child, they get resistance to malaria, but both can confer sickle cell anemia.Animals bugs are also used to pin down times inventions Body lice evolved to clothes lice different claws about the time paleoanthropologists thought we lost body hair started wearing clothes It s a cross check, building evidence We also developed dark skin at this time.It seems as if physical modern man was very chimp like about 100K years ago Update to this In 2017, 300K year old Homo Sapien fossils were discovered Probably doesn t change this much, though it wasn t until 50K years ago that we actually became behaviorally modern This change gave us language probably religion at the same time to deal with each other cooperatively in a new way, allowing trade family rather than tribal units Anthropologists now believe we settled in one spot BEFORE domesticating animals, not the reverse, due to better cooperation 150 50 500 is about the prime number of an egalitarian hunter gatherer tribe since they had no leader with any power save for personal force If folks didn t like it, they wandered off Too small a group was killed off by others, though.Also around 50K years ago, modern man broke out of Africa Likely this was due to cooperation allowing them to defeat older versions of man They probably used a southern route around the Red Sea 50 to 500 people 150 likely made it out populated the entire world while the rest of the original gene pool stayed in Africa.The general movement was probably along the sea shores which were much different since the ice age had the water locked up the oceans were about 200 lower Only 60 miles separated the lost continents that once contained India SE Asia Sundaland from the one that had Australia, NZ, Tasmania Sahul , so that s how the Aussie aborigines are so close to the original genotype isolated plus genetic drift Beringia was the land bridge of the Bearing Straits, also much larger then War was far prevalent in ancient times than most anthropologists have been leading us to believe Some of this is due to gov t funding, an example was given about failure to fund for studying a defensive wall When the wording was changed to enclosure , it was funded War is actually an evolutionary tool, with most 90% primitive men engaging in it annually 30% of each generation lost to it Huge number anyway helps explain why the Zulus kicked the British butts they were far practiced at the art We d have killed off 2 billion in the 20th century if we kept the historical trend, but the percentage of war deaths have been decreasing in recent times, from.05 down to.032 percent Chimps fight very similarly to primitive, modern man Many of our drives, desires, attitudes are probably far genetically driven than we ve assumed Quite possibly we are genetically driven to religion since so many still embrace it even when other systems have filled its place 8% of the population in Genghis Khan s area of influence show descent from him His drive to spread his seed is shared by many world leaders Could that be one basis for their drive to achieve Cannibalism has been prevalent throughout history Chimps, too Apparently Mad Cow deaths in Britain were low due to it They saw something similar in a New Guinea tribe in the early 1900 s funeral rites with women eating their deceased s brains.Race is addressed not typically how we think of them, rather based on continents 5 even those only make sense in the larger terms of 50K years ago Skin color isn t as straight forward as it seems Melanin gene fully on black to protect against sun, partially off in degrees to allow better vitamin D production with less sun, hence Scandinavian white Folic acid had something to do with it too, but I forget how Recent human evolution, at about 12K 6K years ago, of our brains has taken place These seem to be spread through out most, if not all, but how Did it Ditto with lactose tolerance in adults which they say came about 5K years ago Other changes have occurred since then, but some aren t well documented due to political issues people trying to prove their race is better or ticked off at the results There are differences that we need to pay attention to e.g., a medicine that didn t show all that well in a trial turned out to be a real boon to Africans due to the way a salt retaining gene handles some enzyme or something like that All races have peculiar strengths weaknesses that should be addressed by medicine In mixed races, like North American Mexicans, these can show up at odd times A guy studied Olympic winners for sprint middle distance He found that a huge percentage of sprinters were from area in Africa west while middle distance was from east Africa I forget what conditions made the sprinters, but the middle distance runners came from the best cattle thieves getting women Jews apparently have one branch that underwent a very recent 1000 years of cultural restrictions might be a degree smarter than the average Both IQ tests Nobel prizes bear this out both iffy, but pretty convincing when taken together A slight rise in the average is most obvious in the extremes e.g this group was 4 times as likely to have IQ s of 140 or above than the average, even though the group average was 115 Unfortunately, further analysis hasn t been done dangerous territory Jews provide another example in the line of some hereditary leaders One Cohen was very clean tracing its Y chromosome back very clearly Another, Levy, wasn t didn t The latter evidence was pretty much rejected it was pointed out that Rabbinical law doesn t recognize scientific genetics This is a very typical reaction is not limited to Jews They just happen to be a fairly well documented, insular community, so good test subjects Iceland is another good test region for similar reasons.Sexual preference fits into evolution Women pick men for protection provision Kids often look like neither or like the mother as protection against being killed off as not being the husband s child Fraternal twins can be from different fathers Interesting comparisons with chimps Men look for 7 to 10 ratio between waist hips Hair Our long head hair is an oddity Lack of body hair Both possibly influenced by sexual selection There were other examples, but I forgot them or can t write them in short form.At the 3 4 mark, a lot on languages tying them into the mapping of historical movements I did not find this particularly interesting since there is too much disagreement about it among the experts I m not one don t want to be I just want the Cliff Notes outtake, but there doesn t seem to be one at this time since there is little consensus, just a lot of conjecture at odds.Language is a two edged tool It can bind disparate peoples together trade , but also separates them by pointing out who is a stranger With a few words, we can separate out dialects accents An example is given about placing the English within 35 miles at one time So, language can be both a way of broadening the group, but can also provide security from invaders There are 6000 living languages a huge amount of them half are spoken in New Guinea, one area where the people never got together into larger groups geography nor progressed beyond hunter gatherer no need due to climate Tough Questions that we will face Now that we know the genome are developing the methods, will or should we take a hand in our own evolution For instance, could should we fix a gene that gives a person sickle cell What if we give another gills for exploring the seas How will we deal with new isolated colonies, such as those that will spring up on other planets He posed quite a few others that I won t write down Many are interesting for the future, are today s like the question of intelligence.I m a real fan of SF Many of these questions have been asked by SF authors the answers can be pretty scary The future is here, though.