Mapping human history : discovering the past through our genes

by Steve Olson

Hardcover, 2002




Boston : Houghton Mifflin, c2002.


Until just a few years ago, we knew surprisingly little about the 150,000 or so years of human existence before the advent of writing. Some of the most momentous events in our past--including our origins, our migrations across the globe, and our acquisition of language--were veiled in the uncertainty of "prehistory." That veil is being lifted at last by geneticists and other scientists. Mapping Human History is nothing less than an astonishing "history of prehistory." Best of all, the story it tells, of why groups of humans differ and what those differences mean, pertains to our lives today. Steve Olson traveled through four continents to gather insights into the development of humans and our expansion throughout the world. He describes, for example, new thinking about how centers of agriculture sprang up from disparate foraging societies at roughly the same time. He tells us why we can all claim Julius Caesar and Confucius among our forebears. He pinpoints the ways in which the story of the Jewish people jibes with, and diverges from, biblical accounts. And, using very recent genetic findings, he explodes the myth that human races are a biological reality. In the tradition of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Olson's Mapping Human History offers an ambitious, original, and convincing narrative that reveals where we came from and how we became who we are possibly have biological origins.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member DonSiano
This book is an unfortunate example of what happens when political correctness collides with the real world of science. Olson has such a determinedly preachy style of writing about an important topic of science, race, that if cannot help but flat out insult and nauseate all but the most determined
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or naive readers.
His central thesis is that race is not a biological construct (whatever that means), that there is no biological reality (whatever that means) to it, and thinking the contrary is the root cause of genocidal wars and all sorts of evil things. And did you know we are 99% chimpanzees too? And besides, race is only skin deep, and under our skin we are all alike...

This is a book filled with the superficial propaganda of the multiculturalists, longing for peace through diversity, and thoroughly indoctrinated with the impotent ideology of the wishful dreamers. Race doesn't matter? Try telling that to the participants in a race war, or the parents of marriage age children, or Jews. If race doesn't matter, why does he think intermarriage is a good thing? If race is merely a "social construct" why are most of the new things about race being discovered in the laboratory, not by poll-takers and pundits?

The science of race is rapidly progressing, using all sorts of exciting new tools and methods, with cooperative efforts expanding all across the world, and is being driven by new ideas and objectives impossible to even conceive of testing only a few decades ago. This is an amazing scientific endeavor, with immense importance for the proper understanding of man. Little of the excitement of this endeavor is communicated in the book, only the sound of an ax-grinding.
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LibraryThing member Oreillynsf
I appreciated both the science of this book and the broader message of human commonality. This groundbreaking research that has surfaced over the past several years underscores how little separates all of us in scientific terms. What a great message for all of us to understand in a world where
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artifical differences threaten our very existence.
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