We humans like to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures. But if we are supposedly evolution’s greatest creation, why do we have such bad knees? Why do we catch head colds so often—two hundred times more often than a dog does? How come our wrists have so many useless bones? Why is the vast majority of our genetic code pointless? And are we really supposed to swallow and breathe through the same narrow tube? Surely there’s been some kind of mistake.
As professor of biology Nathan H. Lents explains in Human Errors, our evolutionary history is nothing if not a litany of mistakes, each more entertaining and enlightening than the last. The human body is one big pile of compromises. But that is also a testament to our greatness: as Lents shows, humans have so many design flaws precisely because we are very, very good at getting around them.
A rollicking, deeply informative tour of humans’ four billion year long evolutionary saga, Human Errors both celebrates our imperfections and offers an unconventional accounting of the cost of our success.
Nathan H. Lents is an American scientist, author, and university professor. He has been on the faculty of John Jay College since 2006 and is currently the director of their honors program and the campus Macaulay Honors College program. Lents is noted for his work in cell biology, genetics, and forensic science, as well as his popular science writing and blogging on the evolution of human biology and behavior.