A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes

Adam Rutherford. The Experiment, $25.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-61519-404-9
British geneticist Rutherford (Creation) looks closely at the new field of genomics, scrutinizing the voluminous data being generated by researchers and what it says about us and our ancestors. Methodologically, he seeks to introduce genomics into older fields, “namely history, archaeology, paleoanthropology, medicine, and psychology.” For example, close study of the genetic composition of living and dead individuals demonstrates that, though the Vikings controlled much of England for 200 years, they rarely reproduced with the people they subjugated. Similar analysis, Rutherford claims, leads scholars to believe that a single population coming across the Bering Strait 24,000 years ago should be seen as the ancestors of all indigenous people in North and South America. Rutherford also explains why race isn’t a valid concept scientifically: “I am unaware of any group of people on Earth that can be defined by their DNA in a scientifically satisfactory way.” He argues persuasively that much of what is known about genetics is critical at the population level but much less so at the individual level, asserting that our ignorance has led to a “swing from genetic determinism to genetic denialism.” Rutherford raises significant questions and explains complex topics well, engaging readers with humor and smooth prose. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/21/2017
Release date: 10/03/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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