Books on Human Evolution is not merely anthropology. There is more to it.
— If you ever wonder how we became who we are today — you might also come across:
Why do men struggle to multi-task? Do women actually talk a lot more than men? Are we all related for real or is it just a figure of speech? If we were separated by large masses of water, how did we all evolved the same way?
Numerous questions like these pass by in the mind of a curious person every day. As a child, I used to write down these types of questions that come to my mind. So that I can get answers from others. But most of those answers were philosophical and unique to the perspective of the person who answers those. However, it cannot be that way. There has to have a key that answers all these questions and anything else that might come in time without any contradiction. And that key is Human Evolution.
Discussed today is how books on evolution like ‘The Complete World of Human Evolution’ by Chris Stringer and Peter Andrews or ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari and many other such books dedicated to describing the evolution of man can alter the way you look and perceive at the world.
But before that,
Isn’t what we learn at school is enough?
There are a few reasons why the history lessons that we get from our school are not enough to broaden your view on the subject.
History at school mainly has two distinct sections in it. First is a bird’s eye view on human evolution which covers about 70000 years in few chapters. Second is where you get an in-depth idea of recent history starting from the industrial revolution to world wars in an equal number of chapters.
The content that covers in a school curriculum is not at all enough to understand the story behind our ancestors. On top of this, these lessons are distributed among years and years of textbooks. In that format, no one would be able to make any connection between different parts of evolution such as how the behavior of a man changed when the agricultural revolution began.
Now with that settled, let’s discuss how a book dedicated to this can fill the gaps.
Most books are timeline-based.
Almost all the major books that are in the market follow a strict timeline where it starts from the beginning of humankind and comes up to the present day. Unlike in our school history lessons, these books will cover almost all the critical content that is relevant to that era in detail and help you in the process of making connections among different eras. One of the best examples of why it is so important to learn this in a strict timeline comes in the form of a silly misunderstanding that I had up until I read a book. Have a look at the famous picture of evolution below.
For the dozens of times that I must have seen this image at school, I thought that Homo sapiens are a better-evolved product of Homo Neanderthals. Right now if you think “well isn’t that what it is”, don’t be disappointed but no. It is not the case. Neanderthals were a separate species of humans and sapiens were another. Just like Labradors and Dobermans in the dog world. They both lived at the same time in history. Sapiens were more advanced in different ways where we practically got rid of all other species along the way.
This misunderstanding is very common and partly I blame the illustrator who came up with this form to explain to us the evolution because it is quite confusing. However, the point is that you will have a much more clarified view on the subject when you read a book that follows a strict timeline.
Books on Evolution explain current behavior through connections.
Authors of books on evolution have done a phenomenal job in explaining the current behavior of the man scientifically. On why we do what we do. Why we love sugar that kills a significant fraction of people in the modern world. Because sucrose the nutrition that gives instant energy to the body was very hard to find in the prehistoric era. But it was of utmost importance in terms of survival. Due to these reasons, thousands of years of evolution made our brains love anything rich in glucose. That is one such connection. Why women can focus on many tasks at once while men find it difficult. Or why sex feels different to women than men?
What is beautiful about these books is that when few such connections are made for us by them, it enables us to look at the world in a much broader and meaningful way. This can enable you to figure out the answers for more such questions.
Books on Human Evolution Make us more responsible.
Most of the selfish deeds in the world are done by people who think that we are at the center of the course of humankind. This is why people would kill thousands to be more politically stable or would do despicable acts to stay on top of the game without thinking about the future. When you open up to a book that explains the 70000+ years we roamed this planet, you realize that we are nothing but a blip in the course of history. Understanding our roots and where we stand in a much broader picture will enable us to be more humble.
From the words of Simon Mayo a famous BBC radio presenter and author, about the book Sapiens
‘Startling… it changes the way you look at the world’
The present that we live in is merely a page in a massive book that keeps on adding up pages. As temporary members of such a world, it is important to know the roots of us. How we became who we are today and what made us do what we do right now. Reading a book that is dedicated to explaining the evolution of mankind can help us look at the world from a broader perspective while giving us the raw material required to build logical answers to most questions that we have about ourselves.
‘Sweep the cobwebs out on your brain… Radiates power and clarity, making the world strange and new’
Is how Sunday times reviewed the book Sapiens.