To call Human Errors by biology professor Nathan H. Lents a primer on natural selection and evolution would be a vast oversimplification. He tackles his subject (one that has no doubt put many a college student to sleep) with a conversational ease, and he does so while recognizing his own fallibility. And it's these qualities that make his writing accessible to the layperson.
According to Lents (Not So Different), genetic developmental flaws (or the "panorama of our glitches") arose as a result of incomplete adaptations to bipedalism and to ways of life that no longer exist. These include nasal cavities that drain up instead of down and backwards-facing retinas. Using modern analogies, Lents is able to tie natural selection and evolution to human behavior. The fact that we have never encountered, nor received contact from, alien civilizations points to a disturbing conclusion: if they followed a similar evolutionary trajectory as Earthlings (with our environmental pollution, resource overconsumption and war), then those civilizations may no longer exist.
To that end, even as technology and science have seemingly arrested human evolution, cultural and socioeconomic factors may provide the key to evolving future gene pools. "In order to fully grasp any aspect of the human experience, we must understand how it took shape," writes Lents. "Never underestimate science or our species' ability to overcome its own flaws."
Entertaining and informative, Human Errors can provoke thought and discussion as to what evolution and natural selection mean for the future of the human race. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant