Saturday, June 27, 2015

Alexander H. Harcourt's "Humankind"

Alexander H. Harcourt is Professor Emeritus in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Davis. He is the coauthor of Gorilla Society and Human Biogeography and co-editor of Coalitions and Alliances in Humans and Other Animals.

Harcourt applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Humankind: How Biology and Geography Shape Human Diversity, and reported the following:
The whole human species, all seven billion plus of us, varies less genetically than does a single population of gorillas or chimpanzees. And yet just a glance at a stranger, and we can often tell what continent they come from. Go a little deeper, look at the right genes, and you can even tell if the person is originally from France, or Britain, or Germany, or Spain, or pretty much anywhere else in the world.

Not only do the people of different regions differ, but they differ for the same Darwinian reasons that species of animals and plants differ. As a sentence on page 99 of Humankind states, “Humans are mammals, and follow the same rules regarding shape and size of body in relation to temperature as do other animals.”

The rules concern more than just shape and size and temperature. Other rules, biological rules interacting with geographical rules, determine where we are, and physiologically what sort of person we are there. Yet other biogeographical rules determine the variety of cultures in different regions - yes cultures, products of the human mind - just as they determine the variety of species in different regions of the world.

No man is an island, as the saying goes, and indeed what we are where we are affects other species and is affected by them. And of course, throughout history and surely before, we have affected where we are and others of us are. In the great cities of the world, we now see some of the densest concentrations ever of human regional diversity.
Learn more about Humankind at the publisher's website.

Writers Read: Alexander H. Harcourt.

--Marshal Zeringue