An illuminating, entertaining tour of the physical imperfections – from faulty knees to junk DNA – that make us human
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? 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, perhaps evolution's greatest creation, 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 a popular professor of biology at John Jay College at CUNY, and is the author of Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals. He has appeared as a scientific expert in national media, including The Today Show, National Public Radio, Access Hollywood, 48 Hours, Al-Jazeera America, Chinese Central Television, and Primer Impacto (Univision).
"Human Errors is outstanding, scholarly yet entertaining. Perhaps inadvertently, this funny book argues that if there is an intelligent designer, he is comically hopeless"
– Adam Rutherford
"An entertaining and enlightening guide to human imperfections"
– Clive Cookson, Financial Times
"Spry, plausible, free from jargon and much better than the usual run of popular science and medical books, which are destined to be shelved in the den of geek, Human Errors is the most enjoyable anatomical study since Jonathan Miller's The Body in Question."
– Roger Lewis, The Times
"Chatty and humorous [...] After reading Human Errors, nobody will see their body in the same way again"
– William Hartston, Daily Express
"Like any theme park horror house, it's a thoroughly entertaining ride, crammed full of the bizarre and enlightening and ripe with facts with which to wow dinner party guests."
– Katie Burton, Geographical
"In Human Errors, Nathan Lents explores our biological imperfections with style, wit and life-affirming insight. You'll finish it with new appreciation for those human failings that, in so many surprising ways, helped shape our remarkable species"
– Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook
"Anybody with a slipped disk knows humans are not very intelligently designed, but most of us are unaware of the extent of our imperfections. Nathan Lents fills in the gaps in Human Errors, an insightful and entertaining romp through the myriad ways in which the human body falls short of an engineering ideal – and the often surprising reasons why."
– Ian Tattersall, author of Masters of the Planet and The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack: and Other Cautionary Tales from Human Evolution
"Anyone who has aged without perfect grace can attest to the laundry list of imperfections so thoroughly and engagingly considered by Nathan Lents in Human Errors. This is the best book I've read on how poorly designed our bodies are. I learned something new on every page."
– Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and New York Times best-selling author of Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain