Book Summary And Highlights Of The Story Of The Human Body By Daniel Lieberman

Book Summary And Highlights Of The Story Of The Human Body By Daniel Lieberman

Amazon Summary

In this landmark book of popular science, Daniel E. Lieberman—chair of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and a leader in the field—gives us a lucid and engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years, even as it shows how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and advancements in the modern world is occasioning this paradox: greater longevity but increased chronic disease.

The Story of the Human Body brilliantly illuminates as never before the major transformations that contributed key adaptations to the body: the rise of bipedalism; the shift to a non-fruit-based diet; the advent of hunting and gathering, leading to our superlative endurance athleticism; the development of a very large brain; and the incipience of cultural proficiencies. Lieberman also elucidates how cultural evolution differs from biological evolution, and how our bodies were further transformed during the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.

While these ongoing changes have brought about many benefits, they have also created conditions to which our bodies are not entirely adapted, Lieberman argues, resulting in the growing incidence of obesity and new but avoidable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Lieberman proposes that many of these chronic illnesses persist and in some cases are intensifying because of “dysevolution,” a pernicious dynamic whereby only the symptoms rather than the causes of these maladies are treated. And finally—provocatively—he advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment.

About Author: Daniel Lieberman

Daniel Lieberman is Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences and a professor of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. He received degrees from Harvard and Cambridge, and taught at Rutgers University and George Washington University before joining Harvard University as a Professor in 2001. He is a member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Lieberman studies and teaches how and why the human body is the way it is, and how our evolutionary history affects health and disease. In his research he combines experimental biomechanics, anatomy, and physiology both in the lab and in the field (primarily Kenya and Mexico). He is best known for his work on the evolution of running and other kinds of physical activities such as walking and throwing, but is also well known for studying the evolution of the human head.

Lieberman loves teaching and has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers, many in journals such as Nature, Science, and PNAS, as well as three popular books, The Evolution of the Human Head (2011), The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease (2013), and Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding (2020).

In his spare time, he enjoys running - sometimes barefoot, earning him the nickname 'the Barefoot Professor'.


  • Dysevolution

Author Interview & Presentations

My Summary

  • Nature is slow. It takes millions of years to develop the human body.
  • Cultural is fast. New technology and norms are changing everyday.
  • This creates a mismatch, which has real consequences on the body and mind that are under-estimated.

Book Summaries


Evolution works based on natural selection

  • Natural selection can be broken down into three parts:
    • Variability (each organism within the same species is different)
    • Heritability (every organism passes genetic traits to its offspring)
    • Reproductive success (different organisms reproduced different numbers of offspring)
  • The other side of the equation is the environment.
  • When there is a dramatic change uses another tool—adaptation. Adaptation is how individuals develop new heritable traits that help it survive and thrive in the new environment.

Agriculture Revolution has downsides


What We Can Do


Allen Cheng

Reading Graphics

We are getting sick from preventable diseases like osteoporosis, depression, allergies, cancer etc. In the USA alone, more than $2 trillion is spent on healthcare annually, when 70% of the illnesses are preventable.
Many of the diseases or discomforts that we face today (e.g. high blood pressure, cancer, cavities) arise from “mismatches” in our cultural and biological evolution. Mismatches basically occur when the inputs from our environment are (a) too much, (b) too little, or (c) too new for our bodies to handle. Longer life expectancy also means a growing number of people with aging-related diseases and disabilities. Our medical innovations also act as “cultural buffers” to cause “dysevolution”. For example, the overuse of antibiotics can hasten the emergence of new superbugs and bring new auto-immune diseases (e.g. Crohn’s disease). * Diseases from Excess. For the first time in human history, we have too much food, most of which are processed foods with little/no fibre, and contain lots of starch and sugars, and such excess energy creates problems for the body. * Diseases of Dis-use. Our bodies adopts the “use it or lose it” concept to use energy wisely. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle neglects many parts of the body, leading to issues like Osteoporosis, impacted wisdom teeth, and allergies. * Diseases of Novelty. The things that we take for granted in modern societies–e.g. shoes, eyeglasses, and chairs–are comfortable or convenient, but may actually be bad for us because they create a different type of strain for our bodies.