Human beings would probably be known as pilosals rather than mammals if Carl Linnaeus had not been a proponent of breast-feeding. For social and political reasons, the famed taxonomist labeled the class of animals to which humans belong with a reference to their practice of suckling their young rather than to their evolutionarily older characteristic of having hair.
This is just one of the hundreds of surprising pieces of information that readers will glean from the far-reaching and fascinating How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction, a new book by Robert Martin, a member of the University's of Chicago's Committee on Evolutionary Biology and curator of biological anthropology at he Field Museum.
Readers will also learn that:
But what's the point? Good cocktail party conversation?
In fact, it was precisely such a question that prompted Martin to write this book. Years ago, when he had just finished teaching a course on primate evolution at the University of Zurich, a student asked him, "So what? What's the utility of studying this subject?"
Robert's initial reaction was to say, "Primate evolution is important in its own right, but it's also human history—our history—going far back in time."
Nevertheless, the student's question stuck with him. "I realized that my research had practical applications," Martin says, "so I wrote this book to connect primate evolution with modern human concerns and conditions."
Indeed, the book is full of pertinent facts, figures, anecdotes, and analysis about human evolution, expertly woven together to inform current issues, including birth control, enhanced reproductive techniques, miscarriage, cloning, breast feeding, the effects of toxins on human reproduction, and the dramatic drop in sperm counts—all synthesized into a comprehensive synopsis of how we got where we are today, as a species, and where we're headed.
Written By: Greg Borzocontinue to source article at phys.org