Skip to main content


The Human Condition is a collection of papers by leading evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science that reflect on the Darwinian Revolution as it relates to the human condition at levels ranging from the molecular to the theological. The book focuses on understanding the evolutionary origin of humans and their biological and cultural traits. The Human Condition is organized into three parts: Human Phylogenetic History and the Paleontological Record; Structure and Function of the Human Genome; and Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of Being Human.

This fourth volume from the In the Light of Evolution (ILE) series, based on a series of Arthur M. Sackler colloquia, was designed to promote the evolutionary sciences. Each volume explores evolutionary perspectives on a particular biological topic that is scientifically intriguing but also has special relevance to contemporary societal issues or challenges. Individually and collectively, the ILE series interprets phenomena in various areas of biology through the lens of evolution, addresses some of the most intellectually engaging as well as pragmatically important societal issues of our times, and fosters a greater appreciation of evolutionary biology as a consolidating foundation for the life sciences.

Suggested Citation

National Academy of Sciences. 2010. In the Light of Evolution: Volume IV: The Human Condition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Import this citation to:

Publication Info

428 pages |  6 x 9 | 

  • Hardcover:  978-0-309-15657-8
  • Ebook:  978-0-309-18528-8
Chapters skim
Front Matter i-xvi
1 Reconstructing Human Evolution: Achievements, Challenges, and Opportunities--Bernard Wood 5-26
2 Terrestrial Apes and Phylogenetic Trees--Juan Luis Arsuaga 27-46
3 Phylogenomic Evidence of Adaptive Evolution in the Ancestry of Humans-Morris Goodman and Kirstin N. Sterner 47-62
4 Human Adaptations to Diet, Subsistence, and Ecoregion Are Due to Subtle Shifts in Allele Frequency--Angela M. Hancock, David B. Witonsky, Edvard Ehler, Gorka Alkorta-Aranburu, Cynthia Beall, Amha Gebremedhin, Rem Sukernik, Gerd Utermann, Jonathan Pritchard, Graham Coop, and Anna Di Rienzo 63-80
5 Working Toward a Synthesis of Archaeological, Linguistic, and Genetic Data for Inferring African Population History--Laura B. Scheinfeldt, Sameer Soi, and Sarah A. Tishkoff 81-100
6 Uniquely Human Evolution of Sialic Acid Genetics and Biology--Ajit Varki 105-126
7 Bioenergetics, the Origins of Complexity, and the Ascent of Man-Douglas C. Wallace 127-146
8 Genome-wide Patterns of Population Structure and Admixture Among Hispanic/Latino Populations--Katarzyna Bryc, Christopher Velez, Tatiana Karafet, Andres Moreno-Estrada, Andy Reynolds, Adam Auton, Michael Hammer, Carlos D. Bustamante, and Harry Ostrer 147-166
9 Human Skin Pigmentation as an Adaptation to UV Radiation--Nina G. Jablonski and George Chaplin 167-184
10 Footprints of Nonsentient Design Inside the Human Genome--John C. Avise 185-204
11 How Grandmother Effects Plus Individual Variation in Frailty Shape Fertility and Mortality: Guidance from Human-Chimpanzee Comparisons--Kristen Hawkes 211-230
12 Gene–Culture Coevolution in the Age of Genomics--Peter J. Richerson, Robert Boyd, and Joseph Henrich 231-256
13 The Cognitive Niche: Coevolution of Intelligence, Sociality, and Language--Steven Pinker 257-274
14 A Role for Relaxed Selection in the Evolution of the Language Capacity--Terrence W. Deacon 275-292
15 Adaptive Specializations, Social Exchange, and the Evolution of Human Intelligence--Leda Cosmides, H. Clark Barrett, and John Tooby 293-318
16 The Difference of Being Human: Morality--Francisco J. Ayala 319-340
References 341-392
Index 393-412

What is skim?

The Chapter Skim search tool presents what we've algorithmically identified as the most significant single chunk of text within every page in the chapter. You may select key terms to highlight them within pages of each chapter.

Copyright Information

The National Academies Press (NAP) has partnered with Copyright Clearance Center's Marketplace service to offer you a variety of options for reusing NAP content. Through Marketplace, you may request permission to reprint NAP content in another publication, course pack, secure website, or other media. Marketplace allows you to instantly obtain permission, pay related fees, and print a license directly from the NAP website. The complete terms and conditions of your reuse license can be found in the license agreement that will be made available to you during the online order process. To request permission through Marketplace you are required to create an account by filling out a simple online form. The following list describes license reuses offered by the NAP through Marketplace:

  • Republish text, tables, figures, or images in print
  • Post on a secure Intranet/Extranet website
  • Use in a PowerPoint Presentation
  • Distribute via CD-ROM
  • Photocopy

Click here to obtain permission for the above reuses. If you have questions or comments concerning the Marketplace service, please contact:

Marketplace Support
International +1.978.646.2600
US Toll Free +1.855.239.3415

To request permission to distribute a PDF, please contact our Customer Service Department at

loading iconLoading stats for In the Light of Evolution: Volume IV: The Human Condition...