• Human Errors

  • A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes
  • By: Nathan H. Lents
  • Narrated by: L.J. Ganser
  • Length: 7 hrs and 54 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (2,188 ratings)

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Human Errors  By  cover art

Human Errors

By: Nathan H. Lents
Narrated by: L.J. Ganser
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Publisher's Summary

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 - 200 times more often than a dog does? 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 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.

©2018 Nathan H. Lents (P)2018 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What listeners say about Human Errors

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

From Pointless Bones to Broken Genes to...Aliens?

I felt the book started out strong, talking about unnecessary, breakable bones, how the way sinuses work is kind of screwed up, all the ways genes can go bad, how we're so inefficient in getting the most out of nutrients, the list is long and good, but towards the end I felt some topics were a little off trail...Suddenly, I'm listening about our existence in the universe...alienwise. This final part stemmed from Fermi's paradox, and although interesting, I don't know how it related to 'Human Errors'. But overall, I enjoyed the book and learned quite a few things!

109 people found this helpful

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Most interesting, well narrated

I listen to the book while commuting. I wish my commute were longer. Most interesting book I have read or listen to in a long time. Narration is great also. Fascinating.

68 people found this helpful

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An interesting summary of how evolution didn’t quite adapt us for today’s life!

Bridging the gap between evolutionary psychology and human anatomy and physiology, this is a great intro to the many ways our bodies and minds are poorly suited for the era we live in and a thoughtful catalog of the many ways Nature has not gotten it right yet in terms of perfecting the nevertheless amazing bodies we have. Other recommended books that delve deeper into aspects of this include Dan Lieberman’s The Story of the Human Body
Evolution, Health, and Disease, Before You Know It
The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do by John Bargh, You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney and a favorite of mine, David Eagleman’s Incognito The Secret Lives of the Brain.

I am also interested in the more mind-based books about the psychological errors and paradoxes, mental errors and habits (heuristics) that we all suffer from such as Daniel Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow and The Self Illusion: Why There Is No "You" Inside Your Head by Bruce Hood among others.

Human Errors concentrates more on the physical imperfections in our bodies than on the psychological, but it is a great springingboard for the exploration of both.

53 people found this helpful

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Cotton Candy Science

For something fun to start a conversation at a cocktail party, this book was fun & mildly entertaining. But it was quite short on rigorous science.

The current tendency to extrapolate behavior about prehistoric man based on assumptions or similarity to other primate behavior is disturbing. The author appeared to be a victim of his own assertions about why humans draw conclusions with nothing but anecdotal evidence.

But for a quick, light read, it was entertaining enough.

40 people found this helpful

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Errors are Story of Being Human

A wonderful collection of what is known now about our too many flaws, told in a riveting story telling way. It also elucidates some of the same musings I have had. I recommend it highly.

27 people found this helpful

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Humans are a compromise

Man was created by God. We are his perfect creation. Our perfection is evident in every detail of our design. Right?

If you believe this, then you first need to Google Charles Darwin and evolution. Second, you need to take another look at the human body. Because we are full of defects. This book will give you a few examples of some of our most glaring flaws; flaws that can be found from head to toe, and in our body's architecture as well as in our DNA.

What could possibly be wrong with having a shared channel for air and food? (This is a rhetorical question, but in case you really wonder, food gets stuck, and we die...). It has to be like that, you might argue. But that would be ignoring whales and dolphins. They eat with their mouth and breathe through a different hole on their back; they don’t risk choking. We also have genes for creating several vitamins, e.g., vitamin C – only they are broken. Usually, this doesn't matter because we get vitamin C in our diets and therefore natural selection has had not selected against this detect. But it is a defect nonetheless if we do not get any vitamin C for a while, as sailors crossing the Atlantic, we get sick and die – all because of our non-functional gene.

The reason for our imperfections is that evolution cannot start over, it works by making small gradual changes. Evolution can only undo things partially, which is why we still have a tailbone which is by the way also useless – except for getting hurt...

This book is a call for rationality. It provides a tiny grain of sand to balance the mountains of books glorifying the human body and its 'perfection.' To be sure the human body is impressive in many ways but perfect it is not.

19 people found this helpful

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For devotees of science and medicine

As a biology major in college who never went on to medical school or for that matter, to pursue a career in biology, this was an excellent explanation of the technologies that exist today. Particularly, the sciences of nutrition, molecular biology, and causes and treatments of diseases were addressed in depth. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the biology that encompasses our lives.

16 people found this helpful

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Rabid Eco Warrior does High School level intro

Probably the only part of this book that is well written and worth a listen is the first few paragraphs of the conclusion. Narrator is like fingernails on a blackboard.

14 people found this helpful

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Fascinating!

I recommend this book to anyone studying biology, evolution, creationism, or simply has an interest in the anatomy and function of the human body. It is not written for doctors with vast medical knowledge... it’s written with normal everyday people in mind-each topic being very well explained! I LOVED this book! I want to listen to it again because I find myself trying to explain parts of it to any person that will listen!

12 people found this helpful

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Starts strong, heads downhill fast

I really had high hopes for a fun and novel pop science read. Repetitive writing and a weak concept make this one to pass on

12 people found this helpful

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  • zoltan csete
  • 09-13-20

fascinating book

I always believed that we as a species are part of the whole ecosystem on this planet, we are unique but not perfect.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-12-19

insightful, intricate, interesting

Upon experiencing this tale of human shortcomings, i find myself struck with the Beauty of human existence. We are not perfect, we will never be perfect. Un-perfection is in our very blueprint as of now.
In our society where we always strive for perfection, it is encouraging that it can never be reached, and that we may just let loose of the Gas-Pedal from time to time!