Illuminating Human Nature: Professor Nathan Lents on Evolutionary Errors & What They Tell Us About Who We Are [#2]

“There really isn’t any aspect of our lives … that isn’t in some way informed by our evolutionary past.”

The more I study human nature, the more I find myself returning to the subject of evolution. This is no surprise—after all, human evolution is the study of why we are the way we are.

Many books about evolution like to talk about evolution’s great successes. But for this episode of the podcast, professor Nathan Lents joins me to talk about a neglected side of evolution—it’s failures.

Nathan’s work has appeared in Scientific American, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other notable publications. He also runs the Human Evolution Blog and is the host of the This World of Humans podcast.

Nathan’s new book is Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, From Pointless Bones to Broken Genes.


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Transcript & Notes

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Some topics we talked about:

  • What evolution can tell us about human nature
  • The three main “buckets” of evolutionary flaws
  • Some fascinating glitches in the human anatomy, including inverted sinuses and excessively long nerves
  • Why the human species gets so sick so easily
  • The “grandmother hypothesis”
  • Why talking about evolutionary flaws is not a depressing story but an uplifting one
  • Why—despite all our our problems—Nathan remains optimistic about the future of humanity