Life as We Made It

Pages: 352
Subject: Science
Imprint: Oneworld

Life as We Made It

How 50,000 years of human innovation refined – and redefined – nature

Beth Shapiro

A leading biologist looks at how humans have meddled with evolution throughout history - and what we will do next
9781786079404 (21 Oct 2021)
RRP £18.99

The Book

From the very first dog to glowing fish and designer pigs - the human history of remaking nature.

Virus-free mosquitoes, resurrected dinosaurs, designer humans - such is the power of the science of tomorrow. But this idea that we have only recently begun to manipulate the natural world is false. We've been meddling with nature since the last ice age. It's just that we're getting better at it - a lot better.

Drawing on decades of research, Beth Shapiro reveals the surprisingly long history of human intervention in evolution through hunting, domesticating, polluting, hybridizing, conserving and genetically modifying life on Earth. Looking ahead to the future, she casts aside the scaremongering myths on the dangers of interference, and outlines the true risks and incredible opportunities that new biotechnologies will offer us in the years ahead. Not only do they present us with the chance to improve our own lives, but they increase the likelihood that we will continue to live in a rich and biologically diverse world.

Additional Information

Subject Science
Pages 352
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Beth Shapiro is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz. She has appeared on the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery, and written for the Financial Times and Observer. She is the author of the award-winning How to Clone a Mammoth


‘A brilliant combination of science, natural history, and first-person experience, Life as We Made It shows how our species has been manipulating nature for nearly as long as we've been around. Anyone who wants to better understand the future of life - human and otherwise - should read this book.'

- Jennifer Doudna, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

‘For the past two decades, Beth Shapiro has pioneered using ancient DNA to understand the diversity of life. In Life as We Made It, her twin passions for cutting-edge science and natural history leap from every page. This book will entertain and challenge you to think in new ways about our role in the future of life on Earth.'

- Neil Shubin, evolutionary biologist and author of Your Inner Fish

‘Very few people write about the insane complexities and power of biology with greater clarity, insight and levity than Beth Shapiro.'

- Adam Rutherford, author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

‘In this brilliant new book, biologist Beth Shapiro tells the incredible story of how we're remaking much of nature and lays out a thoughtful path for how we can survive and thrive by learning to more wisely apply our god-like powers.'

- Jamie Metzl, author of Hacking Darwin

‘Shapiro chronicles the many ways humans have influenced the evolutionary trajectories of other species, from prehistory through the present day. Tools like CRISPR are just the latest way we have shaped the life on this planet. She effectively makes the case that our use of evolution as a tool is ethically acceptable, if done carefully and with informed consent.'

- Emma Marris, author of Wild Souls

‘Throughout our existence, humans have been unconscious genetic engineers. In this excellent summary of the most exciting parts of 21st-century biology, Beth Shapiro shows how we have inadvertently shaped the natural world, producing extinctions and slowly altering domestic animals. Above all, she optimistically describes how we might be able to use our new conscious ability to engineer genomes to save species and deliberately change the world for the better.'

- Professor Matthew Cobb, University of Manchester

‘An engaging account of how our ancestors' actions, over tens of thousands of years, ended up modifying our genomes and those of countless other species, a thanksgiving for the beauty and bounty wrought by these changes, and a thoughtful, refreshingly optimistic anticipation of what is to come as we, one way or another, exert ever greater control over evolution.'

- Austin Burt, professor of evolutionary genetics, Imperial College London

‘[a] fun-filled survey… Shapiro's anecdotes are full of energy… Perfect for fans of Mary Roach, this is science writing with much to savour.'

- Publishers Weekly

‘Shapiro does an excellent job of showing that the realities of genuine science can be as exciting as the fantasies of science fiction.'

- Daily Mail on How to Clone a Mammoth

‘The science is fascinating.'

- Financial Times on How to Clone a Mammoth