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Asked at Sapiens: Did Processed Foods Make Us Human?


Well, at least the guy isn’t arguing that processed foods make us inhuman or that turkey dinners kill people. Instead, he tried living off the land in a really big way: (including scrambling up a tree to eat raw eland marrow). Such experiences led him to come up with an interesting theory of human origins:

Schindler’s focus on food processing leads him to diverge from people who make dietary recommendations based on human physiology alone. Some proponents of various diets point out, for example, that humans lack carnivores’ sharp teeth to rip flesh from bone or great apes’ expansive colons for digesting masses of raw plants. They then conclude that people should not eat certain foods, such as meat or grains.

But in Schindler’s view, “we have no biological business eating almost any food we eat.” Instead, he explains, our ancient ancestors outsourced hunting and digesting prowess to our technologies. As a result, over millions of years, our teeth and guts shrank, and our brains and bodies grew. Our food processing technologies, he contends, propelled the evolution of Homo sapiens. He believes more people should look back to ancestral diets to move forward in healthier and more sustainable ways.

“I am confident that the diet that built us as modern Homo sapiens holds the key to continuing to nourish us today,” Schindler says. The essence of that diet lies not in the ingredients—meat, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables—but in how we prepare them. “It’s not about what we eat,” he argues, “so much as it is about how we eat.”

Keridwen Cornelius, “Did Processed Foods Make Us Human?” at Sapiens

Well, read it for yourself and judge. But one thing’s for sure. This is only one of a rather large number of theories as to how we became human. Idling through the files here at UD, one can read about how recursivity, childhood, or a cocktail of brain chemicals, or storytelling did the trick.

No? Well, try these:

Human evolution, we are told, began in a genetic coding error (a doubling error) half a billion years ago. Or else accelerated gene regions (HARs), human specific regulation of neuronal genes, or just plain novel genes are invoked.

In other accounts, humans evolved to “outrun the fastest animals on earth.” Alternatively, parasites made us what we are. One source informs us that men evolved sturdier features due to fighting over women (and beards to demonstrate their ability). We learned to walk upright in order to hit each other.

Ah yes, walking. There is a “uniquely human” way of walking upright and there’s no shortage of theses as to why: carrying infants or scarce resources, and saving energy strut the stage. Or it is due to climate change or rough terrain? Don’t assume a “chimpanzee starting point,” counsels one expert. Talk about advice that peers would be reluctant to heed…

These explanations tell us that bipedalism offers considerable advantages. Yet humans were the only creatures to adopt it with no backward glance. If we ask why that is, we will be rewarded only with announcements of the discovery of further ancient advantages. And on that point, we are already convinced.

Bipedalism, we are told, also resulted in nakedness, because of our need to cool down. But we are assured elsewhere that nakedness evolved as a way of controlling parasites. And another source suggests that “hairier is better” for that purpose.

Similarly, the human hand is simply a byproduct of changes to the shape of our feet. Or maybe not. Did stone tools really change human hands? Darwin speculated on this, which makes the idea canonical today. Curiously, while many claim that apes use and shape tools like humans, few speculate why doing so had no such dramatic effect on their hands.

We are told by others that fighting “may have” shaped the evolution of the human hand. One academic offers, “I think there is a lot of resistance, maybe more so among academics than people in general — resistance to the idea that, at some level humans are by nature aggressive animals.” Resistance? Really? Among academics and pundits, that is surely the conventional view!

And the human brain? Some say we evolved large brains alongside small guts, but another research team found no such correlation. Alternatively, fluid societies (relative to chimps) explains it. And, according to some, mental illness helped. Chimpanzees’ improved skills throwing excrement are also said to provide hints about human brain development. (The ability to throw projectiles at very high speeds is apparently unique to humans.) Our ancestors had to grow bigger brains anyway, we are told, to make axes and hunt something besides elephantsCollective intelligence (“ideas having sex”), whatever that means, has been really important to human evolution as well.

Denyse O’Leary, “Human Origins: The war of trivial explanations” at Evolution News and Science Today: (May 27, 2014)

Still here? If only to get away from all the noise, try Genesis 1-3 😉 Okay, you don’t have to believe it. You’ll sure appreciate the quiet though.

Not necessarily wrong, but hard to prove. Our gut does a good enough job handling raw plants; doesn't really need a lot of help in that department. One thing for sure is that processing (fermentation, salting, drying) made STORAGE possible, and thus allowed humans to spread beyond the tropics. In the last decade or two we've been moving away from storage in all realms. Just-in-time inventory, no interest on savings, no grain elevators. This is dangerously stupid, and the total chaos caused by the current holocaust has exposed the obvious faults. We won't fix the faults. We'll just keep making everything worse. polistra

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