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How much difference did meat-eating make to human evolution?


A new study calls the claim that meat-eating was really important into question:

There’s a widespread belief that eating meat became much more common with the advent of big-brained Homo erectus, two million years ago, based on increased archaeological evidence of meat-eating from that point.

But new research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has called that belief into question, suggesting that the numbers don’t quite add up.

“Generations of paleoanthropologists have gone to famously well-preserved sites in places like Olduvai Gorge looking for — and finding — breathtaking direct evidence of early humans eating meat, furthering this viewpoint that there was an explosion of meat-eating after two million years ago,” says Dr Andrew Barr, assistant professor of anthropology at George Washington University, US, and lead author on the paper.

“However, when you quantitatively synthesise the data from numerous sites across eastern Africa to test this hypothesis, as we did here, that ‘meat made us human’ evolutionary narrative starts to unravel.”

Ellen Phiddian, “Did meat-eating really play a big role in human evolution?” at Cosmos Magazine (January 25, 2022)

The dates examined range from 1.2 million years ago to 2.6 million years ago.

The paper is closed access but here’s the Significance statement:


Many quintessential human traits (e.g., larger brains) first appear in Homo erectus. The evolution of these traits is commonly linked to a major dietary shift involving increased consumption of animal tissues. Early archaeological sites preserving evidence of carnivory predate the appearance of H. erectus, but larger, well-preserved sites only appear after the arrival of H. erectus. This qualitative pattern is a key tenet of the “meat made us human” viewpoint, but data from sites across eastern Africa have not been quantitatively synthesized to test this hypothesis. Our analysis shows no sustained increase in the relative amount of evidence for carnivory after the appearance of H. erectus, calling into question the primacy of carnivory in shaping its evolutionary history.

On the whole, lots of things are easier to get hold of than meat (eggs and fish come to mind).

You may also wish to read: Human evolution at your fingertips

This finding reminds me of the refutation of the 'savanna hypothesis' which held that upright walking originated because grasslands expanded and forests shrank and it was (supposedly) more energetically efficient to walk upright:
Energy Efficiency Doesn’t Explain Human Walking? Sept. 17, 2012 Excerpt: Why hominids evolved upright walking is one of the biggest questions in human evolution. One school of thought suggests that bipedalism was the most energetically efficient way for our ancestors to travel as grasslands expanded and forests shrank across Africa some five million to seven million years ago. A new study in the Journal of Human Evolution challenges that claim, concluding that the efficiency of human walking and running is not so different from other mammals. Physiologists Lewis Halsey of the University of Roehampton in England and Craig White of the University of Queensland in Australia compared the efficiency of human locomotion to that of 80 species of mammals, including monkeys, rodents, horses, bears and elephants.,,, To evaluate whether energy efficiency played a role in the evolution of upright walking, Halsey and White note that hominids should be compared to their closest relatives. For example, if human walking is more efficient than chimpanzee walking than you would expect based on chance alone, then it lends support to the energy-efficiency explanation. But that’s not what the researchers found. In fact, the energetic differences between humans and chimpanzees are smaller than the differences between very closely related species that share the same type of locomotion, such as red deer versus reindeer or African dogs versus Arctic foxes. In some cases, even different species within the same genus, such as different types of chipmunks, have greater variation in their walking efficiencies than humans and chimps do. http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/hominids/2012/09/energy-efficiency-doesnt-explain-human-walking/ Another Difficulty with Darwinian Accounts of How Human Bipedalism Developed - David Klinghoffer - February 21, 2013 Excerpt: A Darwinian evolutionary bedtime story tells of how proto-man achieved his upright walking status when the forests of his native East Africa turned to savannas. That was 4 to 6 million years ago, and the theory was that our ancestors stood up in order to be able to look around themselves over the sea of grasslands, which would have been irrelevant in the forests of old. A team of researchers led by USC's Sarah J. Feakins, writing in the journal Geology, detonate that tidy explanation with their finding that the savannas, going back 12 million years, had already been there more than 6 million years when the wonderful transition to bipedalism took place ("Northeast African vegetation change over 12 m.y."). http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/02/another_difficu069411.html
further notes refuting the 'narrative' of human evolution:
Fossil Record refutes human evolution https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/at-fox-news-adam-and-eve-are-compatible-with-evolution/#comment-744141 The evidence from genetics, directly contrary to what Darwinists claim, simply does not support the Darwinian ‘narrative’. https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/evangelical-scientists-getting-it-wrong/#comment-740245 Darwinists simply have no evidence that morphology, and/or biological form, is reducible to mutations to DNA. https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/evangelical-scientists-getting-it-wrong/#comment-740247 Population Genetics falsifies Darwinian claims for human evolution https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/christian-darwinists-must-now-backtrack-re-adam-and-eve/#comment-741335 Human exceptionalism falsifies Darwinian claims for human evolution https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/evangelical-scientists-getting-it-wrong/#comment-740249 Darwinists, (in what makes the ‘problem’ of explaining the origin of the human species pale in comparison), have no clue whatsoever why I, as an individual person, should even come into existence as a person with unique individual subjective conscious experience https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/casey-luskin-the-mytho-history-of-adam-eve-and-william-lane-craig/#comment-740568
Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
January 26, 2022
01:10 AM
Such a pile of false assumptions! In fact, brain size is only loosely correlated with intelligence. In fact, life seeks inefficiency, not efficiency. In fact you can get enough protein from vegetable sources. I wonder if the NECESSITY of red meat is another Darwin leftover. British aristocrats traditionally eat nothing but meat, and can't imagine a diet without roast beef, kidney, liver, brains, tongue, haggis, blood pudding, etc.polistra
January 25, 2022
11:09 PM

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