21 December 2008

NONMEAT-CENTERED PALEOANTHROPOLOGY

Vegetarians take note: http://review.ucsc.edu/fall07/text.asp?pid=1631

As a vegetarian for 38 years, it has always been problematic for me to explain how the nonmeat diet fits in the evolutionary sequence. Until recently most paleoanthropologists believed that the explosion of evolutionary change that took place more than two million years ago which moved hominins away from their anthropoid cousins (chimpanzees and gorillas) and saw increases in brain and body size and bipedalism, was due to the growing importance of meat in the diet. As a professor said to me about 25 years ago while looking directly in my eyes, "Lee, your kind are an evolutionary dead end." Of course, he meant that I was also a dead end, a loser in the survival-of-the-fittest struggle! I have patiently awaited the time when there would be scientific movement away from "Man, the Hunter" and "Man, the Meat Eater" thesis. Evidently, that time has finally arrived.

Prof. Nathaniel Dominy (the anthropologist in the article) does not, as far as I know, talk about vegetarianism. To be sure, he also is not claiming that early hominins were vegetarian, but that they needed a readily available energy and nutrient source, and that hunting is NOT sufficiently efficient for that practice to have supplied enough nutrients. He says the critical food source was under their feet as Underground Storage Organs: roots, tubers, bulbs--what he calls a goldmine for early development of hominins.

I'm feeling some confirmation of a diet that I chose long ago for reasons environmental, healthful, ethical--and now genetic and evolutionary!

For further explanation, go to this link: http://www.ucsc.edu/news_events/press_releases/text.asp?pid=1643

1 comment:

Jenny said...

It's great to remind people of that fruitful discovery. Unpopular information like 'man evolved by eating potatoes rather than being a great hunter' is easily lost under the weight of information we are constantly exposed to.
It's value in opening us up to a broader, more empathic relationship with ourselves and the world around us is even more vital at this time in humanity's development.