It is always a happy occasion when the newspapers report something both true and, by reason of its truth, annoying to progressives. Thus the article in the Washington Post about the benefits of eating meat for man’s evolution.
The brain absorbs 20% of our food energy. To feed the brain you have find an efficient way to harvest energy. A gorilla chews leaves for 12 hours a day, and to gain the extra calories to feed a brain our size he would have to chew for another 2 hours a day (study shows). Accordingly, the path to getting out of the jungle and reaching all parts of the globe is to start eating meat. Otherwise we would be stuck chewing leaves for 14 hours a day in isolated pockets of African forest.
Which is obviously what happened. During the last ice age, which only ended about 11,000 years ago (9,000 if you live in Canada, and it still is not over in Greenland) the African continent dessicated, opening up savanna grasslands and forcing forests into retreat. Some apes got down out of the trees and ventured into open, dangerous country.
Since our evolutionary path has travelled through hunting in groups and fire making, it can be safely observed that we made it through the evolution-forcing changes. When did we actually begin to cook with fire? Opinion is divided.
But the researchers could not determine when daily cooking began. Was it about 250,000 years ago, when humans were nearly fully evolved with big brains, which is supported by archaeological findings? Or was it about 800,000 years ago, when prehumans began their most dramatic brain-growth spurt, an era for which there is little archaeological evidence of controlled fires for cooking?
Cooking food has been integral to extracting more food value out of roots and tubers, and in shortening our guts, since cooking both alters the food we eat for the better, and allows more speedy digestion as cooking is, in effect, a form of digestion exterior to the body.
A book called Catching Fire, by the British primatologist Richard Wrangham, makes this point. Wrangham’s book is modest, slim, factual and utterly persuasive.
So, what have we learned today?
1) eating meat helped mankind evolve big brains,
2) big brains, meat eating and fire co-evolved
3) eating raw vegetables reduces you to the state of a gorilla.
Don’t eat raw vegetables!
Okay, maybe conclusion 3 is unwarranted, but why risk it?