"Paleofantasy", Marlene Zuk on Atheists Talk

Oh, poor humanity. Poor, poor us, stuck in a world for which we are so ill-suited, better fitted by our genes for using crude stone tools than our modern technologies, haunted by ancient instincts, slowly being killed by our strange habitat and behavior. Or maybe not.

In her new book, Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live, evolutionary biologist and behavioral ecologist Marlene Zuk takes the stories we are told about how our deep ancestry determines the way we are and puts them under the microscope. They frequently come up lacking, but along the way, Zuk provides an entertaining education about our paleolithic and more recent pasts.

Join us this Sunday, when Dr. Zuk shatters our myths about our past and gives us something more interesting to replace them with–the truth.

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"Paleofantasy", Marlene Zuk on Atheists Talk
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3 thoughts on “"Paleofantasy", Marlene Zuk on Atheists Talk

  1. 1

    I’ve knapped stone tools. I’d rather do that than deal with IT any time of the week.

    (That’s perhaps a tad unfair. Legal, HR, and Communications departments are each a little slice of hell on earth too.)

  2. 2

    This is one of those ideas that starts out OK, but rapidly descends into the crazy.

    Yes, some behaviors in humans are hard-wired. Even, dare I say it, some social behaviors. Heck we’re probably the most social of the primate species out there. Yes, humans need to get together to mate and we clearly have a ton of unconscious things we do that were slowly built up over millions of years.

    Yes, our teeth evolved to handle certain things. Yes, we lost body hair for a reason. Yes, our digestive systems and stomachs can tell you that we’re omnivores rather than exclusive vegetarians a la gorillas.


    No, that doesn’t mean that 1950s social roles — or any others — were hard-wired in the way that the paleo crowd seems to think. One of the defining features of humans is flexibility. We’re better than any other primate species at changing behaviors when they become ill-adapted to our situation. Even our social structures which all share some broad features are remarkably varied within that framework.

    No, just because an anatomical feature is best suited to situation A doesn’t mean it is ill-suited to every other. Rats and humans have teeth designed for very different things but both are generalists. All that horsepucky about paleo diets ignores this kind of simple fact.

    It’s like they tok some sound scientific — and largely uncontroversial — facts and went hog wild on the crazy train.

  3. 3

    Paleodiets: The amount of energy you expend to chew raw meat (and the time your mouth is occupied while you do this) can help you lose weight as you scramble to maintain nutritional and caloric intake. True Story!*

    *Not intended to be a factual account.

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