"adaptation" to non-natural dietary items impossible?

Mary K.Kuhner mkkuhner at kingman.genetics.washington.edu
Tue Sep 5 13:27:02 EST 2000

In article <8p3cc9$80i$1 at mercury.hgmp.mrc.ac.uk>,
Warren Gallin  <wgallin at gpu.srv.ualberta.ca> wrote:

>Laurie wrote:

>>     As an experimental/experiential dietary researcher, I frequently have
>> conversations with people who make always-unsupported claims that although
>> the human is a frugivorous ape, we "adapted" to animal flesh and cooked food
>> in the relatively short time that such practices have been in vogue.

>How sure are we that the human is a frugiverous ape?  If this statement
>is not true then the rest of the discussion is not very relevant.

_Chimpanzees of the Tai Forest_ documents extensive hunting of colubus
monkeys by wild chimpanzees.  (The descriptions of hunting techniques,
and specifically how hunting is taught, are fascinating--I highly recommend
the book.)  Since chimpanzees are currently thought to be our closest
living relatives, it strikes me as fairly likely that our common ancestor
with the chimpanzees ate meat.  This would make the trait at least
5-6 million years old.

Furthermore, I don't see any reason to suppose that dietary adaptation is
slow.  Dairy farming peoples have a much higher level of lactose tolerance
than others, yet dairy farming is a fairly recent invention.  Pima and Inuit
have a noticably different reaction to dietary sugars, and so forth.  These
groupings are less than 200,000 years old by current theories of human
population expansion, yet they show dietary adaptation.  Fire use and
meat eating are definitely older.

There may be solid reasons to eat a vegetarian diet, but I think that 
arguing that humans are not adapted to be able to eat meat flies in
the face of a lot of evidence.  It sounds like an ideologically motivated

Mary Kuhner mkkuhner at genetics.washington.edu


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