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Harvard Primatologist Says Joys of Barbecue Sparked Evolution

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FarCenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:05 AM
Original message
Harvard Primatologist Says Joys of Barbecue Sparked Evolution
Interview by Zinta Lundborg

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Lying on his living room floor staring into the flames, Harvard professor Richard Wrangham was thinking about the next mornings lecture on evolution when he had his Eureka! moment.

In his book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Wrangham argues that it was not agriculture, tools or meat eating that led to the rise of human beings. The big leap forward came about two million years ago when hominids first discovered the joys of the barbecue.

Were at an Italian eatery in Manhattans Greenwich Village, where Wrangham has ordered, not a salad, but a grilled chicken sandwich for lunch. A primatologist who worked with Jane Goodall, and whos now director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project in Uganda, Wrangham is soon returning to Africa to watch bonobos in the wild.

The first night I sat and really thought about it, I knew this was very big, says Wrangham of his theory. I couldnt believe no one had said it before.

Lundborg: How did cooking speed up human evolution?

Wrangham: You have these two big effects -- you get more energy out of your food, so humans could survive and reproduce faster.

Lundborg: And cooks genes spread?

Wrangham: Right. Cooking also made the food softer, which changed the activity budgets: It reduced chewing time enormously, so suddenly you have individuals who have several extra hours a day to reorganize their lives.

Lundborg: To fool around with tools?

Wrangham: Yes, and to roam farther. It also led to the selection of individuals with smaller guts, which means there is energy to divert to a big brain.
<snip>
Lundborg: You also argue that cooking food led to the creation of patriarchy.

Wrangham: With cooking, people have to keep their food in public view prior to eating. This means that those who are capable of being bullied anyway can lose all of their food to a gang of callous hungry males. Cooking generates a need for social rules. Its a primitive protection racket.

Lundborg: So the human-pair bond is economic rather than sexual?

Wrangham: Whats most cross-culturally consistent is that women always cook for men, and men beat up women if they dont produce the food on time.

<snip> http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aXF...
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joeybee12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:12 AM
Response to Original message
1. Yes, but you needed fire to barbeque, and fire also provided heat and warmth...
...allowing humans to prosper even during harsh weather.
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FarCenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:23 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. It would help, but fire is not very portable
To penetrate harsh climates, you really need clothing. Clothing was a later development that came long after the use of fire.
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:18 AM
Response to Original message
2. mmmmm -- barbeque! but was it dry rub or marinade? nt
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FarCenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:29 AM
Response to Reply #2
8. Since pottery to make bowls had not been invented, I'd guess dry rub.
Although technologically advanced users of hollow gourds might have had marinades.
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:28 PM
Response to Reply #8
34. you may have just discovered why they made hollow gourds to begin with --nt
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Oregone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:18 AM
Response to Original message
3. No more than our unique homicidal bloodlust
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Schema Thing Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:19 AM
Response to Original message
4. so if you hear a southerner say "mmm, those ribs smell so good it'll make ya slap your momma"
it's just biological evolution at work?
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Laelth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:22 AM
Response to Original message
5. That's very interesting. Thanks. k&r n/t
:dem:

-Laelth
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Soylent Brice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:28 AM
Response to Original message
7. he's right, it is odd that no one has ever hypothesized this before.
kick, and thanks for posting!.

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Geoff R. Casavant Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:32 AM
Response to Original message
9. Cooking saved hours each day from having to chew?
What exactly were those early hominids eating, that they spent hours each day just chewing?
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Bonobo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:38 AM
Response to Reply #9
11. Raw meat, grasses, nuts, berries, etc. Humans are opportunistic feeders.
Highly adaptable to different microclimates. We are generalists and it is why we are so successful.
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Geoff R. Casavant Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:26 PM
Response to Reply #11
32. Right, but
which of those food would literally have required hours to chew, as the article says?
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Bonobo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 02:33 PM
Response to Reply #32
41. Raw fatty meat and bones, I would think,
Eskimos work pretty hard at blubber. Fucks up their teeth too.
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EOTE Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:35 AM
Response to Original message
10. Doesn't cooking food reduce the amount of energy you can get out of it?
I heard that a good reason that the Inuit's diet is so focused on raw foods is that their body is more readily able to convert it into warmth and energy. I can see lots of benefits to cooking food, but making the food more energy efficient doesn't seem to be one of them.
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JonQ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:46 AM
Response to Reply #10
12. No, cooking makes it easier to process
breaks down complex chemical bonds and alters the structure of the food makes it more digestible and requires less energy to process it. You get substantially more energy from a pound of cooked steak than a pound of uncooked steak.
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Statistical Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:28 PM
Response to Reply #10
35. Our digestive system is rather primative compared to othert animals.
Without cooking a large portion of the potential energy in food just gets passed right through.
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JonQ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:48 AM
Response to Original message
13. So are vegetarians an evolutionary throwback?
Edited on Wed Aug-19-09 11:49 AM by JonQ
But it does make sense. Most of my good ideas come about when I'm grilling. Of course the alcohol may influence that . . .
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jimcarlton32 Donating Member (14 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:44 PM
Response to Reply #13
18. I think so.
We began advancing a lot more when we injected meat into our diet. For those who choose to be vegan, I say enjoy it. But it was an evolutionary step forward to eating meat, so don't expect me to follow along.
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gatorboy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:50 PM
Response to Reply #18
21. You're still here? Shouldn't you be getting back to that "other place"?
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jimcarlton32 Donating Member (14 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:58 PM
Response to Reply #21
24. I have no clue what you're talking about.
So someone at another website has a similar screen name, big deal. Now can we get back to the discussion please?
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gatorboy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:00 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. That's it. Someone just happens to post under your name on the Conservative Underground
Edited on Wed Aug-19-09 01:05 PM by gatorboy
Such a coincidence! At least you tried to change it.

Yes, please get back to your discussions. ;)

Look, if you didn't want to be outed maybe your first post here shouldn't have been defending racists.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
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Mystayya Donating Member (324 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:30 PM
Response to Reply #13
36. No- because cooking also includes food other then meat.
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JonQ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 02:01 PM
Response to Reply #36
38. But brain development
especially in humans, requires a ready supply of high protein, high fat food, that is hard to get from vegetables, cooked or otherwise. Breast milk works for a while, but not indefinitely. And of course that only shifts the problem elsewhere, meaning the mother needs a source of easily digestible fat and protein.

Of course comparing plant eaters today with plant eaters back then can't be done directly. The plants we eat now have been substantially altered from their natural state to be far more nutritious and beneficial to us than the plants our early ancestors would have been able to scavenge (you don't find many wild broccoli roaming about).

So our ancestors would likely have been unable to achieve the evolutionary jump that they did on plants alone, meat had a huge impact on it. Being a pure vegan today is possible through improved crops, tremendous supplies of food, a less physically demanding lifestyle, tremendous, and unnatural diversity available and vitamin supplements. Vegans just aren't natural I'm afraid.
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blogslut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 11:54 AM
Response to Original message
14. Interesting theory
Thanks for the link. :)
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MGB67 Donating Member (81 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:31 PM
Response to Original message
15. Interesting but....
Edited on Wed Aug-19-09 12:33 PM by MGB67
unfortunately this hypothesis includes the assumption that humans or proto-humans fell from the sky and then invented themselves. The basic societal structure (alpha male etc)was in place long before fire. One could argue effectively that fire served well to improve communication and the exchange of ideas but the group pecking order was already formed and some system of food sharing was a part of that. The process of cooking may have led to some additional organizational activities but did not precede social structure or the ability to think. After all, people (with the exception of *) can think and chew at the same time.

The teaming of scavengers, humans and dogs learning to hunt as a team, was of far greater importance in the evolution of both species. One must have something to cook. The combination of human tool and weapon making with the dogs far keener sense of smell and hearing allowed greater ability to procure meat.

But then I probably think this because I love puppies.
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FarCenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:46 PM
Response to Reply #15
20. Domestication of the wolf and it's "genetic engineering" into the dog occured later
The theory is that wolves were attracted to the garbage dumps adjacent to human settlements. Those that were least afraid of humans prospered on the leavings of humans, which resulted in natural selection of the tamer ones. Eventurally they moved into the dwellings.

Humans probably lived on fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, and nestlings as fresh meat. They could also feast on carrion, and fire would have been useful to drive off other scavengers.

Hunting of larger animals requires effective spears and group tactics, although driving animals over cliffs, etc, are other techniques that have been used.
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MGB67 Donating Member (81 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:21 PM
Response to Reply #20
31. Rudyard Kipling
wrote of domestication process in "The Cat Who Walks By Himself".... quite clever.

There are some theories about (sorry that I do not have sources at hand) that would push the human-dog partnership much farther back than the presumed ten thousand years or so.

Humans ate carrion when they could find it and their ability to swing a sharp cobble at a long bone allowed for the procurement of very high value marrow. Dogs and humans were in competition for the resource base. They knew each other.

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Generic Other Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:37 PM
Response to Original message
16. and bread making led to the development of the civilized state
Nothing new in this theory. Sheesh. Talk about appropriating other scholars' ideas. Levi-Strauss, The Cooked and the Raw, for one.

Read Epic of Gilgamesh. When the savage Enkidu ate cooked and processed food he became civilized!
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havocmom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:39 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. And the turkey sandwich
One of civilization's better inventions.
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Generic Other Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:44 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. And who did the cooking? Bet it wasn't the hunters
The gatherers were the cooks.

Real men didn't BBQ.
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JonQ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 02:22 PM
Response to Reply #19
39. Depends on the culture
but often times yes, women were left at camp, men went out to hunt.

This division of labor was thought to be one aspect that gave us a leg up on the neanderthals, where skeletons of females show similiar injuries to their males indicating a more egalitarian hunting style.

In a small population the loss of even a single female can be substantial, the loss of a single male less so (one male can impregnate multiple women at a time, but one woman can only get pregnant once at a time). Our sexist ancestors may have then had a higher rate of male mortality, but lower rate of female mortality, giving our population a boost over theirs.
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Generic Other Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 04:03 PM
Response to Reply #39
42. What you describe sounds a bit like Utah!
:)
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JonQ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 04:23 PM
Response to Reply #42
44. And mormons have been pretty successful
one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Who knows, that may supplant us one day.
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FarCenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:50 PM
Response to Reply #16
22. Possibly beer came before bread, and beer would certainly have led to civilisation
It is likely that the natural fermentation of sprouted grain would have preceded the more complex use of yeast in making bread.

For bread, you also need enough gluten in the flour.
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Generic Other Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 04:10 PM
Response to Reply #22
43. Makes sense...fermented grain or rotten fruit
doesn't take much to figure out that's fun stuff.
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Kansas Wyatt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 12:53 PM
Response to Original message
23. Kansas City BBQ is the BEST!
Sorry, I just had to say it.
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itsrobert Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:04 PM
Response to Original message
26. This is a load of crap
I'm sure cooking played a role, but did it spark evolution? I think not.
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jimcarlton32 Donating Member (14 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:09 PM
Response to Reply #26
29. Of course not.
Evolution is driven by need. Changes in the environment, need for a leg up in something, things like that. Having more free time, as this person suggests leads more towards things like art, science, etc...

Compair modern humans and the Neandertals. We had better, more efficient tools, and as such we had more free time on our hands. Time spent creating art and and such. When you compaire it to neandertal sites who seemed technologically inferior, there is very few examples of jewelry, art, etc... They had to work harder to get their food, spend more time on it, so they had less time to devote to other things.
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MGB67 Donating Member (81 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:32 PM
Response to Reply #29
37. Neandrthals get a bad rap
Edited on Wed Aug-19-09 01:37 PM by MGB67
The "classic" conception of Neanderthal was based on the partial skeletal remains of an old, arthritic (therefor hunched) indivual.

Actually, Neanderthals had a larger brain case which allowed a larger brain volume dedicated to the senses (rather than the area of ideation). Even so, the first known burials, complete with offerings of flowers, were Neanderthal. That must be the esult of a sophisticated thought process.

Also, evolution is NOT driven by "need". Evolution is ALLOWED by ability, which must precede need. When conditions change there is not much time (in the evolutioary time scale) to get things figured out. If a species is not ready.... they be dead.
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Capn Sunshine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:05 PM
Response to Original message
27. I can totally see that
I've made a good living as a grilling expert :)
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seabeyond Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:08 PM
Response to Original message
28. these "stories" are every bit as made up as the bible, yet we take them as gospel.
they take the cooking of meat and then wrap up a whole story to meet their agenda of patriarchy and is why we are what we are today.

it has really become the new fad the last couple years.

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guitar man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:13 PM
Response to Original message
30. so lightning struck a hickory tree
and the rest is history :P
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DU GrovelBot  Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 01:26 PM
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Papa Boule Donating Member (363 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-19-09 02:31 PM
Response to Original message
40. This explains why AL MS TX GA SC TN LA FL KY AR are so advanced. n/t
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