Please consider registering

sp_LogInOut Log In sp_Registration Register

Register | Lost password?
Advanced Search

— Forum Scope —

— Match —

— Forum Options —

Minimum search word length is 3 characters - maximum search word length is 84 characters

sp_Feed Topic RSS sp_TopicIcon
Big Brains Require An Explanation, Part VI: Why Learning Is Fundamental, Even For Australopithecines
sp_BlogLink Read the original blog post
April 17, 2012
5:00 am

@Eddie, Indian caste system is quite complex and is not based on color (Though there are more dark in lower caste then upper). So even though people preferred paler skin it didn't turned into actual marriages (Everyone had small number to choose from). So historically caste was main deterrent in selection by color.

April 17, 2012
7:14 am

Lol! Wonderful quotes, thank you. ūüôā It's true, when studying a lot of history on my own, I come to two conclusions: First, that nobody in school has a clue what they're talking about... they're barely touching the surface of events. Second, that none of us really know exactly what happened, and all the fun is in figuring it out!

April 20, 2012
12:47 pm
Forum Posts: 2045
Member Since:
February 22, 2010
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline


John Taylor Gatto has a lot to say about the education issue.

And yes, it would be much better and more interesting to discuss multiple interpretations!  For example, using both a standard history text and Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" in parallel.


April 29, 2012
12:08 am


Stephan just had an interesting series on Otzi. he thinks that after 5k-10k year, the agriculturists gene would be favored by natural selection. so much that all Europeans carry

April 30, 2012
11:40 pm
Forum Posts: 2045
Member Since:
February 22, 2010
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline


I know where he's going...he probably just read "The 10,000 Year Explosion".  

So: what exactly does "agriculturalist genes" mean?  It means that southern Europeans are, genetically, closer to Middle Easterners who took up farming ~10KYA (exception: the Basque) -- and northern Europeans are, genetically, closer to local hunter-gatherers who took up some amount of farming much more recently.

Several subjects to keep in mind:

First, he's talking about the difference between 10 thousand years ago and 3-5 thousand years ago -- compared to ~6 million years of hominin evolution, and 3.4 million years of well-established meat-eating.  The differences are small except in a few narrowly defined categories such as disease resistance, lactase persistence, and a lower frequency of the HLA MHCs associated with celiac.

Then, remember that "anatomically modern humans" first appear between 200 KYA and 100 other words, our ancestors were archaeologically indistinguishable from modern humans for 20-40x the span of time in question.

Moving on: natural selection doesn't care if you're happy or optimal: it cares who reproduces more successfully.  1000 sick farmers were, on average, more successful than 50 healthy hunter-gatherers, and generally replaced them by force.  (The archaeological evidence is 100% clear on this point: in every case for which we have evidence, the transition to agriculture was a health catastrophe, resulting in sickness, deformity, and short lifespan.  See Jared Diamond's The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race.)

So we have been selected in the few thousand years since agriculture for the traits that help us survive to reproductive age, not those that allow us to live a long, healthy life -- which were selected over millions of years.  People grow up and bear children on a diet of Mountain Dew, Taco Bell, and gas station chili dogs...we're very successful in that regard!  But as we know from our own experience, a paleo diet leaves us healthier and happier, even if we're not necessarily more reproductively successful in the short term.

Finally, it's instructive to remember that Stephan has never been paleo.  At best, he's been a Weston A. Price supporter, very positive on the dietary value of grains and beans (soaked and sprouted, of course), a stance with which I disagree.  (See, for instance, my previous article).  Even with that caveat, I haven't found WHS to be an objective source of information since he left school and began supporting the dogma of his employer (e.g. insulin makes you slim).  As a result, I don't read WHS anymore, and I don't recommend reading it to others.


June 16, 2012
2:06 pm
Paul N


Fascintating series (and website - first time reader here).

Your last reply to J Stanton triggered a memory I had of a paper that offered an alternate hypothesis on why agriculture *and* civilisation was adopted, so widely, and aggressively - despite its negative health benefits.
Wadley and Martin, in 1993, posited that it could have been because wheat, and milk, are *addictive*.

From their paper (

"We have reviewed evidence from several areas of research which shows that cereals and dairy foods have drug-like properties, and shown how these properties may have been the incentive for the initial adoption of agriculture. We suggested further that constant exorphin intake facilitated the behavioural changes and subsequent population growth of civilisation, by increasing people's tolerance of (a) living in crowded sedentary conditions, (b) devoting effort to the benefit of non-kin, and (c) playing a subservient role in a vast hierarchical social structure.

Cereals are still staples, and methods of artificial reward have diversified since that time, including today a wide range of pharmacological and non-pharmacological cultural artifacts whose function, ethologically speaking, is to provide reward without adaptive benefit. It seems reasonable then to suggest that civilisation not only arose out of self-administration of artificial reward, but is maintained in this way among contemporary humans. Hence a step towards resolution of the problem of explaining civilised human behaviour may be to incorporate into ethological models this widespread distortion of behaviour by artificial reward."

Not only are the people who eat wheat addicted to it, but those that govern them (who usually ate less bread and more meat and veg) are addicted to their power over the wheat eating populace.

Of course, the addiction theme was taken up by Dr Davis in Wheat Belly, and many who have gone off wheat, myself included, go through minor withdrawal symptoms.

The myriad ways that food has shaped our evolution and civilisation are fascinating. It is only in the fossil fuel age that food has been knocked off its perch as the most important commodity to control/acquire. But even then, our pursuit of fossil energy follows the same pattern as that of food energy - most reward for least effort, but whatever effort is needed, will be made, ahead of anything else.

It is all very interesting!

June 17, 2012
6:55 pm
Forum Posts: 2045
Member Since:
February 22, 2010
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

Paul N:

I connected the same dots independently, last year...and was somewhat disappointed to find, upon searching for references, that Wadley and Martin had done the same nearly 20 years ago!

I'm sure the reason that their work isn't better known is that it overturns the entire narrative of the origins of civilization and of humans.  If you accept Wadley and Martin, you must also reject the idea that agricultural civilization represents an inevitable and necessary step in human progress...and I think it's safe to say that only a tiny minority are willing to even entertain the concept.

Thank you for contributing: perceptive commenters like yourself are always welcome here!


Forum Timezone: America/Los_Angeles

Most Users Ever Online: 183

Currently Online:
2 Guest(s)

Currently Browsing this Page:
1 Guest(s)

Member Stats:

Guest Posters: 1766

Members: 5359

Moderators: 0

Admins: 1

Forum Stats:

Groups: 1

Forums: 2

Topics: 250

Posts: 7104

Administrators: J. Stanton: 2045