Evolutionary Nostalgia

Feb 25 2013 @ 7:51am

Marlene Zuk contemplates what she calls our “paleofantasies”, the “idea that our modern lives are out of touch with the way human beings evolved and that we need to redress the imbalance”:

If they had known about evolution, would our cave-dwelling forebears have felt nostalgia for the days before they were bipedal, when life was good and the trees were a comfort zone? Scavenging prey from more-formidable predators, similar to what modern hyenas do, is thought to have preceded, or at least accompanied, actual hunting in human history. Were, then, those early hunter-gatherers convinced that swiping a gazelle from the lion that caught it was superior to that newfangled business of running it down yourself? And why stop there? Why not long to be aquatic, since life arose in the sea? In some ways, our lungs are still ill suited to breathing air. For that matter, it might be nice to be unicellular: After all, cancer arises because our differentiated tissues run amok. Single cells don’t get cancer.

She zooms out:

It’s common for people to talk about how we were “meant” to be, in areas ranging from diet to exercise to sex and family. Yet these notions are often flawed, making us unnecessarily wary of new foods and, in the long run, new ideas.