The Paleo Fantasy – update
Scientists have recently discovered settlements of vegetarian Neanderthals in Europe. It seems that they lived on a plant-based diet and ate no meat at all. This should come as no surprise since everyone from Charles Darwin to Clifford Roberts, the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, to the famous anthropologist Jane Goodall, tells us that we are designed by anatomy and physiology to be vegetarians.
“The human species does not have the physical attributes of a carnivore. If everyone knew and faced up to all the facts, most would either opt for drastically cutting their meat consumption or giving up meat altogether.“
– Jane Goodall, Author of Harvest for Hope
Paleo man didn’t eat as much meat as has been hyped and some ate none at all. Since the mistaken notions and thinking behind the Paleo Diet have continued since our last posting debunking it, we thought we would add a little more refutation to it.
Writing in her book, the Paleofantasy, anthropologist Professor Marlene Zuk, says that the claim that Paleo Man did not consume grains and grain-like plants has been disproven yet again. Analysis of the living sites and bodily remains of people living 30,000 years ago showed considerable use of starchy grains, and the cooking of a kind of pita bread. According to Professor Zuk, the assertion made in the Caveman Diet by Walter Voegtlin, that Paleo Man had a nearly all-meat diet, is untrue.
Furthermore, she explains that the claim that our entire anatomy and physiology changed in this relatively short time period, by evolutionary standards, and that we had any significant capability of obtaining meat, reflects a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Indeed, she explains that what we are able to eat and thrive on depends more on our 30 million plus years of primate history, than the recent, brief period of time.
Perhaps, most importantly, Professor Zuk points out that Paleo man wasn’t particularly healthy, and that the idea of following a high-meat diet should be judged in light of today’s nutritional knowledge.
The famous biology professor, and author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, has also weighed in on the subject. He explains that Paleo man was a relatively poor hunter, even as recently as 100,000 years ago. Yet, in Robert Ardrey’s book, African Genesis, the author portrays paleo man as a successful big game hunter, and Hollywood has been only too willing to reinforce this mistaken notion. Diamond considers this so far off the mark that he terms it “pure fantasy!” Another erroneous notion is that meat somehow gave rise to our extraordinary intelligence. But Professor Diamond goes on to explain that by the time we attained even a modest amount of meat in the diet, our brains were already well evolved.
He discounts Eskimos as an example of paleo living because humanity only reached the arctic in the last few thousand years. Besides we now know, thanks to better data, that the Eskimos weren’t particularly healthy anyway. According to Diamond, even among most of today’s so called hunter gatherer societies, which are quite advanced compared to paleo societies, there’s much more gathering than hunting. In one group in New Guinea, though they talk a good talk, most of the hunters have only gotten two significant animals in their entire life!
Even though ancient man had the ability to consume larger amounts of meat, we now know that they didn’t always do so. New evidence shows some groups of Roman Gladiators ate a vegetarian diet, and so did the ancient Egyptian peasants. The fish and meat were apparently mostly reserved for the elite and the royal. Yet the Gladiators were known for their great strength and the Egyptians built the pyramids.