Paleo Fantasies: Debunking The Carnivore Ape Narrative

Every two years or so I notice a cyclical trend in the online “paleo” community. It’s the resurgence of dogmatic carnivory. It has two main themes: plants are “poisons” that cause most of our health problems and humans “evolved to be” very low carb. Always an undercurrent with some very zealous devotees (“The Bear” of Grateful Dead fame was probably one of its most prominent popularizers), it suddenly finds popularity among normally more moderate people, picking up some non-paleo low-carb followers in the process.


I guess I’m kind of late to the party on reviewing this book, but I actually haven’t noticed a lot of reviews of it, which is surprising given the amount of buzz the articles about it generated. I also suspect some reviewers didn’t actually read it, since they seemed abnormally fixated on defending their paleo diet, when the book only has two out of ten chapters devoted solely to diet and covers many other topics.

Breaking Up with Paleo

 I occasionally get emails and tweets admonishing me for being hostile to paleo and low-carb, having moved on and having to take a glancing blow behind me. It’s not an unfamiliar experience– I received the same when I stopped being vegan.

The truth is that I’m not hostile to paleo, low-carb, or vegan. All three represent food subcultures that taught me a lot about food and how it affects my health. I am thankful for that. Unfortunately all have quasi-religious underpinnings that can be detrimental to health. They are also hostile to critics.

The Grazing Primates

 I've seen the idea that there are no primates adapted to eating grains, but actually there is a primate that is better adapted to such a diet than any others. It's the gelada (Theropithecus gelada), which lives only in the Ethopian highland grasslands. The gelada is the only living member of genus the Theropithecus. Several larger gelada species once roamed most of Africa, including the terrifying giant gelada, which was around the size of a modern gorilla.

Evolution is True, Evolution is Important

 I want to explore the evolution of the evolutionary nutrition concept and how evolution was lost from it.

Uses and misuses of evolutionary biology 2

 In my last post, I wrote about how it's impossible for epigenetic changes from very cold environments 3-4 billion years ago to have been conserved. Somehow people thought I was accusing Dr. Kruse of making up cold-adapted monkey ancestors or something. 

Uses and misuses of evolutionary biology 1

 In my last post on the subject of Dr. Jack Kruse, AKA, The Quilt, I briefly touched on the misuse of the ideas of quantum theory. Not long after, the WSJ had an excellent article on the mis-use of that subject. 

Ancestral Health Symposium Talk!

 I usually don't like to watch people speak about stuff. Maybe that's why I almost never went to lectures in college. I prefer to read things. As Data from Star Trek might say, I find it to be the most efficient form of assimilating information. So you can watch my talk on Vimeo thanks to AHS, but if you read much faster (or you are hearing impaired), you can read the transcript below, which was donated by Averbach Transcription, which is run by a paleo enthusiast and you should consider hiring him if you need a transcript:

John Hawks and celiac disease

 A poor evolutionary nutrition narraive posits that because we didn't have X food in the paleolithic, we are maladapted to it. I think Mat Lalonde covered issues with this nicely at AHS and in the latest Paleo Solution podcast. 

Here is a funny twist to the story if it turns out to be true:

Babies need their mothers, science confirms this, but medicine lags behind

 Some of my readers might be interested in The Atlantic's debate on "alternative medicine." Reading it, what amused me is that opponents of alternative medicine accuse it of not being "evidence-based." Unfortunately our "normal medicine" isn't really evidence-based either. What doctors and hospitals do often seems more about the status quo than science. That explains why my sister (a biologist) and I are not exactly our doctor's favorite patients.