The Paleolithic diet enthusiasts held their annual symposium at UCLA this summer. These are the folks who believe we should eat a hunter/gatherer diet- with an emphasis on the hunting. So, they extol meat, fish, and eggs. Dairy is a question mark. Many paleos acknowledge that non-human milks did not enter the human diet until after animals were domesticated. One speaker stated that animal milks did not become a factor in human life until about 7500 years ago, and that until rather recently it involved no more than 35% of the human-populated globe. So, milk products usually aren’t considered good paleo foods. However, it seems that a lot of paleos do consume some milk products, and at this symposium, there were even vendors selling milk products. Another questionable item for paleos is fruit. Some paleos eat tons of fruit, but others conceptually combine the paleo diet with the low-carb diet, and consequently, they avoid fruits or just eat them minimally, or they restrict themselves just to sour fruits, such as berries. Of course, non-starchy vegetables are widely accepted by paleos, while starchy vegetables are shunned. Nuts and oil-seeds are generally seen as OK, whereas grains and legumes are condemned in the harshest terms.
Of course, a big problem for paleos is to determine the right proportion between hunting and gathering. Obviously, there is a big difference between a paleo diet that is 90% animal food versus one that is only 10%. But, it’s accurate to say that paleos generally lean towards higher consumption of animal foods. They’re not talking about living on wild celery like gorillas. No, their model is definitely the Caveman- who left images of his giant prey in the caves of Northern Europe. That’s who they are trying to emulate. And they even depicted it graphically. They showed an image of a couple who looked very modern- not at all like cave people. The man was tall and slender and athletic, and the woman was young and svelte and petite. They didn't look like cave people at all- but more like a guy from GQ magazine and a woman from Cosmopolitan. However, they were unclothed, and the man held a spear, and the women held a basket with some leafy stuff in it. So, I guess that made them hunter/gatherers.
The event was called the Ancestral Health Symposium. They seem to think that “ancestral” is a good word, very sellable, and more appealing than paleo. I am not a paleo, but I am sure I would have found the conference interesting. I assure you that I would have attended every lecture, listened carefully, and even taken notes. And maybe someday I will go.
But for now, I just want to post some questions for them that hopefully they can address next year at their next gathering. And these are honest questions; I am not being cynical. These are things that I think about, and I think that they need to think about them. So, here we go:
Question 1: Throughout the conference, there were many references to Evolution. And even in their printed materials, there were frequent references to Evolution. For instance, Professor Loren Cordain called it “the Woodstock of Evolutionary Medicine.” And the subtitle of the symposium was “The Human Evolutionary Niche and Modern Health.” They also talked about “Studying health from an Evolutionary perspective.” So, the Theory of Evolution is something they lean upon very heavily to justify what they espouse. But what I noticed is that at no place and at no point did they acknowledge the existence of any controversy about the Theory of Evolution.
First, I need to explain that there is evolution, and there is Evolution. Small e and big E.
A person may believe in evolution, meaning that he or she believes that life on Earth underwent transitions and that all life forms are connected, and that vast changes took place gradually over eons of time. But when you believe in Evolution, it means that you think you know how those changes took place, what the motor of it all was. And, what the Theory of Evolution contends is that the changes took place- life evolved- because there were random, accidental, haphazard genetic mutations, and that some of those mindless accidental mutations conferred survival advantages (lucky break) that were capitalized on by the affected individuals, who stuck around longer, reproduced more, and passed the trait or traits on to their offspring. In that manner, the trait was said to undergo natural selection. So, random mutations acted on by natural selection was the motor of Evolution- according to the theory.
Let me assure you that these paleos are definitely talking about Evolution with a capital E. They are definitely Darwinists, or you could say Neo-Darwinists, since modern genetic theory did not exist during Darwin’s time. Neo-Darwinism refers to the way in which Darwinism is taught today. And their whole basis for advocating the Caveman diet derives from the Neo-Darwinist Theory of Evolution.
But some people, including myself, do not accept Darwinism or Neo-Darwinism. We do not think that random mutations, even with the help of natural selection, could account for all the changes that life has undergone on Earth. No way. No how. Not possible. And what bothers me about this first Ancestral Health Conference is that they didn’t even acknowledge the existence of any controversy concerning Evolution. But, the Theory of Evolution is the greatest scientific hoax of all time, and I am not the only one who thinks so. Over 600 scientists and mathematicians have signed a “Scientific Dissent from Darwinism” statement, which reads:
"The Scientific Dissent From Darwinism is a short public statement by scientists expressing their skepticism of Neo-Darwinism’s key claim that natural selection acting on random mutations is the primary mechanism for the development of the complexity of life. The full statement reads: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." Prominent scientists who have signed the statement include evolutionary biologist and textbook author Dr. Stanley Salthe; quantum chemist Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia; U.S. National Academy of Sciences member Philip Skell; American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow Lyle Jensen; Russian Academy of Natural Sciences embryologist Lev Beloussov; and geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti, Editor Emeritus of Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum and discoverer of genetic recombination in antibiotic-producing Penicillium and Streptomyces."
So, how could a conference devoted to “Evolutionary Medicine” never even tackle the fundamental question of whether the Theory of Evolution is valid? If you want to believe in it you can, but you cannot be presumptuous about it. There is nothing scientific about that.
So, that’s my first question to the Ancestral Health Society. Why didn’t you address the validity of Evolutionary theory? And are you going to do so next year? And if not, why not?
That is the obvious first question, but I have many more questions for them. Heck, I have enough questions that they could plan their whole next symposium around them, and it would make it very fresh and interesting. So, I hope they get wind of this because I’m really doing them a favor.
This concludes Part 1, but stay with me. We’re going to take this as far as it needs to go.