April 6, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

How to Be a Meat-Head Though Smart

Answer: Become a Darwinist. It allows you to show off vocabulary and biology while making up silly stories.

Why are smart people intelligent? According to three professors at Tel-Aviv University in Israel (who by all appearances are smart guys) it’s because humans love to eat meat and fat. It won’t do you any good to ditch the vegetables, though, because the paleo diet only helped your distant ancestors two million Darwin Years ago. The paleo diet gave them big brains. There’s a delayed reaction to natural selection, you understand; we’re stuck with the big brains our forefathers bequeathed to us. This explains why vegetarians can be smart, too; evolution has not had time to shrink their brains.

Other archaeological evidence — like the fact that specialized tools for obtaining and processing vegetable foods only appeared in the later stages of human evolution — also supports the centrality of large animals in the human diet, throughout most of human history.

The profs claim to

show that humans were an apex predator for about two million years. Only the extinction of larger animals (megafauna) in various parts of the world, and the decline of animal food sources toward the end of the stone age, led humans to gradually increase the vegetable element in their nutrition, until finally they had no choice but to domesticate both plants and animals — and became farmers.

If this hypothesis sounds silly, it is. A thinking reader might ask why, if hominids had big brains for two million years, they didn’t develop rocket ships a long time ago. The thinking reader might also ask why other carnivorous animals do not necessarily have big brains. Another might wonder why human brains have not shrunk if they started eating more vegetables 85,000 years ago. The authors admit numerous exceptions and potential criticisms of their hypothesis. One thing they do demonstrate, however, is that academic brains correlate well with bombast.

Chuck in the Box

“Our study addresses a very great current controversy — both scientific and non-scientific,” says Prof. Barkai. “For many people today, the Paleolithic diet is a critical issue, not only with regard to the past, but also concerning the present and future. It is hard to convince a devout vegetarian that his/her ancestors were not vegetarians, and people tend to confuse personal beliefs with scientific reality. Our study is both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. We propose a picture that is unprecedented in its inclusiveness and breadth, which clearly shows that humans were initially apex predators, who specialized in hunting large animals. As Darwin discovered, the adaptation of species to obtaining and digesting their food is the main source of evolutionary changes, and thus the claim that humans were apex predators throughout most of their development may provide a broad basis for fundamental insights on the biological and cultural evolution of humans.

Ah yes. Darwin the Joker makes his appearance, snickering, “You are what you eat” and “Have some more nuts, meathead.”

The authors’ press release, reprinted dutifully by Science Daily, asserts that “Humans were apex predators for two million years.” That’s a headline sure to boost the self-esteem of moderns: I’m descended from apex predators! I’m king of the jungle! And why were humans apex predators? The subtitle answers: “What did our ancestors eat during the stone age? Mostly meat.” Want to be top of the food chain? Eat meat. The early humans must have cornered the meat market, lest the zebras and rhinos become envious and follow their lead.

As the story goes, Miki Ben‚ÄźDor, Raphael Sirtoli and Ran Barkai imagine apes coming down from the trees, finding themselves hungry in the savannas. Evolution gave them strong shoulders for throwing spears. They went after the big game first: elephants and other “megafauna” loaded with meat and fat. Those pre-human brains got larger until the megafauna ran out. That’s why Neanderthals had brain sizes larger than ours even when they started having some vegetables as a side dish. See how reasonable the story is? It’s like the Three Little Pigs.

The paper in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology (5 March 2021) looks very science-like. The authors know their organic chemistry, physiology of nutrition, and human genetics. They know how to organize facts and combine independent lines of evidence to support a hypothesis, and deal with possible criticisms. As experts in Jargonwocky, they speak with erudite vocabulary. The overall presentation of their just-so story is quite impressive, with tables showing all the evidence proving that humans are meatheads.

In a process unprecedented in its extent, Dr. Ben-Dor and his colleagues collected about 25 lines of evidence from about 400 scientific papers from different scientific disciplines, dealing with the focal question: Were stone-age humans specialized carnivores or were they generalist omnivores? Most evidence was found in research on current biology, namely genetics, metabolism, physiology and morphology.

And yet the big list of interdisciplinary evidence is often circumstantial and inferential. For instance, they claim that acid levels in the human stomach (today) provide evidence of our ancestors’ meat diet (millions of years ago):

Producing and maintaining strong acidity require large amounts of energy, and its existence is evidence for consuming animal products. Strong acidity provides protection from harmful bacteria found in meat, and prehistoric humans, hunting large animals whose meat sufficed for days or even weeks, often consumed old meat containing large quantities of bacteria, and thus needed to maintain a high level of acidity.

The same evidence, however, could be adduced to support omnivory. Humans today like to eat a variety of foods but have strong stomach acid. If strong stomach acid works against omnivory or vegetarianism, wouldn’t evolution have diluted it long before now? We aren’t eating mammoths any more. Where is that “selective pressure” to remove a large investment of energy for something useless or harmful?

Evolution is, as expected, the key to the story. The authors mention the e-word in their open-access paper 55 times. They never show what mutations were selected at the genetic level to endow humans with strong shoulders or strong stomach acid or bigger skulls to accommodate their growing brains. No; they merely speak of “selective pressures” that would have given humans the traits they needed to hunt megafauna. They figure that whatever a creature needs, natural selection will supply at the right time.

How many thousands of years did those ancestors starve to death before one of them evolved a shoulder able to throw a spear that could puncture an elephant? How many years did they starve before one of them evolved a brain that knew how to make a spear point sharp enough? The authors don’t even think of such questions. Putting on their Darwin dunce caps (30 March 2021), they assume that traits will “emerge” when they are needed.

The assumption that Darwin’s mechanism works miracles (12 Feb 2013, 21 Feb 2014) makes smart people act stupid. Evolutionists are not born stupid; they become stupid because they are lazy. Since Darwin made it possible to explain anything by saying “It evolved,” he created a global market for storytellers (25 June 2014). Storytelling is much easier than coming up with rigorous explanations using logic and reason. Notice how much easier it is than wading through millennia of philosophical treatises about human intelligence and the human brain’s uniqueness. When asked, “Why do humans have big brains?” they can just say, “They ate a lot of meat.” It takes a meathead to know one. Maybe they are trying to justify their love for mammoth burgers.

Hidden under all the Darwin silliness is the assumption that humans are mere animals (see 3 April 2021). If that is their belief, then writing silly scientific papers is a consequence of their diet. Isn’t that what Darwin told them? “As Darwin discovered, the adaptation of species to obtaining and digesting their food is the main source of evolutionary changes, and thus the claim that humans were apex predators throughout most of their development may provide a broad basis for fundamental insights on the biological and cultural evolution of humans.” We leave it as an exercise to determine whether Ben-dor, Sirtoli and Barkai have lately been binging on bananas, nuts or Darwine.

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