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Cooking May Have Made Us Human

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the steak-on-the-barbie dept.

Science 253

SpaceGhost writes "Anthropologist Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human believes that the discovery of cooked food led to evolutionary changes resulting in a smaller and different digestive system based on a higher-quality diet, mainly relying on cooked meat. In an interview on NPR's Science Friday (text and audio), Professor Wrangham explores concepts such as the digestive costs of food, the benefits (or lack thereof) of raw diets, and a distinct preference in Great Apes for cooked food over raw."

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Raw food (1)

baka_toroi (1194359) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555061)

That's why can't understand people who eat almost raw meat (I think it's called "Blue rare")

Re:Raw food (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555153)

The best recipe for good quality steak:

Put on a cast iron skillet, and make it very hot. There should be a light hint of smoke coming of it.

Then, get your steak (fresh from the butcher) and put it on your plate. Do this well away from the hot stove.

Turn down the heat under the skillet, take your knife and fork and eat your steak.

Mind, this is for good quality steak only.

Re:Raw food (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555541)

Heat BBQ to 425
Put a lot of pepper and salt on the steaks
Cook ~8 min / side (for 1" thick steak... Touch the steaks and you'll get a feel for how done they are after a few times)

Re:Raw food (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555165)

To each their own, I guess...

I personally can't understand why people like eating leather.

Re:Raw food (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555237)

There are levels in between raw and burnt.

Re:Raw food (4, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555623)

"There are levels in between raw and burnt."

Raw, Warm and Bloody, Medium, Denny's, Burnt

Re:Raw food (2, Funny)

soupforare (542403) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555701)

Denny's serves meat now?

Is it just me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555067)

... or the man just said that primitive humans' diet was predominatly based on cooked meat?

Re:Is it just me... (1)

CDMA_Demo (841347) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556743)

you are right. I'd add that its very disappointing when scientists credit "one" and "only one" event in human evolution being responsible for our humanity -- in the loosest sense of the word -- and no one can agree on what that "one" event was. Fire? Weapons? Warfare?
It seems art students are happier to not have to worry about all this... oh wait.

If you think that through... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555071)

It is utterly improbable.

Re:If you think that through... (4, Informative)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556573)

Actually, it's a widely accepted fact that cooking food vastly increased the amount of calories early man could consume and led directly to the development of higher functions. If anything, this article is about 40-50 years too late to be considered newsworthy.

It changed our relationships with animals as well (4, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555077)

One hypothesis is that domestication of the modern dog came about partially as a result of our ability to cook food. The dog was a better hunter but we could much more easily access the marrow that the dogs wanted; especially after we cook the meat.

Re:It changed our relationships with animals as we (3, Interesting)

hawkfish (8978) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556399)

One hypothesis is that domestication of the modern dog came about partially as a result of our ability to cook food.

Another recent hypothesis is that dogs were domesticated for food. If you look at the genetic diversity of dogs, it is highest in southern China where dogs are still eaten. Archaeological evidence also suggests that the oldest dog bones in the area were butchered.

I don't understand (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555081)

How would our ancestors been able to cook while cavorting with the dolphins [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555919)

I know you're aiming for funny here, but that is also a classic straw man argument. The proponents of the aquatic hypothesis have not claimed that our ancestors didn't use fire, for example within walking distance of any beach or river that they lived next to.

Not Quite. (0)

Capsy (1644737) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555089)

Scientific discoveries that create a better standard of living for people hardly constitutes evolution.

Evolution is defined as "survival of the fittest." Meaning that the person that adapts the best, and lives to reproduce an adaptation via genetics, is evolutionary.

Scientific discovery would actually be a hinderance, logically, to evolution, as it removes the need to adapt to your surroundings. In this case, with cooked food, it reduced the need for the immune system to evolve to prevent illness.

Re:Not Quite. (-1)

markringen (1501853) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555151)

in human evolution survival of the fittest hardly applies, as we aren't the fittest animal out there we simply outthink our enemies which defies survival of the fittest... as the stronger lose when in equal numbers, against a intellectual superior.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

Capsy (1644737) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555175)

The initial story pertains to humans and other primates. But mostly humans. We aren't talking about outsmarting other animals, but rather making scientific discovery into evolution, which is inherintly two different things. My argument still stands.

Re:Not Quite. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555203)

Our ability to think and reason is what makes us the fittest. The concept doesn't just apply to physical traits.

Re:Not Quite. (5, Insightful)

antura (1381003) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555205)

... as we aren't the fittest animal out there we simply outthink our enemies which defies survival of the fittest...

Survival of the fittest, not survival of the strongest. Doesn't intelligence make us humans much more fit to our environment? Why would a human need te be able to run 100km/h when you can drive a car?

Re:Not Quite. (2, Funny)

MrMr (219533) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555285)

You mean gasoline prices are now a driving force for human evolution?

Re:Not Quite. (1)

OnlyPostsWhilstDrunk (1605753) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555721)

I think he's suggesting that coconuts migrate.

Re:Not Quite. (0, Troll)

markringen (1501853) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555305)

fittest is technically speaking physical fitness. and in evolution survival of the fittest does not apply to intellect, as in other species the most intelligent one usually lose (why there are no talking lions (lol).

Re:Not Quite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555393)

Complete rubbish. Intelligence has many uses and survival may very well depend on intelligence, memory etc.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_cognition

Re:Not Quite. (4, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555455)

"Survival of the fittest" means that those survive that are best adopted to their environment, it has nothing to do with fitness, strength or any other property, as properties that might be beneficial in one environment might be useless or even deadly in another.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

markringen (1501853) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555527)

the original use of the phrase, was applied to physical properties not intellectual.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

HopeOS (74340) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555573)

Actually, fitness has a very specific meaning when discussing evolution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitness_(biology) [wikipedia.org] and is similarly applied to genetic algorithms where it's quantified for sorting and culling: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitness_(genetic_algorithm) [wikipedia.org] In both cases, fitness is context, and therefore environment, specific. -Hope

Re:Not Quite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29556195)

Bullshit. Intelligence comes with a cost. It consumes significant amounts of energy and needs a good cooling. These draw backs can easily outweight the benefits.

In fact the only benefit of intellect is that you can adopt to unknown or changing environment. You don't need intellect to hunt in groups, wolves and lions do this too. You don't need intellect to crack nuts, there are lots of mamals and birds capable of that. But you need intellect to start hunting in groups when your favorite nut goes extinct due to climate change.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

mog007 (677810) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556269)

In evolution, fitness has nothing to do with it. It's all about surviving long enough to pass on your genes to the next generation. There are several aspects of intelligence that help in survival. There's communication, and spatial awareness, but there's also problem solving. Any one of those things could have been the spark that allowed an ancient group of apes to survive, and the mutation that allowed them to be more spatially aware than before might have gotten bigger and bigger, until you get something like a human being.

I'm curious about your statement "as in other species the most intelligent one usually lose". What makes you say that? Intelligence is an adaptation that's able to survive environmental changes, which is a much bigger advantage over flight, or speed, or camouflage, or strong jaws.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556779)

As AC says, "Complete rubbish"!

A mere change in coloration can lead to extinction, or dominance in an ecological niche. How exactly, did you arrive at the conclusion that the most intelligent of other species usually dies? Citations, please, or you're talking out your ass.

Re:Not Quite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555753)

Survival of the fittest, not survival of the strongest.

Doesn't intelligence make us humans much more fit to our environment? Why would a human need te be able to run 100km/h when you can drive a car?

Not to detract from your point, but no, IMHO intelligence doesn't make us humans more fit to our environment. It merely enables us to shape our environment so that it fits us better. The end result is the same, but our (presumed ;) intelligence is only indirectly beneficial.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

JAlexoi (1085785) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555289)

Not "fittest" but "most adapted", is the more descriptive term here. And humans are the most adapted creatures on this planet. Even the roach is not as adapted, since we can live in the arctics, they cannot.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

FreeFull (1043860) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555681)

What about plankton? Remember around 70% of Earth's surface is water.

Re:Not Quite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29556427)

Yes, but "plankton" is not a species. The term "plankton" covers a vast range of organisms -- including both plants and animals, even!

Is there any single plankton species that can be found everywhere from the arctic to the equator? I honestly don't know, but I rather suspect that there will be considerable regional variation.

Re:Not Quite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555335)

in human evolution survival of the fittest hardly applies, as we aren't the fittest animal out there we simply outthink our enemies which defies survival of the fittest...

as the stronger lose when in equal numbers, against a intellectual superior.

That's the Conservative political definition of "Survival of the Fittest". Dog-eat-DogItsaJungleOutThere. A blatant perversion of Darwin's statement. If brute force and nastiness were all that defined "fitness", butterflies would drip acid and bunny rabbits would be armour-plated killing machines with razor claws and 6-inch fangs.

Sometimes being cute and fluffy has more survival value (fitness) for a species. Or colourful. Or being able to think. In fact, you name a trait, something out there has probably come up with a way to exploit it for survival value.

That's what I hate about ideological thinking. A hammer mentality in a world with screws, carriage bolts, quick-release fasteners, hot glue, velcro, and, occasionally a nail.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556795)

"fitness" != "physical prowess". In Darwin's usage, it's meant in its proper broader sense, and applies to things as diverse as plumage color, instinctive cooperative behaviors, and yes, even having a more sphisticated brain that allows you to out-think your prey.

Re:Not Quite. (5, Interesting)

IDK (1033430) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555191)

What the author wanted to point out was that we could evolve a more efficient digestive system, when we cooked our food. If someone doesn't have to develop an immune system, then that person has more energy left to hunt, which makes that person more fit for that enviroment, thus we evolve.

More efficient? (0)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555795)

I disagree with the article, and would have replied there, but your posting seemed like a good location to reply. All food comes with enzymes that promote the breakdown of itself, and all digestive systems can allow for the enzymes in the food to do the work. Cook the food and you kill the enzymes. And when you kill the enzymes, the body has to redirect resources to the production of enzymes for breaking down food. There are several notable works available that provide empirical evidence to support this notion:

Enzyme Nutrition, by Dr. Edward Howell [amazon.com] ,

The Wheatgrass Book [amazon.com]

The Pottenger Experiments. [nutritionreallyworks.net]

The use of fire by humans is relatively recent in evolutionary time scales. And based on the evidence above, I doubt that cooking food did very much to advance the evolution of our digestive system, or our intelligence. And as to the immune system, I don't have enough information to form an opinion other than to say if the body is redirecting resources to create enzymes to digest food, then the immune system could be disadvantaged to the extent that resources are redirected to the production of digestive enzymes.

Re:More efficient? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29556333)

All food comes with enzymes that promote the breakdown of itself... NOT.

"However, most food enzymes are denatured in the stomach, and 90% of nutrients from food are absorbed in the small intestine.[31] Because few enzymes from food are present when absoprtion takes place, some say that it is unlikely that enzymes from food play a large part in digestion,[32] and that cooking may even improve digestion: cooking changes the cell structures of some foods in ways that make them more easily digestable.[33]"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omophagia

Re:More efficient? (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556409)

Unless of course we are able to produce a wide variety of enzymes that allow us to digest a greater range of foods than other (competing) animals.

Take the Neanderthals for example; it would appear they were exclusively meat eating. Not so hot when there isn't much meat around.

Re:More efficient? (0)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556667)

Even if we were able to produce the enzymes, the production of the enzymes redirects energy away from other processes, such as assimilation, immune system function and even cognition (ever fall asleep after lunch?).

The only benefit I can see of eating cooked food is that we've been raised in a culture of cooking food, making cooked food more convenient and available. That might seem more efficient to the brain, but not to body. Oh, the joules that could be saved if we stopped cooking food. One can only imagine...

Re:Not Quite. (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555897)

Yes one aspect why many feel that Giant Pandas are doomed in the wild. They mainly have the digestive tract of a carnivore but eat mainly bamboo. Because of this efficiency they must consume some 20 - 30 lbs (9-14 kg) of bamboo a day. They also have to eat at least 2 different kinds of bamboo to get enough protein. That combined with a shrinking habitat (and food supply) and low birth rate doesn't bode well for them.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

Talgrath (1061686) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556417)

And yet, we try to "save" the pandas...has anyone considered that maybe this creature is supposed to die out?

Re:Not Quite. (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556471)

"Yes one aspect why many feel that Giant Pandas are doomed in the wild."

In the end all K-strategists are doomed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R/K_selection_theory). They make the best efficience of a given niche but once the niche changes (and it is not "if" but "when") you are out of the game.

Re:Not Quite. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555219)

Evolution is defined as "survival of the fittest."

No, it's not. Wikipedia is closer: "Evolution is change in the genetic material of a population of organisms from one generation to the next."

Re:Not Quite. (1)

FreeFull (1043860) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555693)

Expanding on what you said, natural selection is the survival of the fittest. Evolution in nature happens due to natural selection.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

OnlyPostsWhilstDrunk (1605753) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555757)

That's one reason. The fitness of an individual is very important, but it's not the only issue. Consider the female that is better at nurturing her young than her own mother was. It's a trait that won't benefit that female directly, but will get passed down from her. Also consider sexual selection (check out that tusk.. rawr).

It's really not the ability to be the fittest to survive. It's whatever has the best ability to create successful (non-sterile) offspring. My argument would then also be that two generations are required to test a trait.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556509)

"It's really not the ability to be the fittest to survive."

The problem with the "fitness concept" in evolution is that it is a tautology: what's in the end fitness? Whatever makes your genomic pool to perpetuate at a higher rate than the alternates. How do you show that a given genomic pool is better fitted for a given environment? By showing that it in fact perpetuates at a higher rate than the alternates.

Re:Not Quite. (4, Insightful)

ferd_farkle (208662) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555293)

"fitness", as applied to evolution, has nothing to do with the kind of "fitness" you might acquire by going to the gym; ie, being bigger and stronger.

"Survival of the fittest", (a phrase that did not originate with C. Darwin), means leaving more offspring who, in turn, leave surviving offspring, passing on whatever adaptive advantage led to having more offspring. Certainly our intelligence, tool using, and general intellectual flexibility is highly adaptive. It is, perhaps, our most adaptive trait, along with bipedalism.

Re:Not Quite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555313)

You're not up on your evolutionary theory. "Fittest", in the Darwinian sense, means being the best fitted for the environment, not best of breed or anything like that. Psuedo-scientists of the neo-Darwinian stripe love equating "fittest" with "best," which Darwin himself held as not being the case.

Also, you misread the argument in TFA. Simplifying, the supposition made is that the introduction of prepared food into our ancestor's toolkit lessened the need for expending effort spent on processing and digesting it and increased the quality. That enabled selection for greater brain capacity along with smaller gut, teeth and mandibles... Lather, rinse, repeat, add a few other pressures and feedback and you go from an upright chimp to something that would pass unnoticed in Walmart.

As for adapting to your surroundings... Who said that it can't be done the other way around? Logic isn't solely one way.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

Nqdiddles (805995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555627)

The best fitted for the environment, in terms of evolution, is the one that survives to pass it's traits along - through breeding. So in that sense yes, it does mean leaving more offspring to pass on whatever adaptive advantage it had gained. I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean we can select for greater brain capacity just by being bored from less effort required for our daily chores. Unless that boredom leads to more time and resources to devote to successful breeding, of course.

Re:Not Quite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29556613)

I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean we can select for greater brain capacity just by being bored from less effort required for our daily chores.

No, it doesn't and that's not what I meant. As from TFA, less effort as in utilizing foodstuffs, from chewing to digesting, along with less expenditure of effort in obtaining higher quality foodstuff. That's where the greater brain part comes in, alongside the tool use that made that heady lifestyle change possible. FTA added the argument that gut and dentition proportions became smaller along with changes in digestion, adding its bit into the feedback mechanism that promoted Our Grand Trip from Rock to Heavy Metal.

And you're entirely correct that passing traits along to the next generation is considered the Grand Prize in the game of evolution- which is somewhat sad if you consider the average /. user. By most indications, it's an evolutionary dead end.

Re:Not Quite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555401)

Evolution is defined as "survival of the fittest."

I'm not sure I've ever heard it defined as such, because the statement is almost redundant (in this context, "fittest" means "best adapted to survive") and it misses other key aspects of evolution such as genetic drift and mutation.

In itself, cooked food doesn't constitute evolution but if it changes the selective pressures on a species it can lead do evolutionary differences over several generations.

Re:Not Quite. (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555403)

Why can't cooking be considered an adaption to the surroundings?

Re:Not Quite. (2, Insightful)

kanweg (771128) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555519)

Or use thereof. I've always wondered how - according to DNA analysis - humanity may have gone thru the eye of a needle, with only a small population at a particular point in time. Now, imagine that a group of ancestors lived near a volcano, or a region like you have in Yellowstone. The could cook their food there, in hot pockets (it is still being done). That would allow a group to stay in a single place for quite some time, interbreed, and thrive.

Mastering fire could come much later.

Bert

fast food (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555271)

And fast food made us american!

Re:fast food (2, Insightful)

virchull (963203) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555375)

Fast food made us fat. A revolution made us American.

vegetarians (2, Funny)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555277)

I'm a vegetarian. Let's say my children will be too, and their children as well (and so on, and so forth). Does this mean that eventually their stomach size will increase?

Re:vegetarians (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555307)

No, it means your line will eventually become extinct

Re:vegetarians (2, Funny)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555691)

Before that eventuality, your descendants' brain sizes will be shrinking. Either:

-- your descendants smaller brain sizes guarantee lives as grocery cart attendants, or

-- your descendants brains processing will become more efficient as their brain size shrinks in order to maintain parity with the other humans.

Either way they will be freaks.

Re:vegetarians (2, Funny)

JAlexoi (1085785) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555325)

Is there a particular reason you think your children will be vegetarian? A maybe a religion? Or will you just brainwash them into your way of life?
If you think that your children will fall in love only with a vegetarian(That would be messing with their lives very dramatically), then maybe some permanent changes may occur. But only if vegetarians really need to have bigger stomachs to digest the required amount of food.

Re:vegetarians (2)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555929)

It looked an awful lot like a hypothetical to me.

Re:vegetarians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555361)

Possibly. Their head size may actually increase too, to accommodate a bigger jaw so the wisdom teeth can come in properly, since they were used to grind down vegetation. So why would you want to reverse evolution? Unless you want your offspring to start looking more like primates.

Re:vegetarians (1)

fosterNutrition (953798) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555749)

No, not possibly at all. That would be a case of traits produced through behaviour being inherited genetically, which is not how inheritance of traits works. Evolution can only happen through *selection* of traits (e.g. those who already have certain traits having more children), not by training/creating traits. See my reply to the OP for more details.

Also, evolution is undirected: there is no such thing as "reverse" evolution, only adaptation to whatever the environment is.

Re:vegetarians (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555561)

The point of the article is the digestive system for most humans has significant subsystem that's outside the body. In some places it's called the "kitchen" and the digestive process that occurs there is called "cooking" and "food preparation".

But yes if you and your line of descendents solely eat raw and unprocessed plant foods and somehow do not die out in the process, it is likely that some sort of adaptation would have to occur, and it may include the increase of stomach size or the number of stomachs, or eating "rabbit style", or eating "panda style" (spending most of your hours eating due to digestion of your food being inefficient ).

Re:vegetarians (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556257)

"The point of the article is the digestive system for most humans has significant subsystem that's outside the body."

Which I don't know how it comes as "news" to anybody. The metabolic trade between brain and everything else (being the digestive apparatus the second in command) has been accepted now for decades.

Re:vegetarians (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555637)

Only if you're eating lots of raw vegetables, typically with a fairly low energy content. Meat is pretty energy-dense stuff, and you don't need a lot of it to supply your daily energy requirements. Vegetables tend to be less energy-dense but stuff like grass and leaves is pretty poor indeed - which is why large herbivores spend all their time eating. The key is that cooking food - both meat and vegetables - breaks down proteins in them. This makes them easier to digest, so we spend less energy digesting food and more energy thinking up clever new ways to hunt animals and grow vegetables.

If you switched to eating only raw meat, you'd need your stomach to expand a bit too. Of course, you'd have to evolve for a good few thousand years before any really noticeable difference showed up.

Re:vegetarians (4, Informative)

fosterNutrition (953798) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555737)

No. Evolution works only on traits produced by genetic mutation, NOT traits acquired through behaviour. This was one of the flaws in early theories of evolution: it was believed that actions of the parent could influence the genetics of the child, which is not the case. The standard example is giraffes: under the incorrect theory, one could say "they developed longer necks because they stretched them to reach high leaves", but the correct interpretation is instead "the ones with longer-than-average necks could feed better, and hence had more children".

The reason for this is that the genetic material passed on through reproduction comes entirely from the cells in your reproductive organs, so no matter how much you train your neck (or stomach, in your case), none of those changes can in any way get passed to your children, because those cells just aren't involved in the process.

Re:vegetarians (2, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555949)

He is positing that many generations will exist in a vegetarian environment and wondering about the results, not wondering about whether the many generations will be successful in teaching the next to only eat vegetables (so evolution is very much in play if you give the hypothetical question a fair reading).

Also, take a look at epigenetics, there is evidence building that parents can mark their own DNA in ways that alter expression in the child (the genes don't change, the regulation does).

Re:vegetarians (1)

mog007 (677810) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556337)

it was believed that actions of the parent could influence the genetics of the child

Minor quibble, but Lamarckian evolution didn't have a concept of genetics, if he did he wouldn't have been so wrong. The mechanism for passing on traits was a mystery even to Darwin.

Re:vegetarians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29556101)

Only if you're willing to have lots of children and let the small-stomached ones starve.

Re:vegetarians (1)

khchung (462899) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556125)

No, they won't.

Evolution is not a directed process based on what you do, but based on which traits survive and get passed to offspring.

There is no evolutionary pressure for your children to have a bigger stomach at all, i.e. those that have a smaller stomach are not more likely to die, nor will they have less chance to have children.

Actually, the opposite is more likely. Your children that is less suited to be a vegetarian, due to being less able to absorb nutrient from vegetarian diet, and assuming they take up the vegetarian life style, will have less problem at being obese, and would actually live longer and have a better chance at finding a good mate.

Thus the evolutionary pressure for your children is to have a digestive system NOT tuned at digesting vegetarian diet.

Re:vegetarians (1)

mog007 (677810) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556369)

Vegetarians have to worry about calcium deficiencies when they get older. And fat people who are fat enough to actually have it impact their health aren't being selected against, because they still live long enough to reproduce. I don't see many fat people dropping dead from heart attacks at the age of 20, or 30 for that matter. Coupled that with the fact that girls with a higher fat content in their diet will reach sexual maturity faster, fat people could start reproducing in their early to mid teens.

Re:vegetarians (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556199)

"I'm a vegetarian. Let's say my children will be too, and their children as well (and so on, and so forth). Does this mean that eventually their stomach size will increase?"

Only if Lamarck were right, which is not.

Re:vegetarians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29556251)

your child will eat meat in secret, count on me to push it on them
my gf was vegetarian now she love steak from ethically grown and killed beef

A one month old story (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555371)

Is this another slashvertisement to get the story out there and advertise the book again? I already listened to the Science Friday segment a month ago.

From the linked article:
[quote]August 28, 2009[/quote]

It may well be an interesting book, but I don't think I will ever get around to buying or reading it, too much of a backlog as it is.

1.9 Million or 150,000 years ago? (3, Informative)

plsuh (129598) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555397)

Compare this article with the one posted back in August 2008:

http://science.slashdot.org/story/08/08/12/2036254/Cooking-Stimulated-Big-Leap-In-Human-Cognition [slashdot.org]

Opinions?

--Paul

Re:1.9 Million or 150,000 years ago? (1)

Chonnawonga (1025364) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555523)

Very interesting. There was another study a few years back that dealt with cranium capacity: as proto-humans lost the large ridges on their skulls needed to anchor large muscles that were in turn needed to chew through raw meat (and even hide) it made room for the larger cranium that allowed for (better?) tool use, making all that chewing unnecessary. It's not cooking, but it's a similar issue, and it becomes a rather interesting chicken-and-egg question.

Re:1.9 Million or 150,000 years ago? (3, Insightful)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556423)

"It's not cooking, but it's a similar issue, and it becomes a rather interesting chicken-and-egg question."

Only because we tend to think about evolution on finalistic terms (such as "this allowed us to go towards this goal").

Darwinian evolution is based on fitness and that means a given genotype is selected by means of its expressed phenotype as a whole. There's no "chicken-and-egg" problem since mutations are not queued waiting to see if they win the prize or not prior to go for the next one. At any given moment random mutations can appear; some of them produce a better fitting to current environment; vast majority are either "bad" or neutral. The "proper" combination of brain size/energy cost plus allowed diet plus difficulty or easiness at childbirth plus... is selected on an "all or nothing" way.

So, in the end, it is not that immatureness at birth allowed to bigger brains or the other way around; it is not that a more energetic diet allowed for less costly digestive apparatus which in turn allowed for a more costly brain or the other way around, etc. it all happened more or less at the same time on a monotonic path (while certainly one given mutation did appeared earlier than any other one; I don't think will ever be able to find what exactly happened, mutation by mutation, nor it's needed go down to such level of detail to understand how happened on a more general but still significant way, except, maybe, for a bunch of big steps if they indeed happended).

Re:1.9 Million or 150,000 years ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29556457)

Mmmmm, eggs. Now, where's the Cholula?

Tasty (2, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555405)

Cooking may not have made us human, but it certainly makes us crispy.

BREAKING NEWS (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555439)

Fire determined to be most important discovery of human history!

Re:BREAKING NEWS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555905)

Yo, Lord Bitman, I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but the wheel was one of the most important human discoveries of all time.

Re:BREAKING NEWS (1)

Talgrath (1061686) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556453)

I believe Kanye West actually being a popular "musician" is the last sign of the apocalypse, there is only one solution, Kanye must die to avert the Battle of Armageddon before we are all consumed in hellfire! Kill the Kanye!! Oh, what we were talking about? Oh yeah, this guy is full of shit; brain size has very little to do with your intelligence, besides that, wouldn't it make more sense if the intelligence to cook food came first?

if 'Cooking May Have Made Us Human' (1)

jopsen (885607) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555447)

If Cooking May Have Made Us Human, those that make me an animal ?

Re:if 'Cooking May Have Made Us Human' (1)

jopsen (885607) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555465)

(Sorry, "does" not "those", I'm tired...)

Re:if 'Cooking May Have Made Us Human' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29556465)

Imagine you paint a wall black. And after that you don't paint the wall black. The wall is still black.

Stop posting conjectures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555475)

May you?

Logical inverse? (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555479)

... cooking our food has not only changed our bodies over the years, giving us smaller mouths ... it's given us an evolutionary advantage: bigger brains

Can we imply the inverse: people with big mouths have small brains and prefer sushi?

ftfy (1)

Agamous Child (538344) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555547)

Cooking Each Other May Have Made Us Human...

frist 5top (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29555589)

guy has it backwards (0, Flamebait)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555651)

Intelligence created our digestive track, not the other way around.

You start out with any of the following: omnivore, herbivore, or carnivore, that is a 'proto-sapeient". Something with an IQ about halfway between a chimp and a human.

They are just smart enough to start using fire and other tools significantly (chimps use them rarely, humans use them 100% of the time.)

The FIRST thing you use your tools for is to replace your natural digestive track. Knives and hammers replace your teeth and mechanical digestion. Fire replaces the stomach acid.

BOOM, now you can eat things that you couldn't before. Herbivore and carnivores instantly become omnivores. Sorry Mr. Niven but you can't have your herbivore puppetters without genetic engineering them. If they fire and spears, they will start to hunt before they starve when a drought/famine/overpopulation reduces the food supply.

Those that do this flourish and your natural inherent digestive track evolves to meet your new food requirements - cooking omnivore. It loses the specialty things like long, sharp, deadly teeth, and becomes capable of eating everything from rice that has been boiled (because we can't eat it without boiling), to fugi fish (poisonous fish that has had the poison gland removed.)

Re:guy has it backwards (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556185)

"Intelligence created our digestive track, not the other way around."

Hi, Mr. gurps_npc:
1912 is calling and asks its Piltdown Man hoax back.

Is it a new news ? (2, Informative)

meuhlavache (1101089) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555857)

Because I heard exactly the same thing on TV report more than 5 years ago !

Cows (1)

PietjeJantje (917584) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555961)

So if intelligence is related to nutrition, why aren't cows (the fat blobs!) the most intelligent species on earth?

Re:Cows (1)

TimSSG (1068536) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556171)

So if intelligence is related to nutrition, why aren't cows (the fat blobs!) the most intelligent species on earth?

If I understand the posts and summary, the greater intelligence of the human line results in eating cooked meat; therefore the digestive system changed and in some ways simplified because of the diet change. Cows (bovine) are plant eaters with a very complex digestive system.

I think a reasonable conclusion is a species that uses fire to cook food reduces the need of complex digestive system in order to survive.

Tim S.

Aliens guided our evolution (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#29555995)

The book was "How to serve humans"... they had to make apes evolve to get that critical piece of the recipe.

Cooking Made Us Fatter, Not Brighter (1)

littlewink (996298) | more than 5 years ago | (#29556017)

The article: "leading to larger brains and more free time."

A larger brain is not the key to man's intelligence. Some Neanderthals had larger brains than we. Derek Bickerton lays to rest the idea that "larger brains" make us human. See any of his academic books for details.

As for more free time, if that made us any brighter then /. would be crock full of blinkin' geniuses.

History Channel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29556085)

I heard this on the history channel 2 years ago. YA YA YA, The energy put in by cooking on the food meant the digestion system need less to absorb nutrients. Thus, the brain had more nutrients to grow because less was spent on digestion. Slashdot needs to get on the ball or maybe they spend too much energy on digestion.

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