Weekly Recap – November 19, 2011

 Journal Article of the Week

  • Externalities from grain consumption: a survey by Matthew Metzgar, PhD. Okay, well… I wanted this to be way more awesome than it actually is. Rather, it was kind of soft on the criticism of studies purporting benefits to humans from grain, while presenting a lukewarm case for avoiding grain. Despite being underwhelmed, I still think it warrants a serious look because this sort of economic analysis can add valuable perspective to the question of grain-based agriculture. This paper just didn’t take us as far down that road as I’d hoped. [Source: Robb Wolf?]

Miscellaneous links

  • Close Friends Less Common Today, Study Finds. Critics of industrialized civilization, including groups like the Situations International, have mounted forceful critiques of a human life mediated by, and ultimately reduced to, economic and technological relationships. Many of these critiques were already quite strong in the 1960s, yet this article somehow found a “a near tripling of Americans’ social isolation between 1985 and 2004”. My follow-up to this is along these lines…
  • The Paradox of Nature and Human Nature? On my other project, 77Zero, I wrote about a study showing how humans tend to underestimate the positive psychological benefits of spending time in nature, and overestimate the benefits of indoor training. I consider 77Zero to be the application of the things I think/write about through evolvify, and I hope you’ll join me over there as well. My thinking underlying this article prompted a follow-up poll on facebook…
  • is the paleo fitness community overly influenced by crossfit (and other) gym owners? At the time of this writing, about 74% of respondents had answered ‘yup’. When I posed the question, I was thinking about the tendency to funnel people noobs into gyms rather than experiencing nature and play. I agree with the sentiment that gyms (globo, Crossfit, etc.) are tools and are probably better than nothing, but in the context of the research on human nature’s interplay with nature, I can’t help but view indoor/pavement training as a sub-optimal dead end as far as evolutionarily relevant human experience is concerned. Reducing life to planar movements and isolated inputs (Crossfit is not exempt here; I’m talking about heat, light, fear, and the full range of human perception and emotion). This strikes me as output reductionism analogous to the oft derided input reductionism (nutritionism). Obviously, if your raison d’être is winning the World Series of Exercise, your metrics will be different. In a Utopian vision, gyms probably don’t exist; they’re rendered redundant by useful activity and play. Without waiting around for Utopia, we can still get to that same place as individuals. Hunter-gatherers don’t train, they live. We’ve been deluded into training for a life of abstraction — to work in the pallid shadow of the industrial revolution (which was itself mired in the bastardization of human wildness known as the agricultural revolution), toiling to control machines to proliferate even more mechanized culture. To sustain our bodies in this vapid endeavor, we have our food assembled in the mechanized diorama of nature in counterfeit soil that’s been fertilized by components of simulated nature, gathered by machines, delivered by machines, and place it on a conveyor belt to be scanned by a matrix of red light to have its value calculated by machines. To increase our strength, we reduce our bodies to mechanized forms — engaged in manipulating simulated objects along calculated vectors of mimicry — through the very space where our deliciously unscripted lives should be. Abstraction and simulation constructing a symbolic life reflected upon us by digitized celebrity and a psychology hijacked by exploitation of human bias. The hellish cycle of dehumanization through mechanization is complete. Sorry, I couldn’t fit that in the facebook poll. Feel free to weigh in if you haven’t.
  • Is Sexual Promiscuity More Natural than Commitment? I’ve written about the weaknesses of Sex at Dawn before. This is another analysis by evolutionary psychologist, Michael Price, PhD. Okay, by analysis, I mean critical trouncing. If you’re still caught up in the mass-market allure of Sex at Dawn, you probably have a lot of things wrong.
Most shockingly horrible links


  • The Unconcquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes by @wallacescott. This kind of sounds like a horrible idea at first, but it’s not the same old story of bringing culture to backwards primitives.
  • Human Evolution and the Origins of Hierarchies: The State of Nature by Benoit Debreuil. As part of my ongoing analysis of the hunter-gatherer vs. agriculture/civilization question, I finally finished reading this. It provides valuable perspectives left out of other analyses, but fails to fully consider everything. In particular, I think Debreuil (along with pretty much everyone else), discounts (or totally ignores) the importance of costly signaling in the transition. Accounts such as this, which focus on game theory and experimental economics, will tend to leave us with an incomplete picture. It build’s nicely on Boehm’s work. If you just read one, I would go with Boehm, but if you want the whole picture, you’ll need both (among others).
Suggestion Box
  • When I started evolvify about a year ago, my intent was to bring some perspective on evolutionary theory from outside the paleo diet paradigm. Over the year, I’ve felt somewhat pulled by y’all toward the diet/fitness related stuff (based on twitter, facebook comments/likes, and blog comments). This has given me a 2nd degree identity crisis (my identity remains intact, but the blog’s focus is somewhat more nebulous). The site looks very different today than I envisioned it initially. I’d love some feedback about the kind of content you’d like to see from me — below, or privately: feedback /at/ evolvify {d0t} com.
  1. Tim Huntley 4 years ago

    Hi Andrew,

    As someone who hasn't been a regular reader here, my question may have its answer elsewhere (so apologies if it is obvious). You Say:

    " I can’t help but view indoor/pavement training as a sub-optimal dead end."


    " through the very space where our deliciously unscripted lives should be. "

    What is the context for those judgments? Are you saying that in the case of a specific individual or as it relates to diminishing humans overall?

    Many Thanks,


    • Profile photo of Andrew
      Andrew 4 years ago

      Tim, yes… this is probably a weird post without the context. Okay, it's maybe weird with the context.

      The pieces for my thinking are all out there — scattered across the range of posts, but there isn't one that directly explains the things you ask about. That is a failing on my part, and is part of what I was alluding to in the "Suggestion Box" paragraph — the part about diverging from my original vision.

      In addition to the 77Zero post I linked above, here are two frameworks that heavily influence my thoughts above…

      "The biophilia hypothesis suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book entitled Biophilia."


      Evolutionary Aesthetics which draws from Appleton's Prospect-Refuge Theory (sorry, I couldn't find a great free online reference), the work of Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, and Orians & Heerwagen.

      Biophilia and Evolutionary Aesthetics exist in relative isolation, outside the context of fitness/training. My thinking synthesizes them with the general principles of evolutionary psychology, human ethology, and more recent studies on human-environment interaction (relating to both human psychology and the efficacy in training in various environments.

      Erwan at MovNat and Frank Forencich of Exuberant Animal are probably the practitioners most closely aligned with my thinking — though I diverge somewhat from both.

      • Tim Huntley 4 years ago


        Thanks for providing the additional framework to consider your comments.

        As you allude to when you talk about happiness and "The World Series of Exercise," I think the judgement of optimal vs. sub-optimal depends probably depends on individual goals – but I will think about this some more.


        • Profile photo of Andrew
          Andrew 4 years ago

          Yes, I view it as a difference between phenotypic "goals" (please forgive the imprecise use) influenced by our genetic code, and personal goals influenced by our cultural milieu. Those two things are not completely separable, but it's safe to say that in terms of fitness, I'm more concerned with the phenotypic/genetic potential that we all share.

          Coincidentally, I just saw this article today which draws on the work of evolutionary psychologist Dr. Geoffrey Miller. It hints at my thinking on the variation in personal goals: Faked Fitness. While the word 'faked' carries pejorative overtones, that's not a value judgment. But I do think our evolutionary drives to show off can lead us astray.

  2. Armi Legge 4 years ago

    Man, This was awesome.

    I really like your views on exercise and how it should be lived, not trained. I went on a 20 mile overnight hike with my brother on a really tough trail, and although I’m a very fit guy who lifts weights and engages in Crossfit style workouts – It still kicked my ass. You’re so right man.

    Thanks for the amazing content!


  3. Chuck 4 years ago

    Just less politics please

    • Profile photo of Andrew
      Andrew 4 years ago

      I hear you. At the same time, some of the most popular posts on the site are those relating to HG anthropology applied to political theory. Tricky balance.

  4. Armi Legge 4 years ago

    A thought for future articles:

    I’d really like to see you talk more about the connection between evolution and objectivism. More to the point, the connection between evolution and meta-physics/epistemology. Have you ever read the works of Ayn Rand? Whenever I read her stuff, I often think of how it translates into the evolutionary/paleo method.

    Thanks Andrew, Evolvify is my favorite blog :)


    • Profile photo of Andrew
      Andrew 4 years ago

      Ha! See what I mean, Chuck? :)

      Armi, I've read Atlas Shrugged and some of her theory outside of the fictional works. I do have a few thoughts on objectivism, and said I was going to write a post about it forever ago. Two quick thoughts that I think warrant consideration and elaboration: Strangely, for all of her talk about science, Ayn Rand didn't really believe in evolution. Also, she focuses the human drive for survival as one of the starting points for her philosophy. I think her lack of understanding of evolution is the root of some flaws in her approach — particularly the focus on survival (natural selection) rather than sexual selection.

      When looking at egalitarian societies, objectivism seems completely superfluous. However, I can see the attraction considering the evolutionarily novel predicament of a world with 7 billion people.

      I'll try to refocus on finishing that piece, and then hunker down for the inevitable backlash. :)

      • Armi Legge 4 years ago

        Hmm, good point. I’d love to hear your take on it.

        I actually didn’t know she didn’t believe in evolution, but how does that conflict with her other beliefs? Rational thought is still the best way of acquiring knowledge, selfishness is still the motivating factor for existence, and objective reality is still, well, objective reality. :)

        In some ways, I think sexual selection had a lot to do with her philosophy. I believe she was one of the first to talk about the natural selection of the wise – smart people joining together, sticking together, and leaving the rest to perish. I guess thats kind of a combination of both sexual and natural selection though (if you can separate them).

        I’m also curious why objectivism is superfluous in an egalitarian society. Isn’t egalitarianism the result of objective thought? The belief that all people have the right to think, be free, and hold property. Even in egalitarian societies, people can still be treated unequally. Isn’t objectivism a good way to make sure that doesn’t happen?

        Love to hear your thoughts, and please – more politics. I can read nutrition stuff from a bunch of other blogs, but none of them know politics and social interaction like you do 😀


  5. Samson 4 years ago

    The bit on fitness reads like a plae for exuberant animal and movnat :)

    • Profile photo of Andrew
      Andrew 4 years ago

      Then they must be doing something right!

  6. Beatrice 4 years ago

    You perhaps underestimate how useful the psychological analysis is, and in the context of a web teeming with diet/fitness sites, how refreshing and important. I think we pretty much get the diet stuff. Although new insights are always interesting, the jist is well understood and easy to follow. Peeling back the layers of 'civilised' thinking brings instant reward on a individual level. It often reinforces what was already suspected, the showing off post is a perfect example. If you're going to show off, might as well do it for real, didn't we all really know this simply by observation? It's almost as if EP is unravelling the layers of nonsense we instinctively felt were nonsense, to reveal something far more genuine, that which was always pleasing to us to begin with. Please do a showing off part II, highly relevant and entertaining.

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