Weekly Recap – November 19, 2011

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 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

Books

  • 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).
Blog
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.