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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11439/libertarian-cavemen-in-the-big-apple/

Libertarian Cavemen in the Big Apple

January 12, 2010 by

The NY Times reports on urban cavemen or paleos, including Black Swan author Nassim Taleb. They eat meat, fast for up to 36 hours at a stretch, walk, work out vigorously, give blood frequently and “several identify themselves as libertarians.”

{ 56 comments }

Toban January 12, 2010 at 11:22 am

Also be sure to check out the paleo-libertarian group. You’d be surprised at how libertarian the paleo community is. Paleo and libertarianism go together very nicely.

Unromantic Caveperson January 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

For a less eye-rolling take on these matters than mainstream media inevitably provides, be sure to check out Dr. Kurt Harris, who cautions against blind “paleo reenactment” and favors a proper scientific approach:

http://paleonu.com/

(8?» January 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

While I agree with their basic premise, it seems to me that they suffer from the same flaw as the vegans\vegetarians who insist that their diet is the truly natural one, which is they seem to forget that via natural selection, humans evolve over time.

Myself, I try to avoid modern drinks, and as my garden gets more productive, processed foods.

Still, complete avoidance isn’t practical, so when I do eat “modern,” I do it with the understanding that I am possibly poisoning myself, and that I have to overcome it, else eventually succumb to it. Or as I learned in the USMC, “Yours is not to wonder why, yours is but to do or die.”

I have no doubt that humanity as a whole will not only survive but thrive in the future world full of franken-foods (just as antibiotics create ever stronger bacteria by killing of the weak competition).

The only doubt I have is how long I can remain in the stronger camp. Hence my prudence.

Jim January 12, 2010 at 4:18 pm

While I agree with their basic premise, it seems to me that they suffer from the same flaw as the vegans\vegetarians who insist that their diet is the truly natural one, which is they seem to forget that via natural selection, humans evolve over time.

You’ve got it exactly backwards. The whole point of paleo eating is that the hunter-gatherer diet is the one that humans evolved over time via natural selection to become adapted to eating. We have not yet evolved to be adapted to an agricultural diet based on grains, dairy, and corn/soy fed livestock.

We have only been exposed to this diet for a few thousand years, a blink of an eye in evolutionary time, nowhere near enough time for the necessary evolutionary adaptions to have taken place. Biologically, our bodies are essentially the same those of our recent ancestors, whose digestion, metabolism, etc had adapted to wild meats, fruits, and veggie over millions of years.

Toban January 12, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I also highly recommend Dr. Kurt Harris’s website. He’s the sharpest paleo advocate I know of. He’s also a dedicated Austrian and libertarian (and a financial supporter of the LvMI)!

A Liberal in Lakeview January 4, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Dr. Kurt writes,

The best evidence from multiple disciplines supports eating an animal-based diet high in fat, low in cereal grains and relatively low in carbohydrate.

In other words, it’s a twist on the Atkin’s Diet, perhaps without an Induction Phase so that you won’t invite stares at the table on Thanksgiving Day. (I’m speaking from personal experience here, though I wasn’t the one on the diet.) And there’s a lot of obscurantist doctorbabble, too, which is no suprise, given that doctors are good at memorizing but rarely anything else, as I have learned by living with them (one a radiologist, in fact), working with them, being treated by them, discussing physics and con law with them, etc.

Also,

the diseases of civilization are largely related to abandonment of the metabolic conditions we evolved under

Well, if we evolved at all, then we evolved without cooking. Then came cooking and a corresponding decrease upon the demands placed upon one’s intestines. Are we to give up the metabolic cooking that we developed? Ok, so maybe other humanoid species developed cooking and our kind learned it from them. Maybe the cooking was for the meat mostly and the vegetables very little, which would tend to slant evolution*, if any such thing has ever happened. But at what opportunity cost?

Anyway, there’s even a new buzzterm, “EM2″, whatever that is. Now, a better hypothesis than the one given by the doctor would be that the diseases are correlated with longevity that yields diseases that one doesn’t tend to get until old and are caused by binge drinking, recreational smoking, industrial pollution, gluttony, faddish diets (Atkins this year, PāNu the next), too many Twinkies, too many highly-refined grains, &c., &c., &c.

Doctor got hisself a hammer called science and now all the world is a nail to be hit while fantasizing about the next turkey shoot. Well, I say “no thanks”. I like my oatmeal and my raisin bran and comfortable BMs. And I’ve spent enough time with nerds in chemistry classes, biz dev, and product management to recognize BS when I see it.

Dr. Kurt should call it ScientismPāNuFad-In-Da-Making. So, what will PāNu 2.0 be?

The best evidence from multiple disciplines supports eating an animal-based diet low in fat, high in cereal grains and relatively high in carbohydrate.

Then, PāNu 3.0.

The best evidence from multiple disciplines supports eating an animal-based diet moderate in fat, moderate in cereal grains and relatively moderate in carbohydrate.

Then, PāNu 4.0.

The best evidence from multiple disciplines supports eating an animal-plant-based diet moderate in fat, moderate in cereal grains and relatively moderate in carbohydrate.

Then, there will be PāNu 5.0.

The best evidence from multiple disciplines supports eating a plant-based diet moderate in fat, moderate in cereal grains and relatively moderate in carbohydrate.

And why not PāNu 5.0? For sure we’ll know how to get the amino acids we cannot make ourselves by choosing the right plants and synthesizing the others. And then our diet will match our teeth, which, unlike some of our cousins have tiny incisors. Of course, some of those cousins are on a vegetarian diet already.

As for Dr. Kurt, his thrill for a kill tells us what we need to know about his [ahem] science.

=========
*There is good reason to suppose that the popular idea of human evolution is incoherent. People say, “humans evolved”, but which human was that? No individual human ever evolved, and “homo sapiens” is the name of a set of beings of which the members exist in physical space whereas “homo sapiens”, the set, exists in the mind. If there is more than one mind to form the set, then there is more than one “homo sapiens”. Researchers who have failed to apprehend this simple fact are scientismists.

Marissa November 3, 2011 at 8:34 am

Go back to your soy.

Hard Rain January 12, 2010 at 5:06 pm

If we’d all like to emulate our ancestors’ dietry habits we should all move to the tropics and forage for berries.

Agriculture and husbandry have been a boon to creating all of human civilization, leaving us with enough time to devote our labour and production to other means, rather than worrying about starving to death if we can’t forage enough wild fruit.

Brian Drake January 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Jim,

I’m curious, how exactly will our diets contribute to evolutionary changes in the species?

I’m not aware of any diet undertaken by modern humans (paleo, vegan, atkins, steady diet of pizza hut, junk food, etc…) that prevents surviving long enough to reproduce and pass that individual’s genes on to the next generation. So how exactly is natural selection going to “adapt” our digestive systems to a new diet when any genetic predisposition that “works well” with a specific diet is not necessary to “survival”?

Vitor January 12, 2010 at 6:44 pm

If eat relatively healthy, do some exercise and do not smoke, your life expectancy is now up to your genetics. To claim this or that diet is The One is a waste of time.

Bruce Koerber January 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I sure hope they don’t salt their food or else their cave may be in the dungeon of Bloomberg!

Russ January 12, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Jim wrote:

“You’ve got it exactly backwards. The whole point of paleo eating is that the hunter-gatherer diet is the one that humans evolved over time via natural selection to become adapted to eating.”

This may be true, but when our ancestors evolved, people who survived to the age of 45 were probably the elders of their tribes. Eating as our primitive ancestors did does not necessarily guarantee longevity or even health.

AJ Witoslawski January 12, 2010 at 8:38 pm

I noticed that, in general, the CrossFit community and communities involved in/with CrossFit (e.g. a lot of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA guys) tend to be quite libertarian. Generally these are thinking people with common sense who want less taxes and don’t particularly care if you’re gay or use drugs.

Magnus January 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm

when our ancestors evolved, people who survived to the age of 45 were probably the elders of their tribes. Eating as our primitive ancestors did does not necessarily guarantee longevity or even health.

That’s something of a myth.

Pre-modern humans experienced a comparatively high rate of infant mortality, and there was another bump in mortality rates around puberty (young males hunting and/or fighting for the first time, young females dying in their first childbirth), but for the ones that survived these two periods, their life span was better than ours.

The high number of young deaths bring the average life span down, but the average doesn’t tell the whole story.

Russ January 12, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Magnus wrote:

“That’s something of a myth.”

I found a site that mentioned a dig in Orkney, Scotland. They found 342 neolithic human skeletons, only 1.5% of whom died after the age of 40. They could find no evidence of violent deaths.

Of course, that’s only one site and may not be representative of all prehistoric societies. And of course, there may be some problems with the age estimates (the article mentioned that there are reasons to believe that may be the case). But still…

Jim January 12, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Brian,

So how exactly is natural selection going to “adapt” our digestive systems to a new diet when any genetic predisposition that “works well” with a specific diet is not necessary to “survival”?

It will not; that’s just the point. Under modern conditions there is no evolutionary pressure to adapt biologically to changing dietary habits precisely because whether one eats healthy or eats junk food has very little effect on their chances to successfully reproduce. The absence of selective pressure is why our biology remains basically unchanged from that of paleolithic hunter-gatherers.

This is not the case in the wild; paleolithic men who might have tried to survive by gathering wild grass seed and somehow milking wild beasts would have been at a huge survival disadvantage compared to others who ate a normal hunter-gatherer diet. There would have been a powerful selective pressure against paleolithic men trying to eat a modern style diet in the absence of modern technology; they and their children would quickly starve.

However, with modern technology, farming, and animal husbandry it is clearly possible to produce these novel foods in enough quantity to overcome their nutritional deficienies, enough of a caloric surplus to overcome the process of natural selection. And that’s the problem; because the abundant productivity of agriculture supercedes natural selection, evolution with respect to our diet has been largely frozen since the agricultural revolution.

Our bodies remain adapted to a diet of wild meats, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, despite the adoption of a radically different diet, with no real hope of adapting. Our biology adapts over time scales of millions of year, but our agricultural technology and dietary habits change over just a few centuries or even decades. The modern diet provides us with plenty of calories to survive to reproductive age but also leads to all kinds of health problems later in life because our biology can’t possibly keep up with our technology.

Havvy January 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm

To be honest, as living standards increase past survive or die, there becomes an opening for flaws to accumulate in the species until the point that they change to survive or die again. Luckily, I expect that as a race, we will have figured this out eventually, and use genetic modification to make sure that genes that injure our ability to act are removed.

Jim January 12, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Russ,

This may be true, but when our ancestors evolved, people who survived to the age of 45 were probably the elders of their tribes. Eating as our primitive ancestors did does not necessarily guarantee longevity or even health.

Relative to the modern diet, it does if you control for other environmental, genetic, and behavorial factors.

Example. Compare two hypothetical families, genetically and culturally similar, with the same level of technology and captial sophistication and living in the same environment (say the East African savannah).

The only difference is that one family lives by actively hunting wild antelope for meat and gathering wild roots, herbs, and fruits. They eat the normal hunter-gatherer diet.

The other family lives by gathering, exclusively, wild grass seeds (which are available maybe 2 months a year under normal conditions), pouring half of their grass seeds into piles on the ground in the hope that an antelope might wander near enough to be meekly slaughtered, and trying to sneak up close enough on lactating female antelope in order to squeeze out some milk real quick before the (shocked and offended) antelope bounds away.

We know that the hunter-gatherer family would probably at least survive, because this is how people all over the world survived for millions of years. They would not live well or long; they would be exposed to the elements, threatened by predators, and lacking in any kind of medical care for injuries or illness.

The family that tried to emulate the modern diet without the benefit of modern technology would be be subject to all of these things as well, and they would be starving. Under natural conditions, people could not possibly survive by trying to live off the kind of foods that modern humans eat.

JAlanKatz January 13, 2010 at 8:28 am

Mencken points out (in Damn) that in terms of humans, natural selection is not so much about living longer. He talks about the kind of man who does everything to improve his longevity, eating right, not drinking (they didn’t know about resveratol) and so on – and who is so anal about this, that he turns off any woman he goes out with. His genes don’t get spread very effectively.

Russ January 13, 2010 at 9:41 am

Jim,

I’m not talking about two families on the savannah. I’m talking about a yuppie guy living in NYC. Eating as our ancestors did will not insure his longevity or even health. Evolution does not necessarily make for perfection; it makes for organisms that tend to last long enough to reproduce successfully. That’s about it.

BTW, I’m not sure about the argument that we haven’t already evolved to adapt to an agriculturalist diet. People who did not adapt to the new diet could have died off by the thousands; how do we know they didn’t? And evolution may work a lot faster than many people think. I’ve read about lizards whose digestive systems evolved noticably in the space of 35 years or so. Compared to that, 5000 years seems a relatively long time.

Jim January 14, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Russ,

It was pretty clear to me that when you wrote “when our ancestors evolved” most didn’t live to age 45 you were not refering to some yuppie in NYC. Unless you’re contending that our ancestors evolved as yuppies in NYC, and there’s just not much fossil evidence for that. Comparing the yuppie to the caveman is illegitimate, unless you control for all the other revelant factors. Instead compare apples to apples, yuppies to yuppies, cavemen to cavemen (as I did).

The fact that natural selection doesn’t have much influence on traits that don’t impact successful reproduction is in fact a key part of the arguement for the paleo diet, and your hypothetical NYC yuppie can illustrate this.

Yuppie A and Yuppie B live in NYC and eat a steady diet of pizza, fritos, and big macs. Yuppie A carries a gene that protects him from developing heart disease from this diet, while Yuppie B lacks the gene. Both will live long enough to successfully reproduce, because elevated risk of death from heart disease is not a factor for B until some time in middle age, well after he’s had plenty of time to have children. So there’s no selective pressure for the gene to become dominant over successive generations; A has no greater chance of passing his heart protecting gene on than B does of passing on his non-protective gene.

Because this gene confers no reporductive advantage, the species as a whole will never adapt to the harmful long term effects of the frito/pizza diet through natural selection.

Conversely, we should expect to see adapations that do confer a reproductive advantage in reaction to a change in diet occur, possibly very quickly as in the case of the Italian wall lizards’ extra stomach valves. In humans, shorter jaws with smaller teeth (compared to paleo hominins) and more recently, post-pubertal lactose tolerance are clear examples of this. They give survival advantages right away during the reproductive years(smaller jaw means you can grow a bigger brain, lactose tolerance opens up a new source of calories to exploit) so they will be passed on at a higher rate to sucessive generations, eventually spreading through the whole population. But as you say, that’s it, that’s as far as evolution will go. Beyond that we remain unsuited to the modern diet.

We’re as adapted to the modern diet as we’re going to get. Natural selection has not and can not drive adaptations that don’t confer a reproductive advantage.

Russ January 15, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Jim,

My whole first post consisted of:

“This may be true, but when our ancestors evolved, people who survived to the age of 45 were probably the elders of their tribes. Eating as our primitive ancestors did does not necessarily guarantee longevity or even health.”

The second sentence here obviously refers to the fact that if *modern day people* eat as our ancestors did, that would not necessarily confer an advantage with respect to longevity.

And I still don’t see how eating as our ancestors did, or as “paleos” do, will confer any advantage, either. It didn’t confer any great advantage to our paleolithic ancestors, in terms of longevity, and we are probably less adapted to that diet than they were. So how can it help us?

My greater point is that evolution is not magic. We evolved so that we will be able to reproduce, and past that point we are expendable, from the evolutionary point of view. So just because we evolved feasting and fasting on red meat, that doesn’t mean that that is the optimal diet, in terms of longevity, given our modern environment.

james b. longacre January 19, 2011 at 2:33 am

the fact that if *modern day people* eat as our ancestors did, that would not necessarily confer ….

aim high

Jeremy February 14, 2010 at 12:46 am

Russ – Where is you evidence that 45 was the average oldest expected age of our paleolithic ancestors? Is this an average that takes in to account disease, infant mortality, death in childbirth, etc or is it just based on ‘common knowledge’. Where is the proof that life was so much shorter, and that indicates what was killing pre-agricultural people off so early?

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