I stumbled upon this page today, and I felt I should sign in and express my disagreement with the interpretations of the data. This article does a very good job of breaking down some of the differences between common herbivores and carnivores, and touches on what it is to be an omnivore. My disagreement is with the conclusions of the data and its interpretation with evolution.
The aspect of human evolution that is ignored in this article is that of intelligence. Once intelligence comes into play as an evolutionary factor then the possibility of intelligence solving a problem more quickly than evolution comes into play. What I mean by that is this. Bears hibernating was mentioned alot, so we can start with that. Bears tend to hibernate when their food sources are most scarce, and that is because that through the long period of time bears have been around all the bears who didn't hibernate and conserve energy when food ran low all died. Death is what drives evolution, not how well you do anything or digest this or that, but death. Now, for humans, if we were vegetarian, and there is far less plant matter available in the winter, one way we could have dealt with the problem of less plant material available would be to wait the thousands of generations it takes to kill off all of those people who couldn't hibernate. But with a long life, and intelligence, we gain the knowledge of the season to come, perhaps observing animals that put away caches of food for winter and stay awake, and so that is what we did instead of developing the ability to hibernate. That or we went south, or down into the valley, or whatever we did other than hibernate. Intelligence messed it all up, because it gave us an alternative to the massive death it takes to make an evolutionary change in a species. An interesting point also is that most industrialization and knowledge gain really got going in places that had a winter, but most old civilizations developed in places that had better weather than that. But thats for another arguement.
The adaptations required for intelligence itself affect things as well. For instance, ever wonder why we don't have a big bone ridge down the middle of our skull? Its because we have genetically weakened jaw muscles. A gorilla, which eats a majority of plant material, has a huge ridge down the middle of its skull, so that it can have all those muscles for chowing down on some plant material. That ridge is necessary for the strong muscles it needs to constantly chew food, because as a herbivore you need to chew alot of plant material to get by. Humans don't have that kind of chewing capacity, because we gave up those super strong jaw muscles in order to be able to keep expanding our brain case for a couple decades to fit all the knowledge and brain material we grow. With that intelligence increase we were able to cook food,hunt things, ferment stuff (woo hoo), and thereby eat a wider range of things without destroying our teeth, or if you don't want to jump into cooking, lets say "utilize a wider variety of food materials in different ways to gain nutrition". And to me that sounds like a good definition of omnivory. Every animal is a test of little tweeks and new things within the species. Humans, as a species, are brand new, and constantly expanding into new territories with new resources. Our intelligence is unlocking those resources faster than our bodies, through the process of genes and mutations, can keep up. Thats why only certain populations can eat dairy. I'm sick of people going on about how dairy is bad. I can eat dairy all day because I have the genes for it, and I don't care if you don't have them! The Inuit were the answer to a bad bad situation as well. Nature doesn't care if you die at 35 if you pop out your kids and raise them.
In fact, we have a tendency as a species to select for neotany, which basically means we are attracted to the characteristics of youth. Young girls don't dream of sex with some 85 year old man because his genes are so good they've lasted that long. The selection in both male and female selection has been towards adults who look like babies in most human societies. But I'm already realizing this is not organized enough to convince folks.
So let me say this. The rise of intelligence as an evolutionary factor is what this article is ignoring. I am not some religious nut talking about us being designed. I am talking about the fact that humans are intelligent and we are animals. To talk about a few omnivores that are/were predators and compare them to us who used to be mostly herbivores and are now omnivores is pointless because we took a different path. We took the path of developing our intelligence and are still paying the price for it. Other animals didn't do that as well as us, so it is difficult to make a comparison. Evolutionarily we are still "trying to decide what we are" for lack of a better term. We are undifferentiated omnivores. We have chosen to eat meat because we can, but we don't have all the adaptations of a carnivore that has been eating potentially the same meat source for 2 million plus years because that is not the selection force upon us.
A human with knowledge knows that there are not always plants about, but that there are almost always animals that can be eaten. Plants have much better chemical defenses against being eaten than animals. And as long as we know that we can eat something, then we will. And any vegetarian who is faced with the choice of feeding themselves and their offspring with the flesh of the formerly living, and chooses to not eat of the flesh and dies along with their children will ultimately not add as much to the human race genetically as myself and my kind. We know we will always choose to eat the flesh because we always have chosen to for as long as we were intelligent enough to be able to choose. Evolutionarily, limiting the range of potential foods is not the way to go. Unless you eat termites or ants or wood or something that is everywhere like that. And if you think that the world isn't going to reach the point where everyone is hungry, then don't worry, just keep eating only plants. But I for one will keep my options open. I am an omnivore by choice in an uncertain world.
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Bonobos have been observed hunting and eating meat (and also other bonobos) in the wild. It is not known how frequently they do this, simply because they have not been studied enough. Marmosets eat a variety of food from both plant and animal sources, and howler monkeys, while they mainly specialise in leaves, have been observed eating eggs. Geladas (which have been included twice in the list) despite being mainly grazers will eat insects if they are available.
While people like to try to classify things tidily into categories, there are not that many species who have evolved to specialise in only animal or plant sources of food, and rather more who fall somewhere between these two extremes. The argument in the original post uses data that doesn't really mean anything in order to impart an appearance of scientific credulity. I've seen the same argument on dog food advertising to claim that dogs and wolves are carnivores (which technically they aren't as they are observed to eat plant material in the wild). The lines dividing them are not that clear.
Everyone on here trying to talk about the history of man's diet needs to do some serious fact checking! For thousands of years around the world the biggest component of our diet as been starch based PLANTS! Rice in Asia, barley in the Middle East, Wheat in Egypt, millet in Africa, maize in the Americas ect.. The only people who ate meat were royalty and they were just as diseased as the rest of you omnivores, they've found hardened arteries in most of the mummies in Egypt because they were wealthy and powerful enough to have a meat based diet! If you want to be really strong and healthy take a page out of the history books roman legionnaires, gladiators, the infantry men of Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and Alexander the Great all lived and thrived on a starch based diet.
I think your article is excellent and feel it proves via one method of analysis that humans are not carnivores. However, I do not feel it proves we are meant to consume a vegan diet. In other words, it still does not prove we are meant for no animal food at all, just that we are not necessarily meant to consume animal foods in the way carnivores do, and also that much of our animal-related nutrient should come from the types of animals that do no require the anatomical features of say a lion to consume them. My point is this- one would be hard-pressed to find a logical, clinically oriented physician recommending a vegan diet, who does not also recommend a B-12 supplement. Even T. Colin Campbell takes B-12. Why? We need it and can't get it from a vegan diet. Some vegans argue that we would get it all if our food wasn't sterile and still ate the bugs that came along with food when procured in nature. What is a bug? An animal. Does eating a bug require massive temporalis muscles, etc? No. The second part of my argument is that even though we are not designed to eat meat the way a carnivore does, it does not prove we are designed to NOT eat meat, just to NOT eat meat that way. In essence, we are designed to eat bugs and....cooked meat. Humans are adapted to eating cooked food. We do not share exact anatomical features of an omnivore, a carnivore or an herbivore in the wild, we are completely unique. Why? Because we are the ONLY animals on the planet adapted to eating cooked foods. Our need to consume B-12 proves our need to consume foods that contain it, ie animal foods. Our lack of exact correlation to omnivores, carnivores and herbivores proves we are not exactly like any of them. Our closeness in design to omnivores and herbivores proves we are designed for that type of food, but not ONLY that type of food.
Isn't it funny how you can use information to get whatever results you like. The website www.second-opinions.co.uk/carn_herb_comparison4.html also uses anatomical features to compare man, dog and sheep to conclude that we are carnivores and shouldn't eat any veggies! But when you read down the list, some of the evidence includes that we don't need to chew our food and that it is impossible to survive without animal protein. No wonder they had putrefactive bacteria and small firm faeces (sorry, have to look at that site to know what i am talking about)
I like the conclusions on this site much better because they promote vegetarianism, but it would be great if there was a link to some of the raw data- like the actual lengths of the intestines of different animals, their stomach pH etc.
Nearly always when I hear about evolution it is from the past to the present, but doesn't consider the future. Even if humans were meat eaters in the past or present, we are still in the process of evolution. Just look around and compare the "meat head" mentality and intelligence level with the radiance of people who eat a balanced plant based diet with plenty of raw foods. Which direction to we want to be heading in? I think the yogis were onto something when they categorized foods according to their effect on the mind.
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