What else did our ancestors have that we don't?

by phil on Saturday Dec 5, 2009 6:03 PM

A fun conversation topic is to rant about the ways humankind has diverged from its evolutionary basis. In what ways do we violate our DNA engineering? You can often hear this dialog within the context of a pitch for "natural" or "cavemen" diets.

Here's my train of thought on the subject:

We see more red in our lives than our ancestors have ever before.
We hear more music and art than ever before.
We live with way more entertainment in general.
We have mountains more sugar and spice in our diets.
In general, we have way more food moving through our digestive systems than our ancestors.
And we're exposed to much more cleanliness among humans.
We have way less physical pain and discomfort.

Which reminded me of this article that speculated that our ancestors were stronger and faster than modern Olympians:

Anthropologist Peter McAllister recently published a book titled Manthropology: the Science of Inadequate Modern Man. Based on human "footprints preserved in a fossilized claypan lake bed" in Australia, he concluded that those who made tracks across the then-muddy ground were moving at 23 miles per hour.

Champion sprinter Usain Bolt reached a top speed of 26 miles per hour at the Beijing Olympics last year. But without being slowed down by bare feet and mud to run through, McAllister calculated that ancient Australians would have easily outpaced Bolt, who runs in specialized shoes and on engineered tracks. McAllister also maintained, from his study of fossil bones, that Neandertal women would have rivaled the musculature of today's weight-training men.


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