6

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The impact of civilisation on human biology?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 05, 2010 at 9:33 AM

There is a great paper by Stephen Boyden from 1969 (!!!!!!): "the impact of civilisation on human biology" (full text pdf here). Read it!

As a person that has always liked good visuals, schematics, illustrations, ... to make a point, I really like fig. 1 on page 289.

Could you add other factors that are not represented in this figure?

I would add:

  • sunshine
  • influence of technologies like computers and the internet (both psychosocial and maybe physical)

He has another fantastic paper from 1973 (again !!!) called "evolution and health" (full text here).

I've never heard of Stephen Boyden in the paleo sphere and in evolutionary medicine, untill two years ago, I saw him mentioned (and praised) on Evfit.com (which is also a great site, although not very trendy).

EDIT: I forgot to mention, but isn't this great, in the '69 paper, when he briefly discusses diet, he talks about refined carbs! And not about saturated fats. That was probably before scientists were infected with the sat-fat meme.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 07, 2010
at 04:03 PM

Those last lines are indeed important questions.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 05, 2010
at 08:18 PM

Never read it, but Huxley (especially Brave New World) has been on my to read list. After reading these quotes http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/aldous_huxley.html I should really read one of his books.

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2 Answers

4
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 05, 2010
at 03:28 PM

Wow, great find! He mentions the below book..have you ever read it? It's pretty awesome.

"It is interesting to note that Aldous Huxley (1962) provides for the reaction of mutual avoidance in his Utopian Island by means of a special social arrangement known as the M.A.C. (Mutual Adoption Club). Each MA.C. consists of fifteen or more families, and its main purpose is to provide individuals with an altemative home to which to escape when they are the victims of personality disturbances in the primary family."

I bet our patterns of human interaction are quite different than ancient paleos. Like spending much of the day in superficial interaction, then escaping to your home at sundown.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 05, 2010
at 08:18 PM

Never read it, but Huxley (especially Brave New World) has been on my to read list. After reading these quotes http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/aldous_huxley.html I should really read one of his books.

1
D339c39d94d65460e28128174845f423

(821)

on November 07, 2010
at 11:04 AM

Excellent paper, thank you.

Especially interesting at the end of the first paper how he struggles with the implications of his thesis -- the dismantling of civilization.

He understandably chooses a reformist approach -- civilization should be reformed to better take into account the biological realities.

I just hope this doesn't lead us into a brave new world...

In the 1973 Paper he gets more radical:

The solution to the problem, if there is one, must surely lie, not in further mindless intensification of technological and industrial effort, with increasing GNP as the sole objective but rather in a re-organisation of society based on increased emphasis on the quality of individual lives and involving some fundamental changes in our value systems. The materialistic objectives of the Western world have been questioned by moralisers and philosophers for a long while, but the growing awareness of the threats to human survival in the ecological situation now adds a practical flavour to the problem. Questions such as "Where are we?", "Where are we going?", "Where do we want to go?", and "What is progress?" are taking on a new and urgent significance. It has been a theme of this paper that human biology can help us see the relevance of these questions and can also contribute usefully to our attempts to answer them.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 07, 2010
at 04:03 PM

Those last lines are indeed important questions.

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