My limited understanding of human anatomy is that we have wisdom teeth and an appendix, which enabled us to cope with eating and digesting a diet which included a much higher intake of roughage, fibre (plants and tree bark) than Paleo followers recommend - am I missing something?
asked byDudleyP (919)
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on March 22, 2011
at 12:09 AM
The term "vestigal" means, in practice, "We have no idea what this does, so we have decided it's not important, since clearly we know more about the human body than Nature does."
Look into Weston Price's work. The Paleo movement is already aware that human beings have shrunk in stature and cranial capacity (brain size) since the advent of agriculture. Stands to reason that populations in which wisdom teeth are "vestigal" are populations which have been damaged by that agriculture.
I mean, probably, in a pinch, you could live without about half your teeth. Does that make half your teeth vestigal?
on March 22, 2011
at 01:36 AM
I've never heard wisdom teeth or appendix mentioned as helpful for a diet higher in roughage.
'Primitive' people with good nutrition had better developed and wider skulls and palates. letting all their teeth +wisdom come in with room to spare. According to Weston A Price, anyway. And somewhat, to archaeologists and anthropologists - there are plenty of ancient hominid and human skulls with wide, roomy jaws and 32 teeth still in them.
My father only has two wisdom teeth, I have three, and all of them are in with no pain and healthy so far (I am 25) as I have a fairly spacious jaw, compared to most people I know. Many of my female friends had to have non-wisdom adult teeth pulled in childhood, because their jaws were so small they would have had impaction and severe crowding if they had all their teeth... something about that seems very wrong to me.
on March 21, 2011
at 11:53 PM
Why would the appendix help with roughage? It's not digestively useful; it seems to serve as a repository of bowel bacteria and do little else. Wisdom teeth have actually disappeared from some human populations (see here) and in any case also appear vestigal - they don't actually really help you chew roughage if they come in. The rest of your body isn't particularly set up for digesting fiber in any event, so having more teeth would be of dubious benefit.
For more info on human vestigiality (you happened to pick two examples), check out the wiki. Evolution is always a work in progress and there's plenty of random bits on our bodies which don't serve any useful purpose.
on March 25, 2011
at 01:37 PM
I see wisdom teeth not so much as excess baggage but as possible replacements for back molars that may have been lost due to cavity. I am no scientist and have done no research. I will say though that I had wisdom teeth only on the top, my mother got none at all but my dad had 4. Does that make me a hybrid that went 50/50?
Now my ex-husband is from Malaysia and he has a bit of local native blood plus hokkein chinese. He has 6 toenails on each foot and that is passed on through the females only so my hybrid girl child got it but her male cousins who were hybrids didn't. My x also had 3 sets of teeth which is freaky and he had to have several surgically removed. My girl got one freak extra tooth that never erupted.
So I think we humans are very varied genetically weather we need these extra bits or not. In the short term of evolution these minor localised traits are not significant but in the big picture over a longer evolutionary scale a trait that belongs to a particular group may give that group advantage over an other in a Darwinian survival of the fittest kind of way. Who is to say at some point in the very distant future people with 6 toe nails may be better adapted at driving space ships and are less likely to crash into moons therefore passing on their DNA. But then again these people may be considered sexy and pass on the extra toe nail gene anyway because they have another feature of a beautiful big toothy smile that is more obvious and attractive. So perhaps there are multiple factors in genetic selection not just food and environment.
on March 21, 2011
at 11:56 PM
According to this logic, giant pandas should eat meat instead of bamboo because they have the canine teeth of a carnivore...