We are humans and apes — other apes are unhappy to be lumped with us

humans apes

I originally wrote this article about how humans are apes over 10 years ago (back in the ancient days of this website), based on a claim from Richard Dawkins he was an African Ape (which I reviewed here). Whether or not you like Richard Dawkins, and there is a lot to like and not like about him, he is entirely accurate about this one thing — we are humans and we are apes.

At the same time that I wrote about Dawkins’ quote, I ran across an article in io9 by Annalee Newitz, “The last time we redefined what it means to be human.” Newitz clarifies the current cladogram, a diagram that shows relationships among organisms, for humans and their closest primate neighbors (from an evolutionary standpoint).

Now, you may be wondering why I’m writing (or writing in the past) about the evolution of humans, but my original interest in starting this blog was to write about evolution and creationism. Seriously, that’s where I got my start. I would help write evolution articles on Wikipedia, I’d follow anti-evolution legislation in state legislatures, and I got into a public feud with the arch-creationist himself, Ken Ham.

But let’s write about something more interesting. Why and how are we both humans and apes.

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Paleolithic diet myth – what our ancestors ate

paleolithic diet myth

The paleolithic diet myth is the most recent in a long list of food and diet fads that have been debunked by skeptics for years. I’m sure there were paleolithic cavemen skeptics 20,000 years ago who grunted, “this diet sucks.” If they actually ate that diet.

Food fads are so enticing. Eat this to make your immune system strong. Don’t eat that because it causes cancer. But do eat this because it reduces your risk of cancer. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Drink this. Eat more of that.

My thoughts have always been that the human physiology is amazingly resilient, and as long as you have no chronic diseases nor chronic malnutrition, there is nothing one can do that will make the situation much better or much worse.

Yes, maintaining levels of certain nutrients, such as vitamins C and D, iron, and others, are critical, but in the modern world, it’s almost impossible to miss out on those micronutrients. Yes, we should limit fats and “sugars”. But the thing is human physiology is complex, so marathoners eat lots of carbohydrates, and they are mostly healthy. It all depends.

And then there’s cancer – it stokes our fears about foods. You’re not going to prevent or cure cancer with supplements (or presumably foods that are rich with those nutrients). Antioxidants don’t really help prevent cancerSoy won’t stop certain types of cancerNor will certain foods make you lose weight. There really are only a few ways to prevent cancer,

Most of these beliefs about foods, health and weight loss are based on either a boatload of anecdotal evidence, or use very preliminary laboratory research, make a leap of faith, and assume that laboratory evidence is equivalent to clinical evidence. Then, when the gold standard of research, a randomized clinical trial is done, the results generally show nothing. And in some cases, the negative effect is with the supplement or food.

And if you’re looking to try the newest diet craze, be aware that most fad diets just have no long-term successes, and may actually do harm. The newest one is based on the paleolithic diet myth.

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Eating like our great ape relatives

Lately, I’ve had some interesting conversations with my friend Cathy, who is an artist and designer, about a whole raft of topics in medicine and science. She proclaims she has no scientific background, but she’s intensely curious about science and about what I write, so what else could a blogger want? Recently, we were discussing what constituted a good diet. I was trying to cut through what was myth and what was science, but sometimes it can be difficult to do so. My thoughts have always been that the human physiology is amazingly resilient, and as long as you have no chronic diseases, there is nothing one can do that will make the situation much better or much worse. Yes, maintaining levels of certain nutrients, such as vitamins C and D, iron, and others, are critical, but in the modern world, it’s almost impossible to miss out on those micronutrients. Continue reading “Eating like our great ape relatives”

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science–an update

Aliens cockpit ©HR Giger, 1978

For some reasons, the new movie Prometheus by Ridley Scott has struck a nerve with the skeptic blogosphere. I’m pretty certain, based on what I’ve been reading, that there is a distinctive creationist or intelligent design (as if they’re different) thread within the movie. And the overt religiosity of the characters who should have solidly denounced their anti-science religion once they discovered an alien being who seeded the earth with DNA (even if it was bogus science).  Continue reading “Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and anti-science–an update”