How Evolution Has Left Us Ill-Prepared for the Modern World
It’s time to get back to our roots.
In the A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century Book Summary, you’ll find out why many of us are so miserable despite having more wealth and convenience than ever before.
It all comes down to understanding our evolution.
Our bodies and minds have been shaped over millions of years of evolution, often making them mismatched with our present-day environments.
From medicine to food to childhood, we need to embrace our ancestral past in order to understand what is best for us.
We must analyse the implications of these differences in detail – such as why screens inhibit childhood development, why sleep has an evolutionary purpose, and why we reproduce sexually.
Only when we understand how everything shapes us can we truly thrive in the modern age.
Modernity Is Affecting Our Perception and Health Without Us Fully Realising It
WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) people may have been exposed to certain optical illusions which trick the eye into believing that two lines of exactly the same length are different.
It’s fascinating to note that hunter-gatherer societies like the San Bushmen of Southern Africa almost never make this mistake – even when presented with two identical lines.
It’s believed that the key factor at play here is that WEIRD countries are full of unnatural geometry – timber with straight edges, precise corners, etc.
So much so that WEIRD people might become desensitised to organic forms and struggle to recognize different line lengths.
This disconnect is likely exhibited in other ways as well; for example, many people modernized countries suffer from appendicitis whereas those in developing countries rarely do.
This is because the appendix plays a role in reseeding good bacteria back into our gut when we’re affected by diarrhea or stomach upset due to an imbalance in our gut microbiome.
But because WEIRD nations are so hygienic and rid of germs and bacteria due to over cleaning, these imbalances don’t get corrected leading to some health issues such as appendicitis.
Clearly modernity has an effect on us which doesn’t always benefit us and is oftentimes not fully comprehended by experts in the field.
There Is No Universally Best Diet, And Cooking Has Had a Positive Impact on Human Well-Being
As long as there have been people on Earth, there have been different diets.
Depending on a person’s genetic lineage and cultural practices, what works best for them nutritionally may vary widely.
Inuit people of Northern Europe, for example, eat extremely high amounts of meat and fat, while those in the Mediterranean region consume much higher amounts of carbohydrates like cereals – something that was not part of the ancestral Inuit diet.
This highlights just how wrong it is to suggest one specific diet should meet everyone’s needs.
Raw food diets have also become popular as of late, but this overlooks the advantages our ancestors had when they began cooking their food – leading to increased energy intake and improved nutrition absorption from consuming fewer calories than are consumed with raw foods.
Plus, some plants gained a new benefit when cooked: detoxification.
A third benefit of cooking was sterilising the food to reduce exposure to bacteria or parasites- something vital for human practice over time.
Finally, smoking provided an means for certain foods like meats and fish to last longer without spoiling; this allowed our ancestors freedom over larger distances due to an increased ability to transport food supplies without spoilage.
Cooking has been fundamental in human progress and development; it hasn’t impeded us at all!
There is simply no ideal universal diet out there – so finding out which plates truly satisfies your nutritional needs requires careful consideration.
The Advantages of Sexual Reproduction: How Our Unique Differences Help Us Survive in an Unpredictable World
Sexual reproduction is a complicated and costly process.
But why go through all the trouble when you could just reproduce asexually? This is what some species of frogs and Komodo dragons do, and it would certainly be simpler.
However, sexual reproduction is advantageous in a volatile world.
Your genes can be mixed with someone else’s to create new combinations that will help your children adapt better to an environment they haven’t even encountered yet.
In this way, sexual reproduction allows us to stay one step ahead of the future.
Of course, there are differences between males and females, known as sexual dimorphism.
We have different risks for certain diseases and addiction issues, as well as different personality traits – women on average tend to be more altruistic than men, for example.
Additionally, language exists across cultures to differentiate between the two sexes – proof that sex is almost universal among humans.
Therefore, despite its costliness and complications, sexual reproduction makes sense in our unpredictable world.
The Importance of Allowing Children to Explore During Childhood
Exploration and discovery is an essential part of childhood development – without it, we cannot reach our full potential as adults.
As infants, we have the greatest amount of plasticity in our brains; we have the capacity to learn about ourselves and the world around us.
Children are born with the ability to hear any language sounds and tones from all over the world, regardless of ethnicity or race.
But if this capability isn’t used before adulthood, these neurons will die away.
Unfortunately, many parents in the 21st century take a strongly controlling role when it comes to their children’s learning experiences.
They plan out their activities and direct them to play in certain ways.
Additionally, they often use television and screens to subtly keep them submissive.
But these interventions can stunt exploration and prevent children from growing into truly capable adults.
Parents must remember that childhood is a crucial time for self-discovery; allowing free exploration during this time can help refine your child’s mind in the way evolution intended – letting go of things that won’t be needed for their future lives.
Why Do We Need to Sleep? Evolution Has Given us the Gift of ‘Dream Time’
Sleep has always been part of our biology and evolution as humans.
We know that this is the case because nearly every animal needs to sleep, so it’s likely that if there were intelligent aliens out there in the universe, they too would need to sleep.
But why? What evolutionary purpose does it serve?
A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century explains that early humans didn’t have access to eyes with dual vision but instead evolved specialized eyes for either light or darkness.
This allowed them to be more ecologically productive during their time awake.
However, when their eyes could not see well in darkness it was not productive or safe to be active during this period; therefore sleeping became an adaptive behavior that conserved energy and kept us safe from predators.
Therefore, we can say for sure that sleep is our body’s answer to a very specific problem – specifically, how do early humans react best to a day/ night light pattern? The need for conservation of energy and protection from predators drove this adaptation and has been passed down through generations as one of our most fundamental requirements.
Reduce Reductionism and Avoid Magic Bullet Cures for What Ails Us
When dealing with modern health issues, there is a tendency among scientists to take an overly reductionist approach.
This involves looking at the human body in terms of its individual components and trying to identify singular solutions that address issues within one particular part of the body.
However, this ignores the fact that our bodies are composed of complicated systems with intricately interconnected parts and processes, which can be adversely affected by changes to any single element.
For instance, when fluoridation was added to public drinking water as a means to reduce tooth decay, it was found to have negative side effects such as increased risk for neurological problems in children and hypothyroidism.
The same goes for processed food containing propionic acid – while it is effective in extending shelf life, it has been linked to higher rates of autism when consumed by pregnant women or developing babies, revealing once again that there are no magic bullets when it comes to health care.
It is therefore important for scientists to recognize the need for holistic approaches to treating illnesses and diseases – taking into account all aspects of a person’s health (mind, hormones and organs) rather than solely focusing on one isolated area such as physiology.
Only then can they truly understand how different substances affect an individual’s wellbeing and provide effective treatments without compromising any other areas.
The Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century is a book that offers readers valuable insights into how we should be approaching life in the modern world.
It starts from an evolutionary biology perspective, reminding us of trade-offs and our fundamental misunderstandings about convenience, medicine, and technology.
The key message of the book is that we need to be mindful of these trade-offs and pay attention to our natural body’s needs.
The actionable advice given by this book is for us to feel the earth beneath our feet, which means forgoing shoes every now and then and allowing our feet to develop calluses and absorb information about the terrain underneath them.
This can prevent issues regarding both health problems as well as normal child development.
The conclusion left by this book is one encouraging minimalism; stay rooted in nature while enjoying the best parts of modernity.