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Weekend Diversion: Revisionist Natural History and HuffPo? [Starts With A Bang]

We've got a lot going on here in America these days, with towering unemployment, a dying manufacturing industry, huge environmental problems, and the tense fight for all sorts of rights and freedoms, such as GLBT equality and abortion rights. But there are two things that I'd like to remind you of this weekend. First off, not only are there other places far worse off then America, but we really have no idea what's even going on there. As Manu Chao sings below (in Arabic), people don't know (or even care) about what's going on in Algeria (English lyrics here).

But the song -- Denia -- is both fabulous and one of the most interesting musical explorations I've heard in a long time. Listen for yourself:

But secondly, we have news reporters who lie, reporting one poorly-researched fringe perspective and selling it as reality. Fortunately, I'm well-informed enough that I'm willing to take this on. Our vile reporter is Huffington Post's "Author, Health and Wellness Expert" Kathy Freston. And -- to be honest -- I don't care about her views. I don't care that she has a body/mind/spirit approach to health, I don't care that her focus includes emotional introspection and spiritual practice, and I don't care about her abuse of the word quantum.

But when you mess with science and scientific accuracy, you mess with everything I stand for, and therefore you mess with me. She recently wrote an article entitled Shattering the Meat Myth: Humans are Natural Vegetarians. And she might have gotten away with statements like this:

I noticed the frequently stated notion that eating meat was an essential step in human evolution. While this notion may comfort the meat industry, it's simply not true, scientifically.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, professor emeritus at Cornell University and author of The China Study, explains that in fact, we only recently (historically speaking) began eating meat, and that the inclusion of meat in our diet came well after we became who we are today. He explains that "the birth of agriculture only started about 10,000 years ago at a time when it became considerably more convenient to herd animals. This is not nearly as long as the time [that] fashioned our basic biochemical functionality (at least tens of millions of years) and which functionality depends on the nutrient composition of plant-based foods."
Except that I know that her conclusion takes his quote out of context. How do I know this? I just read an up-to-date-book on the natural history of Beef! The basic story?

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Yes, humans were hunter/gatherers until about 10,000 years ago. Then agriculture developed, which attracted herd animals, and then herding and ranching developed shortly thereafter. The farmer/herder conflict is one of the oldest in human history, and that's what the "Cain & Abel" story is about. But is that the start of when humans ate meat?

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Please. Notice the "hunter" component in hunter/gatherer? Notice that the cow (in some incarnation) is a god in nearly every early culture? Notice how Native Americans ate meat all the time, even though they never herded buffalo; choosing to hunt buffalo, even after domesticating the horse!

But I'm sure that won't convince you. After all, I've only shown human behavior in the last 10,000 years. What could I do to possibly go farther back? Oh, I know! Let's look at what the other great apes do! How about Bonobos? Do they eat any meat?

bonobo_eating.jpg

Very clever; bonobos eat the insects that live inside of plants and trees! They've even been seen using wooden tools to gather them. Well, maybe insects are too small for you to consider them to be animals. What else do we have. Orangutans?

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Hunting and eating fish! Yes, yes they do. In fact, this technique has been seen to be extremely effective at fisheries, where the Orang can successfully use a stick to maneuver the fish out of a net! And what of the chimpanzee, our closest relative?

chimp-meat-580x400.hmedium.jpg

Well, this one... umm... gosh, Kathy, it looks like it's eating meat! How could this be? Oh, right, evolution, and the fact that the modern increase in human cranial capacity -- anthropologically -- corresponds with the addition of meat to our diet. Not 10,000 years ago, but about 4 million years ago.

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So keep writing your crazy books, Kathy, but leave your abuses of science out of it. I don't care whether you're vegan, vegetarian, or an omnivore (after all, I went 7 years without eating red meat), but please recognize that by nature, whether you like it or not, humans also eat meat.

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