- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 18, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393081370
- ISBN-13: 978-0393081374
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 72 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #804,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live 1st Edition
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Working from the assumption that human physiology has remained virtually unchanged since our hunting and gathering days more than 10,000 years ago, advocates of the currently popular Paleolithic, or caveman, diet eschew dairy, grains, and other products of modern agriculture. Some Paleo buffs go even further, promoting barefoot running and sleeping with our infants, arguing that modern living has wreaked havoc on our collective health. For University of California biology professor Zuk, such notions are Paleofantasies, a misinformed nostalgia for a mythical era when humans supposedly lived in perfect harmony with nature. In this illuminating overview of state-of-the art evolutionary science, the author debunks this utopian ideal and demonstrates that not only have humans continued to evolve since our foraging days, but some of those adaptations have been remarkably swift. Zuk draws on emerging evidence from gene mapping and studies on lactose digestion proving that today’s humans are definitely different from our caveman ancestors. While Zuk doesn’t disagree that a couch-potato lifestyle is detrimental, she offers a reassuring message that humankind is still tweaking its genome. --Carl Hays
“We tend to idealize our ancestors, as if they had the perfect life and perfect diet. In highly readable style, Marlene Zuk downplays our paleo-heritage. Not only did we change culturally, we are also genetically a different animal.”
- Frans de Waal, author of The Bonobo and the Atheist
“Marlene Zuk’s quest to understand prehistory is an elegant guide for the perplexed. Paleofantasy cuts through a confusing tangle of facts and claims to give us a trustworthy road map to the glorious problems of who we are and where we come from.”
- Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
“In thoroughly engaging and witty prose, Zuk (Sex on Six Legs), a biologist from the University of Minnesota, dismantles the pseudoscience behind nostalgic yearnings for our caveman days.”
- Publishers Weekly
“Nothing beats good hard data to debunk myths, and Zuk offers plenty.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“In this illuminating overview of state-of-the art evolutionary science, [Zuk] debunks this utopian ideal and demonstrates that not only have humans continued to evolve since our foraging days, but some of those adaptations have been remarkably swift.”
- Carl Hays, Booklist
“Ms. Zuk’s nutritionally rich scientific fodder will certainly bring intellectual benefits far greater than those provided by the pseudoscientific confections with which we are so often tempted.”
- Cordelia Fine, Wall Street Journal
“Zuk doesn’t deny that an understanding of evolution can provide important insights into human behavior and health. But as this informative book demonstrates, the work of using evolutionary logic to explain human traits is more like multi-variable calculus than simple arithmetic.”
- The Daily Beast
“In her witty and well-researched prose, Zuk debunks these pseudoscience-based conceptions and proves that humanity did not have “a time” like the kind depicted by these fantasies; evolution has always been and will continue to be a key player in our species’ future.”
- Liz Belliovskaya, Brain World Magazine
“Paleofantasy is not another self-help book offering answers on how to eat, exercise, or love better in our evolving world. Instead, Zuk emphasizes that we can approach these aspects of our lives differently based on our genetic makeup.”
- Catherine Woods, Science Magazine
“Zuk ably presents a skeptical and light-hearted view of a long list of palaeofantasies and supposed solutions.”
- John Hawks, Nature
Top customer reviews
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As in her previous books, Zuk brings together the work of international scientists of different disciplines, making the reader aware of the many aspects of evolution and nutrition that have been researched, and what has been revealed as facts.
Unlike food fantasies that promote to limit our diet, this book is refreshing to all who love food and take being healthy seriously. It is exciting to learn how our tolerance for digesting milk is part of our evolution, and what was found in the plaque of ancient humans.
Zuk’s humor makes it so much fun to learn about the facts - and to accept what we do not know.
Most of all, Paleofantasy points out how evolution has never been a smooth process, never a time when we, or any other living organism, had been living in perfect harmony with the environment. And we’re still in the process of evolution…
I highly recommend this book.
What I found most interesting was her statement that there was no "perfect time" when humans where completely at one with their environments. That there was no one palaeolithic environment at all but many. Humans just adapt and get on with things in spite of the imperfections within themselves and their world
She writes about lot of other issues of evolution as well - the hows and the whys of sexual characteristics and immune responses, for instance.
Well worth the read.