Skip to content

Myth: Our brains evolved because we ate animals

May 2, 2013

Many people have said to me “We would not have evolved to be the way we are if we did not eat animals.”

To this I say that sounds correct.

We probably would not have evolved to be as violent had we only eaten plants and never harmed animals.

As far as the evolution of our brains with regard to size and capacity for intelligence:   large brains and evolution happened not as a result of eating other animals but rather due to our discovery of fire.  So it wasn’t ‘meat’ that caused this evolution but heat.

Animals designed to eat other animals have evolved as follows:

  • Bite through the tough skin of a live animal, begin feeding while animal is still alive and continues while still raw, never cooked.
  • Eats the entire carcass
  • Lion’s bite psi = 600 human = 120 psi
  • Get enough nutrition from one large meal to go for several days without eating again. Carnivores have evolved to go for several days to months and in some cases up to one full year before consuming their next meal with no health consequences.
  • Eat rotting flesh with no health consequences.  A carnivore’s stomach has evolved to be several times more acidic and therefore raw flesh in any state of decay is still a perfectly healthy meal.
  • Able to hunt prey successfully and consistently without a gun, bow, knife, net or hook.
  • Able to make vitamin C within their own bodies therefore the eating of plants is not necessary to survival
  • Shorter digestive tract, acidic saliva, longer canines, carnassial teeth
  • Cannot distinguish between colors (this is something I will blog heavily about in the future)
  • Prey drive

Prey drive is what causes an animal to chase after something that moves.  Try throwing a ball down the hallway the next time you are at work and see how many people drop everything they are doing to chase after it.  Now go to a dog park and do the same thing.  Chasing a moving object is something that a carnivore and opportunistic eaters (omnivores) simply cannot resist.  If one of your coworkers chases the ball every time you throw it well, let’s just say that is not going to happen.  So what then does this say about human beings and whether or not we are carnivores?  Are we even omnivores?

We have not evolved to be animal eaters or carnivores.

There are many studies that conclude our brain evolved to what it is today once we began consuming animal flesh.  There seems to be an evolutionary correlation between adding animals to the ancient diet and the development of our brains.  According to anthropologist Richard Wrangham the adding of meat to our diet does not tell the whole story.

Wrangham explains what he believes is the real secret to the modern human. Raw food does not pack the energy to build the big-brained, small-toothed human of today.  Research shows that people on a raw food diet, including meat and oil, lose weight, experience chronic energy deficiency and many women will cease to menstruate on such a diet.  It isn’t that raw food is not nutritious; it is just more difficult for the body to get at the nutrition.  Wrangham says that cooking and the discovery of fire* is what ultimately allowed our brains to develop to the next level.  Plant foods have a cell wall, unlike animal flesh, and contained within this cell wall are the vitamins.  The cooking process breaks down the cell wall and our bodies have better access to the nutrition contained within.

It is important to note that because a plant has a cell wall and therefore we could not release its nutritional potential until cooking, despite the lack of a cell wall animal flesh in its raw state is equally lacking in its delivery of nutrition potential.  Cooking alters the meat itself. It breaks up the long protein chains, and that makes them easier for stomach enzymes to digest. “The second thing is very clear,” Wrangham adds, “and that is the muscle, which is made of protein, is wrapped up like a sausage in a skin, and the skin is collagen, connective tissue. And that collagen is very hard to digest. But if you heat it, it turns to jelly.”

Cooking is what Wrangham thinks ultimately changed our modern body. Someone discovered fire “Ultimately, of course, what makes us intellectually human is our brain,” he says. “And I think that comes from having the highest quality of food in the animal kingdom, and that’s because we cook.”

Therefore it is arguable that it is the discovery of fire and the cooking of foods to unlock their nutritional potential that allowed the human brain to develop to its present day state.

As far as evolving because of eating animals, I do say yes we have psychologically evolved to accept violence as a way life and the eating of animals is part of this collective thinking, but it doesn’t have to be.

Indifference to violence is a way of life and always has been.  That does not make it right, just because it has always been.  And it does not mean we should keep being this way.  But the truth is  we have compassion when someone or a group of people like ourselves is harmed (Boston Marathon, Sandy Hook).  But when equally terrible or even more terrible things happen to groups not like ourselves (Iraq, inner city shooting of a black male, pigs, cows) we are not glued to the TV just waiting for more news reports.  We do not feel the same outrage or sadness.  We may not feel anything at all . . . maybe just a twinge. We are a culture that perceives anything unlike ourselves as having less value and therefore we do not mourn the cow that suffers and dies yet we do the dog, because we see our dogs as part of our human group.

We have evolved psychologically to be anthropocentric and to view nature as something we must control for our own ‘good’ and in this process we have been utterly destructive.  Had we chosen a more peaceful diet and passed these values on to our children how would the world today be different?  It is a question worth pondering deeply I believe.  Evolution of the anatomy of the brain is one thing (keep reading to learn more about that) but evolution of culture and human thought and psychology collectively are quite another.  Our utter disrespect for any life or non-living that is not human is clear.  Our disrespect for other humans not like ourselves is also very clear.

Peace ❤

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: