Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live – Marlene Zuk

Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live

Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live

Summary

A high-level examination of why recent popular fads in diet and exercise are often based on misinterpretation of evolutionary theory and natural selection.

Review

To some extent, this is not so much an instructive book as a destructive one. Zuk’s primary purpose (as suggested by the title) is to knock down many of the stories people make up about how humans should best live because of their past – whether we’re ‘adapted’ to one diet or another, for example. In passing, it’s also a handy primer on recent evolutionary thought.

Zuk takes particular relish in knocking holes in the paleo diet – a topic she comes back to several times – but in general does an excellent job of describing the latest fads and pointing out how poor is their claim to be based on serious science. In the book’s ten chapters, she quickly does away with unfounded – but trendy – diets, exercise and health fads, and general wrong-headedness/gullibility in contemporary society. She backs up her arguments with citations and with solid interpretation of base science, and an acknowledgement when she favors her own approach to a contested issue.

The book is written with a wry humor, but I wish it had gone a little further into positive science – describing what we do know rather than (mostly) why another belief is wrong. It’s currently a nicely balanced read that’s light on complexity – a quick, high-level look rather than an in-depth examination – but could still have done more to build knowledge rather than just know down myth. It does, however, more by chance than by intent, function as a nice review of what’s currently known or believed about evolution. I enjoyed it.

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