[Sca-cooks] Leftovers, questions and discussion [long]

Fields Family Farm fields at texas.net
Thu Sep 9 12:12:27 PDT 2010

On Thu, Sep 9, 2010 at 8:54 AM, Daniel Myers <dmyers at medievalcookery.com>wrote:

> > -------- Original Message --------
> > From: Fields Family Farm <fields at texas.net>
> >
> > Not that I'm claiming that there was a recent mutation involved in this.
> > Most anthropologists have humans starting as scavengers and carrion
> eaters.
> > We would have had a potential resistance to spoilage toxins, and even the
> > bacteria, built in for millions of years.
> Having a degree in Anthropology, I can tell you that the above paragraph
> is incorrect on almost all counts.  Humans have been hunter-gatherers
> for most of recorded history (changing to agrarian only relatively
> recently), and before that were unlikely to have been carrion eaters.
> The best model for pre-civilization human diet is that of chimpanzees
> and gorillas - which are omnivores and/or vegetarians - and neither is a
> carrion eater to any significant degree.
> There is no built in resistance for spoilage toxins or bacteria, or
> potential thereof - at least not any more than exists in any other
> animal that has an immune system.
> The human species has only existed for at most 200000 years and
> therefore can't have had anything built in for millions of years.

While Homo sapiens sapiens first diverged around 200,000 years ago, Homo
sapiens sapiens is a sub-species of Homo sapiens, which has been around much
longer.  And even then, many anthropologists consider the split from the
chimpanzee/bonobo line about 6.5 million years ago to be the origin of
'humanity'.  At the least, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, and Homo
heidelbergensis, dating back 2 million years, are considered to be 'human'
by anthropologists such as Milford Wolpoff.  But, I'm flexible.  If you wish
to call our large-brained, upright, tool-using ancestors something other
than humans, I'll go with it.  What shall we call them?  Proto-humans?

Yes, 'humans' (H. sapiens sapiens) have been hunter-gatherers for much of
their history, but it wasn't recorded history.  Humans didn't start record
keeping until they advanced to agrarian societies, which meant they were no
longer hunter-gatherers - at least not the ones recording.

Anyway, as 'proto-humans' diverged from the other great apes, and gained a
larger brain, their diet changed as well, to support this new brain, which
needed more fats and proteins.  As part of their diet, they scavenged and
ate carrion.  And, because of this diet, their immune system changed
somewhat as well.  One theory is that humans evolved a more acidic digestive
system, as a result.  Some vultures and other carrion eaters also have this
adaptation, though to a greater extreme, in that it protects against a large
part of the bacteria they eat.  This theory also explains 'heartburn' as a
result of malfunctions of this heightened acidic digestion.  If I remember
correctly, chimps don't get heartburn.

As a hobby, I read recent science articles, abstracts, even journals when I
can get hold of them.  Most of them are on the web, but sadly, most also
charge for access.  So giving references for some of what I read can be a
problem.  But, luckily, a quick Google search turned up a supporting source
that I can quote and link for you.  From Evolution, by Jean-Baptiste de
Panafieu, Page 94 (emphasis mine):

"Between man and chimpanzee there is barely a 1% difference in the overall
sequence of the DNA...  However the differences are distributed throughout
the whole of the genome and therefore affect most of the genes.  This does
not always affect the synthesis of the proteins, whose functioning is
controlled by the genes, but the activity of some is markedly modified.  The
most different genes have to do with the sense of smell, with hearing,
and the immune system*. Our ancestors' evolution was subjected to powerful
selection pressures that left traces in our genome.  They mainly
concern *resistance
to microbes*, the production of ova and sperm, DNA function in the cells,
and nerve cell activity.  These genes shaped by selection probably played an
important role in our ancestors' survival and reproduction.
Adaption to an environment more open than the equatorial forest, with vast
stretches of savannah, remains one of the most plausible hypotheses (for man
walking upright).  Man is not only a good walker, over *some two million
years* he has also shown all the characteristics of a good long distance
runner.  *With a brain larger than that of his ancestors, early man needed a
diet richer in fats and proteins*, because that organ devours so much
energy.  *It was probably important for him to be quick to find the
carcasses signaled by vultures circling, after the large predators had their
meal but before the arrival of the other carrion eaters*.  These archaic men
may have also hunted by chase, pursuing prey over long distances to

Here's the link:
If Google books doesn't take you directly to page 94, just enter 'carrion
eater immune system' into the search field.

Of course, Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu is a professor of 'Natural Science',
not anthropology, but he's following the generally accepted current
science.  And he's French.  For all I know, 'Natural Scientist' may be what
the French call their anthropologists/biologists.

> > You're right.  The bacteria and the toxins are both dangers.  But
> antibodies
> > can/will be developed to not just the bacteria, but also to the toxins,
> > given sufficient exposure.
> I have not read any texts or articles on antibodies and food toxins, but
> I would be surprised if they were common or all that effective.  I would
> expect that often, "sufficent exposure" to many food toxins (e.g.
> botulinum) would likely be fatal.

Are you questioning the effectiveness of antibodies against toxins in
general?  Or just food toxins?  Against toxins in general, there's a long
history of building immunity to organic toxins.  Those that get snake-bit
often enough eventually become immune.  The same is possible with many
plant-based toxins.  If you're looking at bacterial toxins, the tetanus
vaccine actually protects against the toxin, not the bacteria, and few q

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