Friday, January 05, 2007

Meat and Two Veg

Is the human body "designed" to eat meat? Or is the human brain "designed" to prefer a vegetarian diet? A recent study [BBC News] showed some links between a vegetarian diet and high IQ, although it is not clear which causes what.

(I was particularly puzzled by this remark. "There was no difference in IQ score between strict vegetarians and those who said they were vegetarian but who reported eating fish or chicken." Who are these people who think chicken is a vegetable? Are they being dim-witted or devious, or do they have some inside information from the food processing industry?)

Scott Adams (himself a vegetarian and atheist) challenges his readers to produce reasons why it's healthier to eat meat.
But a lot of the arguments completely miss the point. If the human body is designed at all, it is designed to live in the wild, in near-starvation conditions. We are biologically programmed to feast on foods containing sweet, salt and fat, because our nomadic ancestors never had enough of these nutrients. Our bodies are not designed to function in conditions of abundance; the healthcare systems in some countries are overburdened by the diseases of affluence (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and so on).

Is the human body designed for hunting? We cannot outrun animals, but we can surround animals, and we can construct weapons. In other words, we are designed to hunt in armed gangs. Of course, this also equips us to fight wars. The dangerous idea that we should do something (eating meat, eating broccoli, fighting wars) simply because our bodies equip us to is known as the naturalistic fallacy.

Banksy's rock art
Source: Banksy via BBC News

Wikipedia: Scott Adams, Banksy, Naturalistic Fallacy, Sociobiology
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