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

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There are no perfect fits or fixes, but it is painstaking work like this that will help us cope with whatever comes next, not a prescription for a stone age diet.
-Guardian

Synopsis

“With . . . evidence from recent genetic and anthropological research, [Zuk] offers a dose of paleoreality.”—Erin Wayman, Science News


We evolved to eat berries rather than bagels, to live in mud huts rather than condos, to sprint barefoot rather than play football—or did we? Are our bodies and brains truly at odds with modern life? Although it may seem as though we have barely had time to shed our hunter-gatherer legacy, biologist Marlene Zuk reveals that the story is not so simple. Popular theories about how our ancestors lived—and why we should emulate them—are often based on speculation, not scientific evidence.

Armed with a razor-sharp wit and brilliant, eye-opening research, Zuk takes us to the cutting edge of biology to show that evolution can work much faster than was previously realized, meaning that we are not biologically the same as our caveman ancestors. Contrary to what the glossy magazines would have us believe, we do not enjoy potato chips because they crunch just like the insects our forebears snacked on. And women don’t go into shoe-shopping frenzies because their prehistoric foremothers gathered resources for their clans. As Zuk compellingly argues, such beliefs incorrectly assume that we’re stuck—finished evolving—and have been for tens of thousands of years. She draws on fascinating evidence that examines everything from adults’ ability to drink milk to the texture of our ear wax to show that we’ve actually never stopped evolving. Our nostalgic visions of an ideal evolutionary past in which we ate, lived, and reproduced as we were “meant to” fail to recognize that we were never perfectly suited to our environment. Evolution is about change, and every organism is full of trade-offs.


From debunking the caveman diet to unraveling gender stereotypes, Zuk delivers an engrossing analysis of widespread paleofantasies and the scientific evidence that undermines them, all the while broadening our understanding of our origins and what they can really tell us about our present and our future.

 

About Marlene Zuk

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Marlene Zuk is a professor of ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota. The author of Sex on Six Legs, she lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
 
Published March 18, 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company. 337 pages
Genres: Science & Math, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Paleofantasy
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Peter Forbes on Apr 24 2013

There are no perfect fits or fixes, but it is painstaking work like this that will help us cope with whatever comes next, not a prescription for a stone age diet.

Read Full Review of Paleofantasy: What Evolution ... | See more reviews from Guardian

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Cordelia Fine on Mar 15 2013

...one of Ms. Zuk's most important contributions is her discussion of the nitty-gritty of the science itself, including its inevitable uncertainties, controversies and gaps.

Read Full Review of Paleofantasy: What Evolution ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

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