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Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live Hardcover – 10 May 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (10 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081374
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 493,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

In thoroughly engaging and witty prose, Zuk (Sex on Six Legs), a biologist from the University of Minnesota, dismantles the pseudoscience behind nostalgic yearnings for our caveman days. --Publisher's Weekly

[an] elegant book [...]Zuk writes with a pleasant, dry humour which intermittently sparkles. --Literary Review

About the Author

Marlene Zuk is a professor of biology at the University of California - Riverside and is the author of Sex on Six Legs.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. G. Raggett on 12 July 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is full of information related to the current fashion for trying to bring our lives more into line with the perceived life style of the paleolithic hunter gatherers. There are numerous discussion points. It is pointed out that some evolutionary changes are not glacial in their pace, but may be accomplished in only a few generations. This means that we cannot assume that we have not to some extent adapted to changes in life style over the last few thousand years. Also it is argued that evolution does not achieve perfect adaptation but merely compromises, so even the hunter gatherers were not perfectly adapted to their environment. The author also cautions that there are wide variations between the life styles of the surviving modern hunter gatherers.

The same variations may have been true of the paleolithic hunter gatherers. For instance, it is thought that the introduction of the bow and arrow radically changed the type of animals that could be hunted at some stage within the paleolithic period. The actual life styles of the ancient hunter gatheres are a matter for speculation, rather than something on which modern life can be based.

Furthermore, it is difficult to accurately replicate the conditions of the hunter gatherers in the 21st century. The paleo diet tends to lay a great emphasis on meat. But modern farm animals have a much a higher fat content than the animals hunted in the paleolithic period, which would nowadays be classed as 'game' or wild meat. Similarly, vegetable and fruit that existed in the paleolithic held much less nutrition than modern cultivated produce.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hector on 5 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback
Why should there have ever been some golden age in the past, any more than there is now? Humans have always been developing, in a changing climatic, food and cultural environment. A very worthwhile book, thank you.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 July 2014
Format: Paperback
We all enjoy seeing smug people who tell us how to live being taken down a peg, and in Paleofantasy, subtitled ‘what evolution really tells us about sex, diet and how we live’, Marlene Zuk lays into those who promote a ‘paleo diet’ or ‘caveman lifestyle.’ As the book entertainingly makes clear, these concepts are based on a total misunderstanding.

The idea behind the paleofantasy, particularly popular, it seems, among the New York chatterati, is that we ought to try to live more like our Palaeolithic forebears, because this was the lifestyle and diet we evolved for, where now we live in a very ‘unnatural’ environment. Zuk tears this idea to shreds, showing how evolution doesn’t evolve ‘for’ anything, how we weren’t particularly well matched to our Palaeolithic environment anyway, how we’ve evolved since and how the ideas of what, for instance, people of that period ate are wrong both because, for instance, they did seem to eat grains, and also because they weren’t a single population in a single environment, but actually had many, widely differing lifestyles.

This much is brilliant, but the reason I can only give the book three stars is that it really does feel like this part of the content is more a long article than a book, so it then had to be stretched. This produces a couple of problems. One is that Zuk keeps going back to what the people on ‘Caveman’ forums and the likes say, to compare with the science, and after the initial fun, we don’t care. It’s a bit like writing a book on climate change and using the non-science that Nigel Lawson puts forward all the way through as a straw man, rather than briefly mentioning and dismissing it at the start.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hertfordshire Chris on 30 Mar. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
As a scientist who is interested in the evolution of humans I greatly enjoyed this book in that it covers many on the factors that shape our everyday life - the food we eat and our ability to digest it - sex and family issues - and whether evolution is continuing. It also has useful notes identifying sources and a good bibliography. (For a more deailed review on my blog see [..]
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