Here we are, closing in on the 20th anniversary of this “fashion” called Primal / paleo movement. And critics said we would not last. Ha! I find it very gratifying for young people to climb on, question conventional wisdom, set up their own Primal practices, and in doing so, regain their health. It is a testament to the fundamental soundness of the primary plan if I say so myself.
While I like to think we’re running right now, the reality is that I still have as many questions as ever highlighting the basic misunderstandings and confusion that continue to surround the Primordial / Paleo / Ancestral Health movement. This suits me! I really appreciate all the questions and comments. It means that new people are meeting us and are open to knowing how the Primal project can help them. Even when I’m challenged, “What about these weird shoes, Sisson?”, It’s an opportunity to plant a seed that could one day flourish into a new, healthier lifestyle.
In today’s post, I answer three common questions that refuse to die. If you’re new here, we hope these clear up any lingering concerns you have about immersing yourself in a Primal lifestyle. Primary veterinarians, keep these answers in your back pocket. Eliminate them the next time you meet a friend or family member who falsely cares that he stubbornly insists on losing the sense of what we are here for.
Why would he want to live like a caveman? What about modern technology?
As much as I accept the questions, I have to shake my head when people accuse me of trying to turn modern humans back into cavemen. Yes, this still happens, even after years and years of writing a blog on my laptop from home with air conditioning. Clearly I am not trying to reverse society to the Paleolithic. I don’t advocate running through the streets with skins or hunting dinner with spears (but more power for you if you’re skilled enough).
For sure, Grok is our beloved icon here, but we all know that Grok would have loved to have a fridge, a comfortable bed and a Spotify subscription. My readers should already know the goal is to learn from Grok, picking up clues on how to build excellent lifelong health, not completely imitate it..
What about modern technology? Certainly a lot. But modern technology also allows us to live a life of unimaginable comfort compared to anything our ancestors enjoyed. Modern medicine, dentistry, transportation, communication, all of this is certainly a net positive for humanity despite the drawbacks. Grok’s life was a hard one. It also shaped our genes into what they are today. We don’t need to make life artificially difficult (or harder than they are, anyway). We just have to respect the genetic model we have all inherited as humans.
Are humans still not evolving? Why should we even care about what our missing ancestors did? Surely we have changed a lot since then.
The question of whether humans are still evolving is complicated. Even esteemed scientists disagree on this. (Maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise: scientists make a living from disagreeing with each other.) Without getting too into the weeds here, it is clear that genetic selection is still taking place. Livestock populations adapted to dairy consumption. The English have become fairer in recent millennia, presumably to help with vitamin D production. The Dutch are getting higher and higher, probably due to the pressure of sexual selection (female couples prefer tall men ) rather than a particular survival advantage.
You know what it is no happening? Humans don’t get better by living with french fries and German chocolate cake, unfortunately. We don’t thrive thanks to chronic stress or sleep four hours a night. Our muscles have not known how to get stronger sitting on the couch. We are survive no prosperous in our modern environment.
The short story, our biology has not changed much in the evolutionary balance of 10,000 years since the Agrarian Revolution. Of course, our societies have advanced, our cultures have flourished, our technological innovation has exploded, our sense of fashion has improved. But the latest weather and environmental and cultural pressures have not revolutionized our basic biochemistry. Glucose, insulin, adrenaline, glycogen, amino acids, glutathione, all still present and accounted for.
I am as convinced as ever that the basics of health are the ones I set out 10 primary laws of the plan:
- Eat lots of plants and animals.
- Do not eat things that are harmful to health.
- Move your body as much as possible. Lift heavy things. Sprint sometimes.
- Get plenty of sleep and enjoy the sun.
- Play and engage your brain.
- Don’t do stupid things that could kill you.
… As well as other habits of highly successful hunter-gatherers. I challenge even the hardest paleoskeptic to show that we have evolved no they need these things. In any case, these edicts are even more critical in our modern world, where it is all too easy to ignore them and ruin our health in the process.
Didn’t the cavemen die young? This doesn’t sound very aspirational.
Grok probably didn’t even live out his 30th birthday. That’s what you’ve heard, right? Anything along these lines? We set the record.
According to many scientific analyzes, including the seminal work of Henry Oliver Lancaster Life expectancy, we must re-examine our modern assumptions about the supposedly short lifespan of early humans. They are based on little hard evidence, relying instead on the extrapolation back of contemporary hunter-gatherer groups. These groups do not serve as accurate models of comparison because population density, disease introduction, and other intrusions of modern life have significantly affected their ways of life.
Also, we have to ask ourselves how our ancestors died. Grok’s third or fourth decade did not constitute “old age” as we understand it today: a prolonged period of physical and cognitive decline. He did not die at age 30 because he succumbed to complications related to diabetes or heart disease. Although the average life expectancy of early humans was probably about 33 years, much of this was driven by high infant mortality rates. If they survived childhood, early humans usually died as a result of trauma (accident or war), predator attacks, natural disasters, famine, or exposure to the elements, not because their lower genes caused their bodies to ‘abandonissin.
We don’t live longer because we are inherently healthier or “more evolved” than our ancestors. We live longer because modern advances protect us from the things that used to take people out at their best. Given modern medical care, relative food safety, and better protection against the elements, the average early human could have survived into mature old age, even by modern standards. In fact, despite the harshness of life back then, many did. Those who passed childhood probably had a good chance of prospering until the age of 60 or 70. And since we know that, logistically, sick or weak people probably wouldn’t have lasted long, we can assume that Grok and his family members were largely healthy by the end. That sounds pretty aspiring to me.
Conclusion: The Primal Blueprint is a framework for health in the modern world
Here is the message to take home. The primary plan is ultimately to reconcile our primordial genes with modern circumstances. You can optimize health by choosing biologically appropriate foods and activities in a 21st century context. Of course, take advantage of the many, lots of Modern ways of life is far superior to the existence of Grok. But also, respect the wisdom of our ancestors. Avoid the temptation to avoid modern medicine and other advances in principles (avoid the naturalistic fallacy). On the other hand, don’t glorify technology and assume that the newest is always better.
By the way, I occasionally listen to readers who feel overwhelmed by how different the modern world is to what our genes are used to. They wonder how they can ever be “primitive enough” to make a difference. Every step you take is important, whether it’s quitting your chronic cardiovascular workouts, trying to buy better quality food a few nights a week, or turning off electronic devices half an hour earlier each night. Instead of judging Grok, seek inspiration from Grok. And then thank you for the interior plumbing!
Do you still have questions? Have you heard other misconceptions about the Primal approach? Send them and share your thoughts.