As a graduate student I had the opportunity to take a class on human evolution with David S. Wilson while at Binghamton University. As a class component, there was a small discussion led by Dr. Wilson that included myself and 8 other graduate students. This was not my first exposure to human evolution, I had always loved reading books on the subject. Some of my favorites included ones written by E.O. Wilson (no relation to David S Wilson), On Human Nature (1979) and Biophilia (1984) to name a couple. Most of the books I had read on human evolution delt mainly with its concepts and theory. So when I took Dr. Wilson's coarse, I expected more of the same, discussions on human evolution theory. But what was so inspiring and eye-opening while taking his class was the ease at which one trained in evolution can understand how these concepts apply to everyday living. I learned that with the proper background knowledge you can use evolution to further your knowledge on any subject.
Since graduate school, I've used evolution to help me become a better teacher by using it to help me understand how students think and process information. I also use it when caring for the animals on our farm. Evolution helps guide us in providing them the proper environment to keep them as healthy as possible. For example, a question regarding proper animal nutrition would be, "do we feed our goats grain or hay?" Goats did not evolve on a diet of grain, and even hay is not their ideal food because goats are natural browsers. Goats eat a wide variety of shrubs, small trees, and tall weeds. Therefore, for our goats to have the healthiest diet we feed grain at an absolute minimum and bulk them up on hay throughout the winter months. We eventually plan to install rotational grazing paddocks so our goats can eat a diet that resembles their evolutionary ideal, pasture weeds and grass and forest understory seedlings and shrubs.
So, having briefly discussed how the concepts of human evolution can be applied to our daily lives, leads me to the question I am trying answer. Can evolution help us decide what is the most healthy human diet to eat? Before attempting to answer this question, there are others we must first contemplate. First off, is there a single diet that we are designed to eat, or can it vary, in producing the most healthy benefits? Secondly, are all foods created equal? For example, is all beef, milk, and corn created equal? These are only a few of the questions I think about when trying to use human evolution by way of natural selection to design a beneficial diet for our family. Every time I place food in front of my two young sons I ask myself, "what would our ancestors have fed their children and why."
Thus, coming up with anecdotal stories that coincide with evolutionary theory and our human history is the first important step in using evolution as a tool to help us understand how we should be eating. These stories, are sometimes referred to as 'just so' stories. 'Just so' stories have sometimes gotten a bad rap in some circles because they may have not been proved scientifically. In order to use science to our benefit we must test our ideas. Thus, I will do my best to compare these 'just so' stories regarding the human diet and evolution with current research that has been proven. The 'just so' stories are easy to propagate, but I assure you that taking our time using scientific methods and doing due diligence through research will make our conclusions meaningful.
post by Eric Beiter