Monday night Sam and I went into Seattle to listen to a lecture by one of my favorite people, Dr. Spencer Wells. The author of The Journey of Man and now Pandora’s Seed and the driving force behind the Genographic Project, Dr. Wells possesses one of the most intelligent minds currently on the planet. Despite his Harvard, Stanford, Oxford pedigree the guy is incredibly down to earth and can explain complex theories in a way that even a dunce like me can understand.
In The Journey of Man Dr. Wells used mutations in the DNA chain to trace human migration patterns all the way back to an “Adam” and “Eve” couple living in central Africa. It’s even possible to send in a sample of your own DNA to the Genographic Project in order to obtain information about your own distant family tree. What I like about Dr. Wells is the fact that he doesn’t seem to forget that he’s not only dealing with bit of protein, but also that he’s dealing with individual human beings and human history.
Dr. Wells along with a few other researchers have begun to notice that even though we homo sapiens have been around for about two hundred thousand years, it has been only in the last ten thousand years that we’ve experienced massive amounts of evolutionary changes. What happened ten thousand years ago: the invention of agriculture.
Ironically the fossil record shows that the switch from a nomadic hunter gatherer lifestyle to a sedentary agricultural lifestyle was extremely detrimental to human health. In short our hunter gatherer ancestors were much healthier than their farmer descendants, a trend that continues even today. The human body has gone through great changes in the past ten thousand years, like developing the ability to digest milk after childhood, but still we are primarily suited to the active lifestyle and meat and plant based diet of our ancestors.
Check out his interview with John Stewart.