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(Fire and Cooking in Human Evolution--continued, Part B)

The rift in the Natural Hygiene
movement over raw vs. cooked foods

Speaking of such details subject to refinement, I know you've been sitting on some very suggestive evidence to add further fuel to the fire-and-cooking debate now raging between the raw-foodist and "conservative-cooking" camps within Hygiene. Please bring us up to date on what the evolutionary picture has to say about this.

I'd be happy to. But before we get into the evolutionary viewpoint, I want to back up a bit first and briefly discuss the strange situation in the Hygienic community occurring right now over the raw foods vs. cooking-of-some-starch-foods debate. The thing that fascinates me about this whole brouhaha is the way the two sides justify their positions, each of which has a strong point, but also a telling blind spot.

Character of the rift: doctors vs. the rank-and-file. Now since most Natural Hygienists don't have any clear picture of the evolutionary past based on science for what behavior is natural, the "naturalistic" model used by many Hygienists to argue for eating all foods raw does so on a subjective basis--i.e., what I have called "the animal model for raw-food naturalism." The idea being that we are too blinded culturally by modern food practices involving cooking, and to be more objective we should look at the other animals--none of whom cook their food--so neither should we. Now it's true the "subjective raw-food naturalists" are being philosophically consistent here, but their blind spot is they don't have any good scientific evidence from humanity's primitive past to back up their claim that total raw-foodism is the most natural behavior for us--that is, using the functional definition based on evolutionary adaptation I have proposed if we are going to be rigorous and scientific about this.

Now on the other hand, with the doctors it's just the opposite story. In recent years, the Natural Hygiene doctors and the ANHS (American Natural Hygiene Society) have been more and more vocal about what they say is the need for a modest amount of cooked items in the diet--usually starches such as potatoes, squashes, legumes, and/or grains. And their argument is based on the doctors' experience that few people they care for do as well on raw foods alone as they do with the supplemental addition of these cooked items. Also, they argue that there are other practical reasons for eating these foods, such as that they broaden the diet nutritionally, even if one grants that some of those nutrients may be degraded to a degree by cooking. (Though they also say the assimilation of some nutrients is improved by cooking.) They also point out these starchier foods allow for adequate calories to be eaten while avoiding the higher levels of fat that would be necessary to obtain those calories if extra nuts and avocados and so forth were eaten to get them.

One side ignores the need for philosophical consistency. The other denies practical realities and real-world results. So we have those with wider practical experience arguing for the inclusion of certain cooked foods based on pragmatism. But their blind spot is in ignoring or attempting to finesse the inconsistency their stance creates with the naturalist philosophy that is the very root of Hygienic thinking. And again, the total-raw-foodists engage in just the opposite tactics: being philosophically consistent in arguing for all-raw foods, but being out of touch with the results most other people in the real world besides themselves get on a total raw-food diet, and attempting to finesse that particular inconsistency by nit-picking and fault-finding other implementations of the raw-food regime than their own. (I might interject here, though we'll cover this in more depth later, that although it's not true for everyone, experience of most people in the Natural Hygiene M2M supports the view that the majority do in fact do better when they add some cooked foods to their diet.)

Is there a way these two stances in the conflict over cooking can be reconciled and accounted for scientifically? Now my tack as both a realist and someone who is also interested in being philosophically consistent has been: If it is true that most people* do better with the inclusion of some of these cooked items in their diet that we've mentioned--and I believe that it is, based on everything I have seen and heard--then there must be some sort of clue in our evolutionary past why this would be so, and which would show why it might be natural for us.

The question is not simply whether fire and cooking are "natural" by some subjective definition. It's whether they have been used long enough and consistently enough by humans during evolutionary time for our bodies to have adapted genetically to the effects their use in preparing foods may have on us. Again, this is the definition for "natural" that you have to adopt if you want a functional justification that defines "natural" based on scientific validation rather than subjectivity.


(When was Fire First Controlled by Human Beings?)

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GO TO PART 1 - Setting the Record Straight on Humanity's Prehistoric Diet and Ape Diets

GO TO PART 2 - Fire and Cooking in Human Evolution

GO TO PART 3 - The Psychology of Idealistic Diets / Successes & Failures of Vegetarian Diets

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