While I think the Caveman approach is a nice background story, the lead story about Paleo is the how's and what's of this approach helping our bodies recover from modern eating, reduce inflammation, get insulin under control, and optimize our life.
I recently read several posts on salt and alcohol, and rather than look at how it would impact the body, folks used the guess of "I don't think a caveman would have access to salt" as their primary argument.
Anyone else tired of this? What else in the Paleo community gets on your nerves?
Yes. I have grown to intensely dislike the "Grok" metaphor, even though I recognize how important it is for many people to grasp Paleo initially. But I think we run a real risk of letting that get too central to our thinking.
Paleo is a heuristic with which we can solve the Dinner Problem (what to eat for dinner) and which we can use to generate new hypotheses about the world. That's really it: a rough rule of thumb (by no means complete) to figure out what to eat for dinner, and a framework to come up with new ideas to test.
To make this really, really clear: "What did cavemen do in this situation" can only generate hypotheses at best. You can use it to get an idea of what to further investigate. You can use it as you're walking down the grocery aisle and need a quick and dirty solution to the problem of what to put in the cart. You absolutely cannot use it to prove anything.
If you test your ideas with "what did cavemen do" speculation and use that as conclusive, then you've moved away from skeptical empiricism and into mystical dogmatism - a true "paleo principle" mindset leaves you just as mentally constrained as any raw vegan.
There's nothing wrong with thinking from a paleo starting point, but there's everything wrong with failing to test that with actual experiments. That's the essence of science: testing ideas with experimentation. It's an institutional failure that lead us to low-fat idiocy, not a failure of science, and throwing the golden light of knowledge out with the wretched political machinery that constrains it is a bad idea.
So, yes, I agree. I wish people would be more precise in their use of Grok in their reasoning. I think we do paleo no favors when we ground health advice in random speculation about what Grok might have done, because that is truly sloppy reasoning that any paleo critic can easily attack.
"Caveman", "paleo", and "grok" are just shorthand. They are terms with meanings that are agreed upon so they can be used in discussion in place of more cumbersome descriptions. Without a common understnading of what they represent they are meaningless. I agree they have started to become cliches, but they are still useful.
The real danger in these terms is in how they are used by people who have little or no idea of what we are doing, especially the media. It is easy for lazy journalists to latch on to simplistic ideas like modern city dwellers yearning to live like caveman. Which is not what most of us are after.
Simplifying complex things through the concept of a caveman may open the door to better decisions and, thus, greater health for the population-at-large.
The need for this simplification for the population-at-large is the true issue -- an issue separate from the adoption of Paleo itself, but has everything to do with the intellectual capacity of an entire nation. A completely separate discussion.
Perhaps some people invest their intellectual resources elsewhere and would prefer to see diet and exercise through the eye of a caveman, making life simpler as they focus on the cure for cancer or write the next American novel. Whatever it is, it's not always a bad thing.
But it's the few people who attempt to substitute the true science with a theoretical caveman who are bastardizing the Paleo lifestyle.
Grok, Caveman, Paleo... Don't pass it off as science, but don't ignore its utility.
No. Don't forget that science brought us the SAD and CW. It's entirely possible to lose sight of the forest because you're examining bark under a magnifying glass...
I've been running my take on Paleo on caveman logic. It works.
Regarding the "how's" and "what's":
"What" would a caveman do is a great place to start. And, for many people, that might even be as far as they need to go. If they don't want to eat salt because caveman didn't, that's fine. When I first followed a paleo diet a few years ago, this was as far as I got in my education because I was seeing great results and feeling better than ever. If it was working for me as it was, why would I care what the scientific reasoning was? Because, as Fearsclave said, since science brought us SAD and CW, I wasn't in any particular hurry to understand paleo from a scientific standpoint.
These days, with more and more research in the area, the "how" and "why" are starting to be important (and more accessible) to many of us. When you're trying to convince friends, family, or society at large of the benefits and safety of a "new" way of eating, it's often important to provide scientific backing to what you are telling them. Remember, they don't necessarily believe that CW is false and they believe that it is backed with science of its own. And, CW tells them that paleo, with it's higher fat and lower carb content, is dangerous so they may need that expert advice based on science.
My girlfriend is always telling me 'my science' is sometimes a little too far ahead of the curve for her and the rest of the world. I like when CNN puts up a story that says we are right, but it is easier to use the 'caveman' analogy rather than studies because there is just to much accepted CW out there to argue with.
I like to remember that the Earth was once flat and the Sun revolved around us. One day perhaps eating meat will be proven healthy again and eating plants will be frowned upon. Until then, my argument is based on a caveman.
Although it is called the paleo diet for something, I understand what you mean. That's why I agree with 'pfw's answer.
One other thing I think people often forget, is that evolution is not about health, it is about replication of genes, about reproduction. And health (or happiness) are only important if they help reproduction. See effects of insulin, caloric restriction on health and reproduction.
A good read on this is the book 'Why we get sick' by Nesse and Williams. (although they are wrong on the fat hypothesis).
It's not a bad idea in principle. However very few people ever seem to bother finding out what our ancestors actually did, on the best scientific evidence we currently have.
A more common trend seems to be projecting back onto paleolithic man what he did or didn't do as a justification for personal opinions. For this reason some people would not do things for which there is evidence that cavemen did do.
Scientific thinking is the only reason we know anything about cavemen at all.
It is more officially referred to as "Paleo Reenactment" and I am ever increasingly inclined to shun it in favor of Dr. Kurt Harris's approach of evaluating actual benefit regardless of historical usage.
I wouldn't say I'm "tired of" it. I think it's a good heuristic and it's a positive thing that people use it as a first rule of thumb. I do very strongly disagree with any attempts to privilege such hypothetical reasoning over nuts and bolts scientific analysis though. When the hard science is available either in terms of rigorous tests showing actual outcomes or in terms of identifiable concrete mechanisms then it's that that counts.
There might seem to be cases where 'caveman reasoning' (e.g. humans would have had to burn their own saturated body fat, for extended periods throughout their evolutionary history) might seem to trump 'hard science' (e.g. SFA->cholesterol->CVD) but clearly enough, in such cases, the science is simply and tangibly at fault. It's also on the basis of hard science that we can recognise that human metabolism is often run primarily on fat, rather than on the basis of typically historical reasoning (e.g. did cavemen eat mostly animal fat, or lots of plants).
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