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Are we biologically adapted to living in North America?


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The existence of culture is a biological adaptation to a changing environment. It allows for the very rapid adaptation of behavior to novel environments in the span of a single generation. If you say "Discounting the major biological adaptations that allow humanity to survive in most environments, humanity isn't adapted to survive in this environment."

 

Well yes, but if you strip someone of all of their cultural knowledge and technology and drop them in pretty much any environment on Earth, you are going to wind up with a poorly adapted human.

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Our powerful brain equips us to live in North America (and most other places too).

And the real killer argument is that if this "The lack of fur, the odd dietary requirements, the need for plentiful fresh water and salt both, the long gestation and the slow running and ineffective armament and poor sense of smell, doom them in most planetary environments - biologically." was true, we would all be dead. Doomed as you say, by all those traits.

- - -

The existence of culture is a biological adaptation to a changing environment.

The capacity, the brain etc, is an adaptation to some kind of environmental circumstance(s) or regime - at least that is the standard explanation. But cultural features are not biological adaptations - agreed? Are we making that distinction, or are we going to label shoes and canoes and the ability to make edible juniper bark soup "biological adaptations" - and then answer the OP question on that basis?

 

 

Well yes, but if you strip someone of all of their cultural knowledge and technology and drop them in pretty much any environment on Earth, you are going to wind up with a poorly adapted human.

Which disproves any contention that we are "generalists", biologically.

 

 

 

And you still need to look up what ad hom means.

No, I don't. You guys need to realize what it means when you insist on making such arguments - even going so far as to misrepresent my posting, to abet them.

 

 

Disagreeing with you is not an ad hominem, nor is pointing out flaws in your claims.

Of course. But you seldom address my claims (no posts of chad's, and few of yours, which begin by telling me what my claims are, for example, actually address any claim or argument I have made). Meanwhile, posting slurs, accusations, and innuendo that have nothing to do with my claims or arguments - worse, posting what looks like deliberate dishonesty to "support" these irrelevant slurs - while not addressing my actual claims etc, does often have the structure of an ad hominem argument. Unless you prefer the interpretation that you are not attempting argument at all, but simply trolling and slandering ad libitum?

 

 

 

 

And I'm attacking your argument, not you.
No, you aren't. You haven't mentioned it.

 

You rarely back anything up with evidence; the one scurvy citation in this thread doesn't back up your claim.

But it does, see. I know this, and you nor anyone else has attempted to argue otherwise. Why not, if you think it is false? My guess is that you can't - it's a very obvious, all but unarguable claim that needs no evidence. I doubt anyone will ever attempt to argue here that an inability to synthesize Vitamin C in a mammal living in place with long winters, is not a risk or handicap of some kind that must be dealt with.

 

 

 

Consider the possibility that "misreadings" might be because you aren't being clear.

That was my initial take with you guys, several threads ago, before the amazing display of the GMO threads.

 

If that were the case, very simple clarifications of very simple arguments, even merely pointing to the mistake (yours or mine), would occasionally be adequate responses. They are not. Consider your repetition of your initial poorly motivated misrepresentation of my Vitamin C illustration above - you will not correct the problem, and nothing I post will "clarify" the matter. There is no sign whatsoever of my argument - the reason I posted the Vitamin C illustration, it's role here - in any of your posts, and I bet there will never be any.

 

So: I no longer grant the benefit of the doubt to you and your kind of response here. Policy. If you are attempting to argue in good faith, and making honest mistakes, provide some evidence - an example of successful clarification, followed by you addressing an actual argument of mine, say. Any thread will do, but this one is handy.

 

Edited by overtone
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But it does, see. I know this, and you nor anyone else has attempted to argue otherwise. Why not, if you think it is false? My guess is that you can't - it's a very obvious, all but unarguable claim that needs no evidence. I doubt anyone will ever attempt to argue here that an inability to synthesize Vitamin C in a mammal living in place with long winters, is not a risk or handicap of some kind that must be dealt with.

 

No, your link mentioned an anecdote, which you presented as a broad truth. And that's invalid. One instance is not a trend. Extrapolating one incident to apply to the majority of NA for an entire population is garbage.

 

Not supporting assertions is poor form in a discussion, and vague complaints about others' posts doesn't help narrow down the alleged errors. You make mention of slurs, accusations and innuendo but nothing specific, so we're left to guess what you mean. You don't even bother to use the quote function properly, so participants can identify when they're being addressed. You might improve your own posting quality before complaining about others'

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This is what an ad hom looks like

 

Really. You guys say such stupid shit with such remarkable confidence.

 

 

And you also need to distinguish between particular cultural traits like this

"But cultural features are not biological adaptations - agreed? Are we making that distinction, or are we going to label shoes and canoes and the ability to make edible juniper bark soup "biological adaptations"

and the propensity to make cultural features, which is a biological trait which serves us very well.

 

Your repeated point about a singe individual being in trouble isn't relevant.

A single person, on their own in the middle of New York, would be in trouble- until he made friends.

A single worker ant, would have more problems.

 

That trend- forming cooperative groups- is a biological trait and it serves us very well in North America, and elsewhere.

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I do know of at least one area in North America that has mild and/or nonexistent winters and is renowned for source(s) of Vitamin C.

 

Somewhat ironically many of us likely already have one or more adaptations to less intense sunlight.

 

ie. UV protection vs Vitamin D production

 

Though note, there is a reason we invented sunscreen and vitamins. What that grey matter is there for.

Edited by Endy0816
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No, your link mentioned an anecdote, which you presented as a broad truth. And that's invalid. One instance is not a trend. Extrapolating one incident to apply to the majority of NA for an entire population is garbage
As usual, pejoratives based on misrepresentation, followed by no argument or even reference to an argument of mine, from you.

 

The only "extrapolation" involved was the observation that the local residents were so familiar with scurvy that they could recognize it in foreigners of different race and culture, and immediately prescribe a corrective diet not at all obvious to the casual visitor - eating soup made of bark and needles from a particular tree. Are you arguing against that observation? Are you claiming that familiarity did not exist, or the dietary recommendations were not made from knowledge and experience?

 

 

Not supporting assertions is poor form in a discussion,
Making repeated false assertions about other people's posting, especially after repeated correction, is worse.

 

and vague complaints about others' posts doesn't help narrow down the alleged errors.
They aren't vague. They are specific - you, and chad's, and a couple of other's, inexcusable behavior has been described specifically, and examples provided. Over and over and over. See post 73, say - immediately above your evidence free and unsupported assertion of "vague", a few steps below your unsupported and evidence free claim of "bad faith", neither one thread relevant. (My claim, although likewise irrelevant, was backed by quoted evidence - here and in the past).

 

But we have some progress to report - to this

 

Let's get a basic down pat: Do you agree that specific cultural traits and technological skills are not biological adaptations - yes or no.
the responses so far seem to be universally "yes".

 

Proposal for a criterion: "biological adaptations" in the evolutionary context presented by the OP are by definition genetically inheritable. OK?

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As usual, pejoratives based on misrepresentation, followed by no argument or even reference to an argument of mine, from you.

 

What pejoratives? What misrepresentation?

 

(This is what I meant by the lack of detail (i.e. vagueness) I mentioned earlier)

 

The only "extrapolation" involved was the observation that the local residents were so familiar with scurvy that they could recognize it in foreigners of different race and culture, and immediately prescribe a corrective diet not at all obvious to the casual visitor - eating soup made of bark and needles from a particular tree. Are you arguing against that observation? Are you claiming that familiarity did not exist, or the dietary recommendations were not made from knowledge and experience?

 

Scurvy's symptoms, as far as I can tell, aren't race- or culturally-based, so that's a non-sequitur.

 

By your other questions, it's clear you didn't understand what I posted. So, to recap:

 

Explorers are not representative of the broader population, who (unlike the explorers) do not subsist on preserved foods for extended periods. So one cannot extrapolate based on the experience of explorers that Europeans were not adapted to life in NA. Humans are not well-adapted to life as explorers is a much more reasonable observation.

 

You dodged the question "Would the native Americans have gotten scurvy under the same conditions?" by changing the question. Later on you seem to admit the answer is yes, but as I've been accused of misrepresenting you, I dare not read too much into vague statements. So it's still unanswered, AFAICT.

 

This is an actual quote from you: "I'm pointing out that in order to avoid scurvy in large areas of NA, you have to eat bark and pine needles." I have pointed out that your link points to a single instance of treatment, in one location. It is an anecdote. It is not data from which one can conclude anything about "large areas of NA". That is an extrapolation. You have provided no other data.

 

The specific claim that you "have to" is debunked by Acme, and it certainly isn't supported by your anecdote.

 

As that's a direct quote, I'm having a hard time understanding your accusations that you have been misrepresented.

 

 

 

They aren't vague. They are specific - you, and chad's, and a couple of other's, inexcusable behavior has been described specifically, and examples provided. Over and over and over. See post 73, say - immediately above your evidence free and unsupported assertion of "vague", a few steps below your unsupported and evidence free claim of "bad faith", neither one thread relevant. (My claim, although likewise irrelevant, was backed by quoted evidence - here and in the past).

 

73 would be the post where you complain about insults but don't actually point out what was (in your view) the insult? That one? As an example of you being specific?

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What pejoratives? What misrepresentation?

As quoted, for one set. You can't read your own posts?

 

 

 

 

Scurvy's symptoms, as far as I can tell, aren't race- or culturally-based, so that's a non-sequitur.
Not in my argument, it isn't. Are you ever going to deal with the argument?

 

 

 

 

This is an actual quote from you: "I'm pointing out that in order to avoid scurvy in large areas of NA, you have to eat bark and pine needles." I have pointed out that your link points to a single instance of treatment, in one location. It is an anecdote. It is not data from which one can conclude anything about "large areas of NA". That is an extrapolation. You have provided no other data
The only sense I can make of that is you are in fact claiming that a demonstrated familiarity with scurvy and its available non-obvious winter remedy in the boreal forest biome of NA (not even inland, notice - this was Quebec) carries no implications of common C deficit and the difficulties it presents to the residents of that biome. That it's not evidence.

 

​Are you claiming that people will learn to process and eat bark and pine needles when they have a panoply of other C sources always at hand, and do not ever suffer from C deficit?

 

 

 

You dodged the question "Would the native Americans have gotten scurvy under the same conditions?" by changing the question

I answered the question. The answer was obviously "yes", as I pointed out - the residents of that landscape of NA are so familiar with scurvy they have learned to eat bark and pine needles when afflicted.

 

 

 

The specific claim that you "have to" is debunked by Acme,

No, it isn't. The presence of Vitamin C foods on the continent is a necessity of human life, and assumed, but does not alter the fact that the continent is generally short of the stuff for much of the year over most of the landscape - humans have to go to a great deal of trouble, including learning to eat pine needle soup (and specifically raw liver from certain seasonally available specific animals, etc) to avoid suffering from scurvy over much of the landscape of NA.

 

Which brings us, if you care (you don't), to the argument that essentially side observation was made to support, as a small bit of evidence. Any time you want to address it, feel free. It wouldn't change if NA were in fact a paradise of citrus fruit year around, though - you are going to have to take another tack.

 

 

 

73 would be the post where you complain about insults but don't actually point out what was (in your view) the insult?

That's one of several that illustrate the problem, yep. As noted repeatedly and obvious once again, I can't make you read, or deal with arguments. Nothing I post can derail your little train of "thought".

Edited by overtone
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Has there been a mass die-off in North America since this thread "established" that it isn't a fit place for humans to live?

No...?

There hasn't?

Well how did that happen?

 

"humans have to go to a great deal of trouble, including learning to eat pine needle soup"

Have you heard of tea tree oil?

Ever wondered where it got the name?

Well, it's because the leaves of that tree were used to make tea.

Ever seen those leaves?

 

There's a picture here

 

http://www.eranurseries.com.au/p/300-melaleuca-alternifolia.aspx

 

It's a matter of definition, but I suspect that most people would describe them as "needles".

Now the tree doesn't have a lot of vitamin c in it (as far as I can tell) and it grows in places where there would be plenty of fresh fruit.

So people drink "tea" made from needle like leaves even where there isn't a shortage of vitamin c and even though these leaves wouldn't cure scurvy.

 

People drink tea made from (not strictly a pine, but full of terpenes) needles because they like it.

 

Why do you think making tea is "trouble"?

 

(BTW, don't forget that if you don't boil the water, it's probably not safe to drink)

Edited by John Cuthber
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No point in completely losing track here - this is still on the table, ands (almost uniquely) address actual thread issues:

 

Proposal for a criterion: "biological adaptations" in the evolutionary context presented by the OP are by definition genetically inheritable. OK?

 

Meanwhile, stuff like this:

 

Has there been a mass die-off in North America since this thread "established" that it isn't a fit place for humans to live?

- - - - - -

People drink tea made from (not strictly a pine, but full of terpenes) needles because they like it.

Why do you think making tea is "trouble"?

is not my fault. It isn't because I was vague, or omitted specifics, or somehow legitimately misled anyone. Edited by overtone
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I'm not saying it's anyone's 'fault' but you did say

 

"​Are you claiming that people will learn to process and eat bark and pine needles when they have a panoply of other C sources always at hand, and do not ever suffer from C deficit?"

 

And I pointed out that they did, and still do.

 

Feel free to actually answer the questions.

Why do you think making tea is such a trouble?

Edited by John Cuthber
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As quoted, for one set. You can't read your own posts?

 

I don't see any pejoratives or misrepresentation. All I see in your post is a complain about them, but you don't point them out.

 

Not in my argument, it isn't. Are you ever going to deal with the argument?

 

At this point, I can't say with any confidence that I know what your argument is. I thought I did — I quoted you, but all you'll do in the way of response is tell me that I'm not addressing it.

 

How about clearly stating it?

 

 

The only sense I can make of that is you are in fact claiming that a demonstrated familiarity with scurvy and its available non-obvious winter remedy in the boreal forest biome of NA (not even inland, notice - this was Quebec) carries no implications of common C deficit and the difficulties it presents to the residents of that biome. That it's not evidence.

 

Ok, you acknowledge this happened in Quebec. Now, is this evidence that it happened anywhere else but Quebec?

 

It happened to one crew of explorers trapped on their ship. Are others, who are not trapped on a ship, living under identical conditions?

 

IOW, do you have any evidence of this happening to Europeans who were not on that ship in Quebec?

 

​Are you claiming that people will learn to process and eat bark and pine needles when they have a panoply of other C sources always at hand, and do not ever suffer from C deficit?

 

No. I am not claiming that. I never came close to claiming that. As far as I can recall, what I've done is object to claims you've made, and then get entangled in the ensuing quagmire.

 

 

No, it isn't. The presence of Vitamin C foods on the continent is a necessity of human life, and assumed, but does not alter the fact that the continent is generally short of the stuff for much of the year over most of the landscape - humans have to go to a great deal of trouble, including learning to eat pine needle soup (and specifically raw liver from certain seasonally available specific animals, etc) to avoid suffering from scurvy over much of the landscape of NA.

 

Here is one of my points of contention: how do you get from a single incident that took place in Quebec to "much of the landscape of NA"?

 

 

Which brings us, if you care (you don't), to the argument that essentially side observation was made to support, as a small bit of evidence. Any time you want to address it, feel free.

I can't parse this.

 

 

That's one of several that illustrate the problem, yep. As noted repeatedly and obvious once again, I can't make you read, or deal with arguments. Nothing I post can derail your little train of "thought".

It illustrates the problem, all right. But I don't think we're talking about the same thing.

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Seriously is this debate still going on? I've long ago accepted that Overtone considers demands that he actually support a claim to be tantamount to personal attacks. .....

 

Culture is as much a part of biological evolution as physical phenotypes. Humans evolved to be generalists with great adaptive abilities and the idea that there is a singular sort of environment that humankind is adapted too is nonsense. As for specific adaptations, we can't make any negative claims regarding adaptation to North America, we are only recently able to identify strong signatures of adaptation to more extreme environments like the Himalayas. Who knows how much subtle adaptation there has been to less extreme environments. For that matter, the Inuit have very high metabolic rates, which results in higher body temperatures facilitated by high fat diets. The Inuit are amongst the most recent of peoples to inhabit North America, so who knows what other subtle phenotypes other groups have evolved.

Edited by chadn737
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@ Johnc,

 

I use Tea tree oil on my dogs ears because Jack russells are sometimes prone to Yeast infections in the ear. You made a comment about boiling. I wonder if that is as important with TTO because of its effects as an antibiotic..

 

@OP,

 

Although North America is newly discovered (evolution wise) a lot of the food sources are grouped by distance from the equator. Coconuts for example likely won't be a North American growth unless it is genetically manipulated.

 

Potatoes were taken from North America to England as a new food source so maybe our ancestors did not have a lot of spuds or fries.

 

I think a better question is what foods are we not adapted to eat. Certainly our ancestors did not consume nearly as much sugar as we do. Did our ancestors eat processed foods? Not nearly on the same level if so.

 

I even consider it a good rule of thumb to look at my meals and ask myself if my ancestors ate this 5 generations ago.

 

Example: Animal fats. We are often told by some nutritionists animal fat is not good for us. There are also some who claim it is good for us. When it comes to how to fuel the body there is a lot of varied and contradictory opinions.

 

But our ancestors did eat animal fat so in my reasoning it is likely handled better by our bodies than pure sugars.

 

I cannot think of why diets would need to seem so different simply crossing The Atlantic. I can see diets changing if a population moved from The Equator to Canada..

 

It is an interesting topic though.

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@ Johnc,

 

I use Tea tree oil on my dogs ears because Jack russells are sometimes prone to Yeast infections in the ear. You made a comment about boiling. I wonder if that is as important with TTO because of its effects as an antibiotic..

 

 

Potatoes were taken from North America to England as a new food source so maybe our ancestors did not have a lot of spuds or fries.

 

Tea tree oils isn't a particularly potent biocide- I'd still boil the water.

Spuds are from South America,.

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Actually that is a myth (albeit a popular one). At that time the Spaniards already had potatoes. More interestingly there have been genetic studies and I believe that they were able to trace the origin someplace Peru. But my memory is hazy and I may mixed up the precise location. Definitely South America, though.

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Yes. it is interesting, but I had conceded the point in post 92.

 

I knew eventually I would be wrong about something. Turns out to be about potatoes.

 

Although North American food is on topic. It is straying somewhat.

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It hardly matters about the potato's origin, pumpkins are quintessentially North American and have quite a lot of vitamin C. They also keep quite well.

Here's an interesting bit of folklore.

http://lang-8.com/25769/journals/1237044

 

 

The "they can't get vitamin C in the Winter" argument is also fundamentally undermined by that fact that the body can store significant amounts of it in the rest of the year.

Edited by John Cuthber
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@ JohnC,

 

One could argue that no food is readily available in winter as even hunting in northern climates must have been extremely awkward in the snows of the north.

 

But meats and Vitamin rich fruits were often dried, smoked, salted, etc. for those snow days.

 

If anyone worries about Vitamin c in northern climates, plums grow quite well along the 49th parallel, and they have a fair amount I think. Strawberries also.

 

Plus many vegetables also have vitamin c. Tomatoes (ok so it's a fruit), Bell peppers, ettc.

 

a quick search yielded this as I wonder about Eskimos..

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2374/traditionally-eskimos-ate-only-meat-and-fish-why-didnt-they-get-scurvy

 

so raw meats can even yield vitamin content.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Most of Human Evolution happened in Africa and Eurasia where we evolved and adapted to our surroundings. Now we have only been living in North America for a few hundred years. (unless your native American)... My questions being.. Are we adapted to the climate, vegetation, air quality, etc. the same way we would be to the other continents?

 

 

I am finish, French Canadian, german, and everyone somewhere long down the line is African.

etc...

 

But now my body is in North America. Am I just as healthy?

There is nothing you can do about your health. or extend your life. Vitamins and natural supplements are worthless because there is no way to measure how effective they are, same way with your diet, and all of the active elements that keep you alive have their own timing. The only plus is that people are living longer and are more active. I and my wife are still active at 88, but I don't know if it's luck or anything else

 

 

No lesson is so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. Lord Salisbury.

 

"Question everything." TV Science channel.

 

 

 

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There is nothing you can do about your health. or extend your life.

Since this is a science forum, I shall now ask you to support this claim with peer reviewed research articles. (Or you could just clarify that is no more than an opinion.)

 

In fact, your claim is trivially disproved. Here is advice that will certainly extend your life: do not walk in front of articulated trucks that are moving at high speed.

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There is nothing you can do about your health. or extend your life. Vitamins and natural supplements are worthless because there is no way to measure how effective they are, same way with your diet, and all of the active elements that keep you alive have their own timing. The only plus is that people are living longer and are more active. I and my wife are still active at 88, but I don't know if it's luck or anything else

 

 

No lesson is so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. Lord Salisbury.

 

"Question everything." TV Science channel.

 

 

 

 

I think avoiding unadulterated bullsh** probably helps.

 

So the increase in lifespans we've observed in the world is what, magic?

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