Zimmer on evolutionary compromises

| 69 Comments

It starts with a very good line:

Natural selection is not natural perfection.

Read on to learn about another tradeoff in our makeup that is a consequence of our evolutionary history. (Although I want to be the first to predict that someone will use this information to reinforce their belief in the curse of Ham).

69 Comments

The relationship between genes and taste and alcolohism Zimmer mentioned was interesting. As a lover of spicy foods, it is a mystery why we should like them. Spicy foods are yummy, but what’s the point? It looks like one possible reason has to do with parasites and the immune system.

While not an expert in the subject, I would suspect that since the plants probably evolved the spicy compounds to dissuade insects and kill bacteria, it makes sense that in an animal as large as humans are (less susceptible to the concentrations) and with a tendency to scavenge meat after the large predators have had their fill, a taste for spicy plants might be selected for. Love of spices requires becoming partially desensitized to the burn so while having less of a reaction to the spice would allow the consumption of “medicinal” spices, it might diminish the ability to taste toxins. This might explain why the love of spices has not become a universal trait in humans just as having a taste for or revulsion for alcohol has pros and cons.

I started drinking Tabasco sauce to win dares as a child and then developed a taste for spices - I was a weird kid.

Posted by Apesnake on November 28, 2005 10:06 AM (e) (s) … I started drinking Tabasco sauce to win dares as a child and then developed a taste for spices - I was a weird kid.

lmao, That is funny.

I once new a couple of guys who; in a bar in Tucson, the first guy “snorted” some neat vodka. Not to be out-done the 2nd guy “snorted” Tabasco sauce. The reaction was amazing; his face went so red so fast it was nearly luminous, and the sweat and tears were truly prolific. Guy number 2 left that bar real fast.

Back to the “curse of Ham”…Funny how Noah gets drunk and falls over naked…yet his son commits the “sin” by seeing this…Hypocrisy at it’s finest.

The link between these genes and and how it might change the taste of alcohol is interesting.

It better explains my friends who don’t like the taste of beer. It’s not that they are prudes who don’t know how to have a good time. Instead, they are genetic freaks!

The business of liking spices brings in all sorts of issues, on several meta-levels of evolution.

For starters, it’s not *completely* unique to humans – I’ve heard at least one anecdote of a squirrel picking it up: A FOAF was trying to defend their bird-feeder against squirrels. After watching these guys climb poles and do tightrope acts on wires, they tried chili-flavored seeds. (Birds are unaffected by capescin.) A few days later, they watched a squirrel eat a seed or two, briefly “huff” and wipe their muzzle, then eat another, repeat.…

This would seem to point towards the (in)famous epinephrine response to pain, and the general point that mammals can *learn* that a given pain or other unpleasantness isn’t actually dangerous. And of course, humans (et al) can build “culture” out of such learning experiences, passing their lessons onto their fellows. When combined with natural selection operating on cultural units, and/or observation of consequences for the actions of other individuals, this suffices to explain the widespread adoption of spices among humans.

There’s also the more general point that humans are very good at adapting to new environments, diets, etc.… The flip-side of human intelligence (over from “immediate adaptation”) is variability – that is, it allows a group of humans with more-or-less similar genetic suites, to nevertheless maintain fair diversity of behavior within a group, which comes in handy when confronting new situations. (I.e., back to adaptation, but on a higher meta level!)

Likewise, being able to (imperfectly) metabolize ethanol is useful, but also has liabilities, especially when we learn to concentrate the stuff. Having some members who *can’t* metabolize ethanol (like many Asian subraces) gives the larger community some protection against those liabilities. Eventually (centuries), I suspect that we’ll see the spread of more mutant strains who are “immune” to various narcotics.…

PS: Tabasco sauce? Hah! That stuff’s half vinegar! ;-)

PS: Tabasco sauce? Hah! That stuff’s half vinegar! ;-)

Snort some then.…see what happens;)

There’s also the more general point that humans are very good at adapting to new environments,

I always considered that the reverse was more true. Humans are the best creature at adapting an environment to suit them.

Stephen Elliott said:

Back to the “curse of Ham”…Funny how Noah gets drunk and falls over naked…yet his son commits the “sin” by seeing this…Hypocrisy at it’s finest.

I’m no expert in Bible studies, but I very recently heard a distinguished rabbi speak on precisely this passage. I believe you may have misread the passage, Stephen. The key verses are 22, 23 and 24. In verse 22, Ham discovers his father drunk and naked and then humiliates him by bringing in his brothers (“and told his two brethren without”). In 23, his brothers have pity on their father and cover him. In 24, Noah awakes to realize that Ham could have covered his father, thus preserving his humility, without telling everyone about it, so he curses him. The rabbi spoke of this passage as being a good lesson to teach children WRT mockery and humiliating insults. If you were drunk and making a fool of yourself, you’d expect your son to protect your honor by “covering your nakedness”. You wouldn’t expect your son to tell everyone by gathering them around to gape and laugh. Hence the curse.

Spices have clear antibacterial effects, which may be why hotter countries feature spicier cuisines. Sherman and Flaxman wrote an article about this topic in the March/April 2001 issue of American Scientist–you can view an abstract of the article on their site but the article itself is only available to subscribers.

HPLC_Sean: I think the interpretation is clear enough, but it still sounds like hypocrisy to me. Isn’t Noah primarily at fault here? But he gets to deliver the curse instead of being subject to it. The moral is, what, to be a gracious enabler of alcoholics in your family? Notice that Noah never did that again. Public ridicule works, once again.

I agree, by the way, that it’s often good to be discreet and to spare others’ dignity, but I don’t see how Noah gets off the hook in this story. It seems to be almost the definition of patriarchal morality. The take-away is that he’s the father so you respect him even when he doesn’t deserve a lot of respect. And yes, I realize that’s in the commandments, and that the Old Testament tradition is patriarchal. That doesn’t make it any less hypocritical.

Here is the Straight Dope on the Noah/Curse thing: http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag[…]unknoah.html

http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag[…]nknoah2.html

There is a lot more there than what is there.

Spices also help the taste of meat that has been stored without refrigeration.

Many curries show remarkable medicinal effects. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A581311

Is that why we have a Christmas ham? Because Jesus gave us a new covenant and we are representing our collective forgiving of ham’s sin of laughing at his drunken father’s wet blankets?

Speaking of biblical explanations of things, I’d always wondered why I have the same number of ribs as the females whose ribs I have counted, until I came across this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/[…]gi?id=606174 .

I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself. I highly recommend following steves link.

PaulC: You would publicly ridicule your father to get him to stop drinking because “it works”? Ouch! You think Noah should be cursed because he got drunk after “saving” man and animal-kind from “destruction”? Ouch! Pretty harsh if you ask me. Let’s not forget that drunkenness is not a sin, but dishonoring your folks is. To me, the moral is that all men have moments of weakness; notwithstanding, they should not be ridiculed by their sons. BTW: Rabbinical scholars do not consider Noah to be among the great wise men like Abraham, Joseph or Moses. They consider Noah to be a simpleton and a highly fallible Biblical character who was pressed to perform extraordinary acts. The same rabbi that I was paraphrasing in my last comment explained that a wiser man would have planted wheat fields, an orchard, or olive groves, but Noah was only interested in getting drunk. Some say that the despair of beholding the shattered world before him drove him to drunken despair. The straightdope article is great. Thanks for that link KeithB!

Why did anyone care whether Noah was drunk? Remember the guy who got drunk at that party and everyone painted his face with girl’s makeup and glued cigarette butts to his forhead and tied his shoelaces together and unzipped his pants and pulled his penis out and put his hand in a cup of warm water to see if the old trick is true? Remember when you discovered that it was? That guy might have been mad at the time but he probably laughed about it later. Noah must not have had much of a sense of humor. It’s not like they posted his picture on the internet or something.

Since the guys over at “Answers in Genesis” have so kindly offered to produce cartoons to illustrate biblical texts - (see the so sad it’s funny thread) -I’ve asked them to produce one for me to illustrate this incident, perhaps to show the evils of the demon drink. They’ve promised to get back to me. Incidentally the idea that somehow Ham was being punished because he squealed to his brothers that his dad was drunk and naked is hardly fair - which one of them squealed to Noah when he woke up with a hangover?

HPLC Wrote:

BTW: Rabbinical scholars do not consider Noah to be among the great wise men like Abraham, Joseph or Moses. They consider Noah to be a simpleton and a highly fallible Biblical character who was pressed to perform extraordinary acts.

.. a simpleton perhaps - but unlike Abraham, Joseph or Moses: having the power to dish out a devastating magic curse on his grandchild. God should have left natural selection to do the work. Instead of picking one family himself and wiping everyone else out (artificial selection), which after all only resulted in a drunk and his squabbling kids inheriting the earth; he could have left mankind to get on with it. That way the drunk and feckless who couldn’t co-operate to survive would have died out; leaving the wise and industrious, who pulled together in family units, to populate the earth. He didn’t really show a lot of foresight for an omnipotent power did he? - I bet he was kicking himself when Darwin came along - and showed him there was an easier way to do it that didn’t involve wiping out most of his creation?

Ham was just practicing “tough love.” He no longer wanted to be Noah’s enabler.

I think spiced foods have two advantages in pre-industrial cultures:

(1) they have a strong taste. Most “wild” foods don’t. As a longtime backpacker, I can personally attest that after a week or two of rice and macaroni (and frog legs and roast squirrel), one gets pretty damn desperate for anything that tastes strong. Anything.

(2) they cover up the odor/taste of meat that has not enjoyed the benefit of refrigeration.

And anyone who doesn’t like the taste of beer, just hasn’t had the right beer. Just drop on by anytime and I’ll introduce you to the joys of porter. ;>

Lenny:

As a longtime backpacker, I can personally attest that after a week or two of rice and macaroni (and frog legs and roast squirrel), one gets pretty damn desperate for anything that tastes strong. Anything.

Heh. This was shortly after Lenny discovered that there are some places I don’t deliver pizza to.

Comment #60541

Posted by ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank on November 28, 2005 07:08 PM (e) (s)

I think spiced foods have two advantages in pre-industrial cultures:

(1) they have a strong taste. Most “wild” foods don’t. As a longtime backpacker, I can personally attest that after a week or two of rice and macaroni (and frog legs and roast squirrel), one gets pretty damn desperate for anything that tastes strong. Anything.

Question, consider yourself begged.

Heh. This was shortly after Lenny discovered that there are some places I don’t deliver pizza to.

Heck, and I even offered to pay for the helicopter. ;>

Question, consider yourself begged.

I’m an “ultralight” backpacker, and take as little with me as I can get away with. On most trips, I only take enough food for three or four days, and after that, I live off whatever I can forage up. I’ve eaten everything from earthworms to birds to all sorts of roots and berries.

Frog legs are far and away my favorite (although illegal, in Pennsylvania, where catching frogs is regulated by law). Crayfish are pretty good, too.

I don’t like fish very much, so I never put much effort in that direction.

Lenny:

I even offered to pay for the helicopter. ;>

It can be a helicopter, a cigarette boat, or Tom Swift’s atomic rocket ship, but it’s gotta get me back to make my next delivery within my allotted turnaround time.

There’s the rub!

Oh, and I also don’t do free-fire zones. The evolution-ID “war” is as close to the real thing as I want to come. Sorry, all you brave service personnel–this means you can’t get Lenny’s Special in Baghdad.

Who the heck is this Steviepinhead guy?

Aren’t there already enough Steves of one kind or another on this blog?

Why not come up with an original moniker, like, well, Lenny, for example?!? (Hmmm: Lennypinhead, I kind of like the sound of that!)

And, more importantly, why would this Steviepinhead presume to answer Lenny’s helicopter comment–which was clearly directed to moi, the one and only original Pizza Guy?

Well, like they say, don’t get mad, get even: so, to set the record straight, I do have a turnaround time, and I don’t do helis, limos, cigarette boats, or rocket ships–I’ve got one pretty hard-used Celica, on which I’ve gotta pay my own gas, tax, license, and insurance (but I do get to have the cool little pizza delivery sign on the top).

Helicopters, for crying out loud! And now, to, ahem, top it all off, I got freakin’ pinheads trying to pimp my ride. Sheesh!

In case anyone is interested:

Genesis 9:24 states that Noah awoke from his wine and “realized what his small son had done to him”. This cannot refer to his having seen his father naked or talking about it, say the sages of the Talmud. It must be something he “had done (a real bona fide act) to him”. After futher analysis (tractate Sanhedrin) the sages conclude that he either emasculated Noah or had intercourse with him.

Now we can really see why Noah cursed.

Carol 1) You forgot to mention JL. 2) Comment #60583 : It’s the biggest load of crock I have ever heard. 3) For anyone that does not know, Carol has her own secret version of the Bible, but you should be able to see that from the above text. 4) Carol just dismissed the Rabbi explanation (as per the post of HPLC_Sean) as utter BS, because she and JL are the ONLY ones that know the REAL secret bible. She is also an expert on ancient Hebrew culture, ID and bananas.

Lenny wrote And anyone who doesn’t like the taste of beer, just hasn’t had the right beer. Just drop on by anytime and I’ll introduce you to the joys of porter.

Join the SCA, they have some real funny things to drink, also home brewed.

Lenny: the ultralight backpacking thing sounds kinda cool. How do you go about catching birds and the like? Is it easy to get enough to keep yourself going?

Now we can really see why Noah cursed.

Just read Judah Landa’s book.

This might help This stuff is all free

Practical Campbell Intelligible Design

You will probably have to create/project/found a free associate account to read it, on the associate home page

http://www.jcf.org/practical-campbe[…]e-Design.pdf

No More Horizons down loadable MP3

http://www.jcf.org/media.php

There are six talks relevant to the subject at hand

Apesnake,

Reading the Bible literally doesn’t mean that profound questions will not arise. It does mean that words mean what they say and say what they mean. In this case, the Biblical flood is less than global and thus there is no contradiction with the findings of science (that a global flood did not and could not have occured so recently).

The issue you and Steviepinhead raise impinge upon the larger question of whether God is “entitled” to reverse or revoke a prediction or promise based on, say, changed circumstances. (Asuuming in the case of the flood that the promise has been broken, something that has not been established.) That seems to happen in quite a few areas. Such as the promise to Abraham that his offspring will suffer at the hands of the Egyptions for 400 years, but they do so only for 210 years.

If you as a parent promise a child a certain punishment (no TV for a month) in response to a certain offense (not doing homework) and then you relent and either rescind, diminish or delay the response for some reason after the offense is perpetrated, are you a liar? Or is it understood that all promises are subject to certain conditions even if not stated explicitly. This certainly is the operating principle in a court of law. And the Talmudic rule for Biblical interpretation is that “the Bible (that is the pentateuch) speaks the language of ordinary people engaged in ordinary conversation”.

Carol

Defending the errors and broken promises again? Is that your job or God’s? Translating the Bible as you wish and then filling in all the errors with reasoning away the lies and … sounds very dishonest to me. How do YOU know there are no errors and lies in the Bible? Have you any proof of this, or do you realise that all you are doing is trying to cover up a big mess? Tell me one thing. What is it that you are trying to achieve here at PT?

Carol, can you please provide Biblical justification for drawing a distinction between ‘acts of god’ and ‘acts of nature’, as you do above? Precisely where and how does the text justify such a distinction? I.e., where and how do you find in the Bible any mention of god abdicating responsibility for all which occurs [modulo the contentious issues where human free will is or can be alleged to be involved – we are talking nature here and which parts god controls and which part he/she/it doesn’t].

hugs, Shirley Knott

OK,we all know how inconsistent God can be,in Gen 8:21”and the Lord said in his heart,I will not curse the ground any more for mans sake,for the imagination of mans heart is evil from his youth,neither will again smite any more every living thing as I have done. God said he would not curse the ground any more for mans sake.His reason is not that man is ,or will be good,but because the imagination of mans heart is evil from his youth. So God destroyed man because of his wickedness.Now he promises NOT to destroy him again for the same reason ,his wickedness????????? I find it difficult to see how any book as flawed as the Bible could promote the advancement of man.

While not a theist (or even much of a deist), I would have thought that if there is a God she/he would have some degree of transcendence over the temporal world. In other words God would probably see changing circumstances coming at least in a probabilistic sense. I know I can to a limited degree.

While not on the topic of literalism (or of traits which are only partially selected for (a diversion from which I am partly responsible for - my bad) it seems that the God of the Bible is very un godlike and very human like. The getting angry, the need to “test” people like Moses by “pretending” to forget the flood promise, the need to be bought off via sacrifices, the expressions of regret at his own actions etc. (The showing of his loins to Ezekiel - twice if I recall - might be included.)

I also find Shirley Knott’s question of interest.

God Wrote:

neither will (I) again smite any more every living thing as I have done.

Does the Hebrew for “every living thing” exclude soil bacteria and fungi? If so this local flood should leave the land fairly sterile afterwards especially given the soil compression.

God then tells the survivors to replenish the earth/land. The same land that was flood ravaged and is lifeless and barren, right? Strange that for a local flood, it was necessary for every fowl to be brought on the ark. I can see the chickens but couldn’t the doves and crows and stuff and such just fly away till the land dried out? It seems surreal to argue about this stuff but in order to take this story literally…

If this is all answered in the one hundred and seventy page book then don’t spoil it for me.

PS. If you Google “Judah Landa” the first two pages that come up are Panda’s Thumb pages from July and November. Just interesting to note.

Carol, If you are still lurking, please tune in tomorrow morning. Sincerely

Paul,

Well, here I am and see nothing.

Despite your stated lack of respect for me, I will treat your comments with the respect all human beings created in the image of God deserve. But I may need to be brief due to my workload at this time of year.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on November 28, 2005 8:01 AM.

Mysterious Trichoplax was the previous entry in this blog.

It’s a small world, after all is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter