Well, everybody’s looking for what propelled us from our common ancestor with chimps to the wonderful species we are today. If it’s not genes, it’s culture. Today’s NYT discusses Richard Wrangham’s new theory (previously mentioned on this website) about how the taming of fire and its use to cook food were crucial events in making our species what it is today. I am skeptical (I’ve seen many of these theories come and go), but still looking forward to reading Wrangham’s. new book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human.
In today’s New York Times, primatologist Richard Wrangham (at Harvard) is interviewed about his controversial theory of human evolution. Wrangham posits that the invention of cooking food over fire, rather than eating it raw, was the important impetus for the evolution of many hominin traits, including big brains, upright posture, etc. The theory is apparently about to appear in a new book, “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.”
While I don’t find this theory extremely convincing — for one thing, there is no evidence for the use of fire before H. erectus (about 1.5 mya), which was already well advanced in bipedality and big brains. Still, Wrangham is a smart guy and the short interview is well worth reading (including his account of how he ate like a chimp, including raw monkey).