Notebook Entries, May 2002
Notebook entry, May 28, 2002
Natalie Angier, the noted science writer for The New York Times, takes up pen again for this special article titled: Scientist launches food fight: His theory questions when cooking began. The article was reported in The Denver Post, p. 2A. Of course, Ms. Angier is writing about the controversial theory brought forward by Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham. I noted his theory several years ago in my notebook as first noted in a Discover Magazine article, and even included a paragraph or two about his theory in my online book, Man in the Mist. Last year, when asked to contribute a chapter for the Frans De Wall book, Tree of Origins, he went into more detail.
In his view, the preparing, cooking and sociable eating of food are so central to the human experience that the culinary arts may well be what made us human in the first place. He argues that the use of fire to cook food could date back almost 2 million years. He also argues that the ability to cook food could explain why humans have a large brain, smaller teeth, sexual dimorphism between men and women, and a tendency to pair up and put with each other far longer than most primates do. (I'd have to object to the last argument and say that sex was the main reason males stuck around and protection was the reason female's stuck it out with Mr. Stupid. However, that gathering around the camp fire with cooked food would be a tremendous added bonus that gave comfort to both at the same time). Wrangham acknowledges that there isn't any real remaining evidence such as roasted animal bones and charred blocks of wood, however, he points out that most campfires set by traditional hunter-gatherers are small and fleeting affairs which would not be expected to leave a strong signature over a million years and counting.
In her opening paragraph, Ms. Angier notes: Among virtually every culture on Earth, anything worth doing is best done over dinner. Bring out a nicely braised roast, a hot loaf of bread and slice of, oh, lemon chess pie, and rifts can be healed, pacts sealed, loves revealed. Even the condemned do not want to leave this world without one really divine last supper.
I think that Wrangham is on to something do the presence and important of the meal to our species, and we perhaps should search for food preparation or food/people related modules.
Notebook entry, May 27, 2002
Well, I said I was becoming more politically active. Diana got the call last week and we both agreed....and the next thing we know we are marching in Commerce City Memorial Day parade in support of Mike Feeley (He's the tall one in the center). Mike is running for the new 7th Congressional district that was created by Colorado's increased population. The new district spreads itself west into Jefferson county where I live. north into Adams county, where the parade took place, and then in the eastern northern parts of Denver proper. It is primary a working-class district, and both Diana and I feel would be better represented by Mr. Feeley. My goal is to become a trusted advisor on matters pertaining to politics and evolutionary psychology to all politicians who would be willing to listen, but before they will listen, you have to pay your dues. Marching in a parade, passing out literature, and believing in the cause are all part of paying those dues.
Notebook entry, May 20, 2002
Stephen Jay Gould died yesterday. A strong and loyal friend of evolution has passed from our presence. He will be deeply missed.
Notebook entry, May 19, 2002
Diana and I went walking in support of one of the local Democratic candidate by the name of Moe Keller. She's running for the State Senate here in the 20th District. We spent about two and a half hours and met a few nice people and handed out some literature. . . I was surprised that we also met with two people who not only did not vote, but were very vocal about their disgust at the process. I am disheartened by the fact that these people live in a country where they are very fortunate and I wonder if their tune would be different if they had none of the wonderful things that this country gives us.
Notebook entry, May 16 & 17, 2002
We had a bit of a technical problem here where this web site was down. It is the first time in over six years that this has happened. A bit of a software problem, blah, blah, etc. Sorry, if it caused anyone any inconvenience.
Notebook entry, May 14, 2002
We have a news flash! From The Fort Worth Star-Telegram comes a newswire story by Darren Barbee as reported in The Denver Post, this date, p. 16A. The title of the news item? "You Hear? Gossip's just evolutionary." According to the report, a one, professor Frank McAndrew, at Know College in Galesburg, Ill., that appears in the May issue of Journal of Applied Social Psychology. It seems that a form of gossip may have started when some of our ancient go-getting humanoid ancestors gathered information to use against potential rivals. In his theory, professor McAndrew argues that the ones who took no interest in gabbing were cut out of the social loop and had trouble getting mates.
The theory nicely corresponds with my book Man in the Mist, and several other books by evolutionary psychologoist, in particular Robin Dunbar, who has theorized that human large brain size directly due in part because of group living. The new demands on the brain to keep tract of what everyone was doing became everyone's business. This became what Dunbar calls "social-grooming." This social grooming then became the evolution of language, and the resulting gossip. You can learn more about his book, or purchase it here. Oh, by the way -- the book was written in 1994....a few years before professor McAndrew's theory. But it nice to see that the evolutionary basis for human behavior is spreading before the restricted evolutionary community.
Notebook entry, May 5, 2002
Happy Cinco de Mayo. Well, yours truly has become part of the political process. I went to my Democratic precinct caucus, and since my wife and I were the only ones there, we elected ourselves as delegates to the Jefferson County general assembly. Once there, because our county receives an allotment of delegate votes, we also automatically became voting delegates to the congressional and state senate assemblies. Not bad for a first timer. I was informed that because it was an off year election, that was the most likely reason as opposed to my wife and I being brilliant politicians. The big pow-wow of all the Democrats will met on Sat, June 1, 02. Diana and I have booked a room for the night and will just head on down stairs to the meeting in the morning. I had a bit of a problem getting that day off as it is a scheduled day for me to work. I was initialed denied the leave request by a supervisor that rejected the request with "no openings available." After seeing my union shop steward, and convincing her of the importance of the meeting, she appealed directed to the postmaster of the station. It seems that the supervisor was "holding" a slot open in order to hedge his bets against someone calling in sick and ruining his production numbers. This supervisor is the one that has formed an alliance with an alpha male letter carrier at my station. This particular letter carrier has a very serious mental problem and has given me verbal harassment before -- but he has excellent social skills -- hence his skill in forming an alliance. The supervisor is a typical one in which they allow select letter carriers to dominate their sections so that he can ( the supervisor), well, do nothing. I predict the supervisor will have a short career with the Postal Service. Sorry to bore you with these minor details, but sometimes when I become angry (about being lied to about "no openings") I tend to express those emotions in a harmless manner on the net and in this notebook section. But, hey.....it's my notebook and your reading over my shoulder!
On a second manner, the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Denver is becoming one of the biggest in the country. I was musing the other day at lunch with a friend that I could not recall where a submissive culture was courted as much as this one. It seems that enough families have settled here in America are becoming middle class enough to become a political force. I believe that most of this cultural courting has come about because of the good economic times during the 1990s. There were many job shortages resulting in many employers utilizing bi-lingual employees recruiting Spanish-speaking individuals who then filled jobs previously held by those using two languages. However, once the pattern stuck, the need to learn English as a necessity for employment faded. However, the continued presence of a strong single speaking language entails that the culture that comes with it remains -- and this further influences the already present bi-ligulas who have established jobs, homes, and.....a voting pattern from "becoming white." In past immigration patterns, in order to get good jobs, they had to learn English, and once done, they did all that they could to "assimilate" into the dominate culture. This does not appear to be the overwhelming course that Mexican-Americans seem to be having on our coutnry.
The next few decades could prove very interesting.