On the Origin of Homo Grillicus: Our love of summer barbecuing—and of meat in general—traces back to fortunate mutations in our DNA


Sam Kean takes a few minutes to ruminate on why humans are carnivores:

Kangaroo ham. Rhino pie. Trunk of elephant. Horse’s tongue. Domestic life was a trifle off at William Buckland’s home. Some visitors to his Oxford, England, house in the early 1800s best remembered his front hallway, lined with the grinning skulls of fossilized monsters. Others recalled the live monkeys swinging around. But no one could forget Buckland’s diet. A deeply religious geologist, he held the story of Noah dear, and he ate his way through most of Noah’s ark. There were only a few animals he couldn’t stomach: “The taste of mole was the most repulsive I knew,” Buckland once mused, “until I tasted a bluebottle [fly].”

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Perhaps the most amazing thing about Buckland’s carnivorous habits wasn’t the variety. It was that his intestines, arteries and heart could handle digesting that much flesh, period. It is no less remarkable for people today, even those of us whose tastes run more to sirloin. Because if you look at where our species came from, none of our primate cousins could ever survive such a meat-intensive diet. Like so much else that makes us unique, we owe our ability to eat all of that meat to changes in our DNA.

DNA, ShmeeNA! We eat meat because it tastes good. Or, in the insightful theology of Jonah Goldberg: If God didn’t want us to eat cows, he wouldn’t have made them out of steak.

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