Did cooking fuel human evolution?

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.”wrangham_

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).


  1. NewEnglandBob
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    This upcoming book sounds like an interesting read.

  2. Sili
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Raw monkey? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    Or at least zoönosis.

  3. John A. Davison
    Posted April 23, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Cooking did not make us human. Being human made us cook. All of evolution was “prescribed,” prescheduled and now, in my opinion, is finished with the present biota which, like all those previous, is probably also doomed to extinction.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”


  4. Martin Muller
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Wrangham actually argues that cooking was responsible for the transition from australopithecine to Homo. Upright posture is not a part of his argument. So maybe you’ll find this more convincing than you expect.

  5. Posted June 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    hmmmm interesting theory

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  1. […] 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 […]

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