Did cooking make us human?

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.


  1. George
    Posted May 30, 2009 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Wrangham discussed the book on BloggingheadsTV with John Horgan –

    Neil Shubin has been on BHtv –

    When will we see Jerry on BHtv?

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted May 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Not as long as it’s funded by the Templeton Foundation (not sure about all of their activities, but I turned down one invite to bhtv that was).

  2. Rebecca C.
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    These “What made us special?” questions always bug me, precisely because we’re not special. No one goes around writing books asking “What made house cats so distinct from Felis silvestris?”

    What makes us human is the same thing that made lions lions and California newts California newts: genetic isolation.

    Maybe I’m totally missing the point. Fellow skeptics, enlighten me if I’m misinterpreting the premise of the question.

  3. David
    Posted May 31, 2009 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t there a whole “running made us human” thing going on before this one?

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted June 2, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Yes. That was after the “aquatic ape” thing, and the “music made us human” thing.

  4. Posted June 10, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    It’s a very plausible idea but I’d hardly call it new. I read about it about thirty years ago in a book on evolution which pointed out that the use of fire for cooking coincided with smaller teeth in our lineage.

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