Re: milk and human sociobiology

Robert Snower (
Fri, 24 Jan 1997 16:20:48 GMT

debra mckay <> wrote:

> (Robert Snower) wrote:
>> (Gerold Firl) wrote:
>>>Here is an interesting question: did the genes for lactose tolerance
>>>diffuse outward from a single source, or did evolution locally select
>>>for it in areas where cattle were kept for meat? Actually, both
>>>processes undoubtedly occured, but which was faster?
>>To me the more interesting question is, why did the lactose
>>intolerance develop? And when? And why was it adaptive?

>You have it backwards. Lactose "intolerance" is the *normal* mammalian
>condition. Humans who can digest milk after weaning are the oddballs.
>It is closely related to the rise of dairy farming; as a mutation it
>was probably neither harmful nor beneficial as far as differential
>reproductive success goes, but certainly valuable in a cultural context.

>It is only a certain Eurocentric bias that leads us to assume that not
>being able to digest milk is somehow strange. The vast majority of humanity
>now and in the past has managed very well, thank you, not being able
>to drink milk once it wasn't necessary to do so (i.e. after about 4 years
>of age).


I think all of you are all wet. I just called the zoo. The man
assured me that they feed all of the adult chimps and gorillas milk
every week, and he has never found any of them lactose intolerant.

I believe lactose intolerance began, as an adaptation, in hominids and
is not characteristic of our primate relatives. And I know the reason
why, and nobody else does.

The oddballs are humans, not mammals in general. Lactose tolerance is
the normal condition.

Best wishes. rs