Re: milk and human sociobiology

Robert Snower (
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 03:36:16 GMT (Gerold Firl) wrote:

>In article <5cbcic$>, (Robert Snower) writes:

>|> (Gerold Firl) wrote:

>|> >"In Sherratt's view (A.G. Sherratt, in I.
>|> >Hodder, et. al., eds,, _patterns of the past_, cambridge uni. press,
>|> >1981, and personal communication, 1982), developments from scattered
>|> >places were gathered together in northern mesopotamia (or at any rate
>|> >on the fringe of the fertile cresent)c. 6000 years ago, as a package
>|> >in which the plow was the salient invention. Thence it radiated north,
>|> >south, east and west, in association with the milk-drinking mutation."
>|> > "Almost all mammals lose the ability to digest milk sugar
>|> >(lactose) after infancy, and milk is then harmful to them; the same is
>|> >true for most human beings." (Nigel Calder, _timescale_, 1983, p.

>|> 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.

>If so, it seems very strange that the only human groups which are not
>lactose intolerant (LI) are those which have recently (in the last few
>thousand years) begun keeping domesticated herds. The cultures which
>do not keep domesticated ungulates all evolved LI, according to your
>theory; did the lactose tolerant groups then re-evolve this trait, or
>simply never lost it in the first place?

The lactose tolerant groups re-evolved this trait. Hominids became,
remarkably enough, lactose intolerant in the same way ancient peoples
often developed intolerances to prohibited food--to the eating of the
sacred animal, the "unclean" animal or plant, the totem animal or
plant. The most universal eating prohibition, of all the great
variety of them, was, in the primordial hominid culture, the real or
imagined adult drinking of milk, as a derivative of the maternal
incest taboo (cf. Mark Shapiro's *The Sociobiology of Homo Sapiens*
1978). This incest prohibition, concurrent with the deliberate
temptation, was highly adaptive, accounting for the expansion from
biological kinship to the first cohesive society. Until that device,
no mammalian society was able to transcend a cohesion based primarily
on generational kinship.