Re: milk and human sociobiology

Paul J. Gans (
29 Jan 1997 04:48:04 GMT

Robert Snower ( wrote:
: (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.

Wow. I'd need to run this by an evolutionary biologist
before I'd buy into it.

------ Paula J. Gans []