Talking About Evolution 

(First published in Le News 5 June 2014)

These last few weeks have seen something of a regression in my family, all the way back to our days in the cave.

It started when the children watched The Croods, which is a very sweet (if completely factually inaccurate) story about the last Neanderthal family and their moment of personal evolution.

The older child in particular is very taken with the glamour of Cave Life, and has embraced it enthusiastically by renaming herself Eep and refusing to walk upright. Instead, she prefers to shuffle along on her knuckles, and jump on the furniture.

The problem is, the spirit may be Neanderthal but the musculature is definitely Cro-Magnon. As I watched her vault over the couch and crash headfirst onto the floor, I wondered, ‘How did we ever make it?’ I don’t mean, ‘How did we evolve?’ I mean … how did we even survive? Because small children seem hellbent on destroying themselves. They’re forever running into roads, throwing themselves out of windows, climbing up things, apparently with the express purpose of falling off and breaking a limb. Every second week my husband and I seem to be plucking one or other child from the jaws of death. And that’s in a relatively safe modern world. How did caveparents keep these soft little snacks away from sabre-toothed cats and cave bears? How did they stop their small explorers from toddling into tar pits? Or throwing themselves joyfully into Megalodon-infested waters?

Anyway, once I’d sorted my little Neanderthal out, wiped away her tears and complimented her on her newly-sloping forehead, I headed into the kitchen to make dinner, where my admiration for our ancestors only increased.

Completely by chance, the children’s devolution has coincided with my new eating plan which is, it seems, prehistoric. In an attempt to turn my own clock back and recapture my youthful vigour, I’d decided to lay off the processed foods for a while. I hadn’t given this diet a name. If I had, I’d have called it … I don’t know … maybe, ‘Healthier’. But a friend who knows these things immediately identified it as the Paleo diet.

‘It’s the way our ancestors ate,’ she pointed out.

‘Not my ancestors, I countered. Some of mine were notoriously fond of cream buns and vetkoek. Family legend tells of a great aunt who once held the title of Fattest Woman in South Africa.

‘Not those ancestors,’ said my friend. ‘Our Palaeolithic ancestors. They lived on fruit, vegetables, meat and nuts.’

I won’t bore you with the details of my diet. Suffice to say well done, cavepeople, for surviving without pasta, chocolate and strong coffee in the morning. I’m certainly struggling.

Actually, well done, cavepeople, for all of it:  for sloping off to hunt and gather every day, even when it was cold and rainy outside and you’d rather have stayed in bed; for keeping your cavebabies safe; for dodging all the Terror Birds and the Giant Ripper Lizards; well done for keeping our species alive and thank you very much for evolving. I’m sure we’ll do as good a job of moving humankind forward for the next 100 000 years. Of course we will.






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