Where Do We Come From? Where Are We Going? The Ancestral Health Symposium 2012 – Boing Boing
“What has come to be known as the paleo diet has been around since the 1970s, but in recent times (thanks to the advent of the
decidedly-non-paleolithic Internet), it’s really exploded in popularity. Of course, anything popular enough begets a conference. Paleo is no exception. This past weekend, the Harvard Food Law Society and the Ancestral Health Society joined to present the second annual Ancestral Health
Symposium, which momentarily infested Twitter under the hashtag #AHS12. I attended (and fervently live-Tweeted) the inaugural symposium both this year and last year. With that experience, I can say that there is something happening in what has been dubbed, tragically, the paleosphere.
AHS12 wasn’t only about food, or eating like a caveman. Ancestral health starts with food, but it doesn’t end there. There was a tangible frisson in the air at Cambridge, as if the chaos of the Twitterverse commentary was manifesting physically in the room. In this weird interdisciplinary mishmash of a conference, couched in a niche diet with an unfortunate name, there is a real movement brewing. MDs and naturopaths, policy makers and anarcho-libertarians, lunatic farmers and social media gurus and scientists of every stripe seem to be asking the same thing: where did we come from? Where can we go from here?
In a way, the three opening talks set the mood for the whole symposium: first, Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel
Liebermangave a sort of Evolution 101 class in what humans might (and might not) be adapted for — presenting the theory of our mismatch with our current environment; Binghamton U biological anthropologist David Sloan Wilsoncalled for the testing of the mismatch hypothesis in rigorous and
controlled studies; and Harvard biochemist and paleo heartthrob Mat Lalondelaid out heaps of data showing, conclusively, that even if you throw out
the anthropology, the foods recommended by the paleo diet win out in terms of nutrient density alone. In other words, evolution provides the hypotheses that we then can test.
Because AHS12 was partnered with the Harvard Food Law Society, there was a powerful focus on policy and even social justice. Our food system is broken