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Paleo Diets and Utopian Dreams


“LIFE WAS GOOD FOR OUR PALEOLITHIC GRANDparents,” recounts a 2001 diet book.1 A 2013 diet laments that civilization has “transformed healthy and vital people free of chronic diseases into sick, fat, and unhappy people.”2 If everyone went Paleo, one dieter interviewed for this article explained, “the world would be a more beautiful, healthier place, and we all would be more healthy, better people.”3

Figure 1—The Land of Cockaigne (1567) by Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

An estimated three million Americans currently follow some version of the Paleo diet, and Paleo books are among the bestselling titles within an already blockbuster genre.4 At its most basic, Paleo diets reject agricultural products such as cereals and sugars for foods that could have been hunted or gathered—mostly high-fat, high-fiber meats and plants. In practice, “going Paleo” means everything from the ordinary to the outlandish.5 On the latter end of the spectrum, some dieters avoid artificial light, eat raw beef, forsake shoes, practice bloodletting, engage in polyamorous sexual relationships, and “adopt a primal attitude,” whatever that means.6 For others, the diet is just that: a diet of mainly meat and vegetables (occasionally fruits and legumes) adopted to lose weight or gain muscle. Most dieters practice Paleo to lose weight, but this “species-appropriate diet” allegedly cures more than a hundred ailments, ranging from Alzheimer’s to anxiety, epilepsy to acne.7

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Hazards of Herbal Medicine: Lessons from Aristolochia
What is Sexual Orientation?
Michelle E. Ainsworth holds an MA in history. She enjoys
New Brain Research Supports the Porn Addiction Model
A Response to Zimbardo, Wilson, and Coulombe
The Tale of the Ancient Maya and a Canadian Teenager
Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-Step Programs, and What We Really Know About Substance Abuse Treatment
The Role of End-Times Thinking in World History
The Neurophysiology of Anomalous Psychological Experiences
Myths of Poison Gas Attacks in History and More Recently on Afghan School Girls
A Case Study in How Science Can Bring Comfort
Review of The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution, by David Wootton
A Review of The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind by A.C.Grayling
Review of The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life after Death edited by M. Martin and K. Augustine
Review of The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher
In the pages of Junior Skeptic, we often look at “wild and wooly” mysteries—but today I mean that literally. Today we’ll explore the hidden history of mammoths and mastodons!
First, before we consider the mammoths, I’d like you to
Humanity never knew the dinosaurs. But Ice Age mammals were
People in Europe continued to interpret large fossils as the
Mammoth bones, teeth, and tusks are found across half the
Three hundred years ago, the mystery of gigantic unexplained bones
Siberia’s mammoths became a mystery that sparked intense interest among
There’s an old saying: “It ain’t what you don’t know
Even as an elephant-like view of Siberian mammoths and European
It took several more decades to solve the American mastodon
The Ohio incognitum was such a famous American mystery that