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Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Anglais) CD audio – Livre audio, 9 avril 2013

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Catching Fire In Catching Fire, one of the most ambitious arguments about human evolution since Darwin's Descent of Man, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham makes the claim that learning to cook food was the hinge on which human evolution turned. Eating cooked food, he argues, enabled us to evolve our large brains, and cooking itself became a primary focus of human social activity ? in short, cooking made u... Full description

Détails sur le produit

  • CD
  • Editeur : Brilliance Corporation; Édition : Unabridged (9 avril 2013)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 1469298104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1469298108
  • Dimensions du produit: 16,5 x 1,6 x 14 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
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Par Massilian le 16 mai 2011
Format: Broché
a very exciting book. accessible to the profane. Quite a memorable journey into our distant past.
A must read for anyone interested in primatology or anthropology.
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173 internautes sur 188 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A brilliant and important hypothesis 9 juin 2009
Par George Sand - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Around 1.8 to 1.9 million years ago, Homo habilis (a chimpanzee-like primate, but with a bigger brain and tool-making skills) evolved into Homo erectus. The changes were spectacular: Homo erectus had a 40% larger brain than Homo habilis; looked much more like a modern human than a chimpanzee; had lost its tree-climbing skills, but gained running skills; had a much smaller, and less energy-consuming digestive system (smaller mouth, teeth, jaws, jaw muscles, stomach, and colon); lost most of its coat of fur; and developed a social system based on economic cooperation: the husband hunted, the wife gathered and cooked, and they shared the food.

Wrangham argues that Homo habilis learned to control fire and that that fact is both a necessary and sufficient explanation for this evolutionary leap.

First, fire is used for cooking, as all primates find cooked food more delicious (even monkeys know to follow a forest fire to enjoy the cooked nuts). Cooking gelatinizes starch, denatures protein, and softens all foods, permitting more complete digestion and energy extraction. As a result, the food processing apparatus shrinks, freeing energy to support a larger brain. (After the gut shrinks, the animal can no longer process enough raw food to survive, but is dependent on cooking. Wrangham reports that humans with even a large supply of well-processed, high-quality food lose both weight and reproductive capacity on a raw diet, and that there are no known cases of a modern human surviving on raw food for more than a month.)

Second, fire provides defense against large carnivores, permitting Homo erectus to descend from the trees and live on the formerly preditor-dangerous ground. The group would sleep around the campfire while an alert sentinel watched for predators, which would be repelled with a fiery log. Living on the ground led to the development of long legs and flat feet--ideal for running.

Third, fire permits loss of fur, as a hairless animal could warm itself by the fire. Hairless animals can dissipate heat much more quickly, giving them the ability to outrun furry animals. Homo erectus could simply chase a prey animal until it collapsed from heat exhaustion.

Fourth, cooking permits specialization of labor. Without cooking, both males and females must spend most of their day gathering and chewing vegetable matter. Because hunting success is unpredictable, they could devote relatively little time to it, because an unsuccessful hunter would have inadequate time to gather and chew vegetables. Cooking, however, reduces chewing time from 5 hours per day to 1 hour, freeing time to hunt. A hunter who returned empty-handed could still enjoy a cooked vegetable meal and have time to eat it.

Here Wrangham (who teaches, inter alia, a course named "Theories of Sexual Coercion") indulges in academic feminism when he says that "cooking freed women's time and fed their children, but also trapped women into a newly subservient role enforced by male-dominated culture" as if this were a diabolical choice by patriarchal males. A more neutral explanation for the emergent sex roles might be as follows: Females, with their noisy, not-very-portable suckling infants and toddlers, cannot hunt because hunting is necessarily a stealthy and mobile activity. Therefore, males do the hunting. Because both hunting and cooking are time-consuming activities, males cannot do both. Therefore, females do the cooking. (They are trapped into cooking not by males but by their mammary glands.)

The various effects of control of fire were mutually reinforcing, leading to rapid evolutionary changes, resulting ultimately in modern humans.

Interestingly, Charles Darwin, while calling fire-making "probably the greatest [discovery], excepting language, ever made by man," thought that cooking was a late addition to the human skill-set without biological or evolutionary significance, and anthropologists agreed with him until quite recently.

The main text of the book comprises just 207 widely spaced pages, yet is somewhat repetitive. It includes many entertaining, if sometimes marginally relevant, anecdotes and a gratuitous chapter on contemporary food labeling and healthy eating. Despite these nits, I award 5 stars because Wrangham's cooking-makes-the-human hypothesis is both brilliant and important and the book is a highly enjoyable read.
52 internautes sur 57 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A New Theory On What Makes Us Human 8 juin 2009
Par John D. Cofield - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Anthropologists, historians, and theologians have many theories about how humans became "human". Dr. Richard Wrangham here posits that humans became "human" because we learned to cook our food over a million years ago, when homo erectus first tamed fire. Conventional theory holds that humans began to cook their food long after their path diverged from other primates, so its interesting to read Dr. Wrangham's belief that cooking was a cause rather than an effect.

Dr. Wrangham provides some fascinating material on how humanity began to physically separate from the apes, and how eating cooked food intensified the process and hurried it along. This has the potential to become impenetrably technical, but Dr. Wrangham writes clearly with the general reader in mind. I also enjoyed his coverage of the claims of present day raw-foodists, some of whom he interviewed. After that chapter I was left feeling simulataneous admiration for the dedication of raw-foodists and repulsion at the thought of following a similar diet myself! Dr. Wrangham has a good ear for an entertaining anecdote, such as the story of poor Alexis St. Martin, who survived a horrifying injury that permanently opened his stomach, thus involuntarily becoming an assistant to a researcher who wished to observe the process of digestion.

The text of this book is only about 200 pages. It is exhaustively researched and documented, with over 40 pages of notes, a 30 page bibliography, and a 20 page index. It will appeal to students of early man and to followers of Michael Pollan, with whom Dr. Wrangham shares a concern that humanity return to more natural and less highly processed food.
47 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Important contribution to anthropology 27 juin 2009
Par Sam Thayer - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Anthropology is supposed to be the scientific study of humankind. Unfortunately, since its inception, it has been inundated by carefully disguised pseudoscience - attempts to use scientific data to support the preconceived biases of the investigators. Typically these biases (aka hypotheses) have been ethnocentric and agrocentric, and the arguments used to support them are often composed of flawed logic in the service of false implications. How relieving to read Wrangham's book, which actually appears to draw hypotheses from observations rather than a self-aggrandizing belief system. The author then analyzes realistic and sensible implications of these hypotheses, testing them in a simple but logical way that makes his conclusions seem obvious.

This is the kind of book that makes one wonder, "Why hasn't this been argued before?" While his book is rather small and the ideas are not deeply explored, this is largely because the hypotheses that Wrangham presents are quite new. I believe that his ideas will be supported, refined, and expanded by further investigation.

While some of his ideas appear outdated or unsupported (for example, he seems to suggest that hunter-gatherers were poorly nourished compared to later farmers, when in fact a substantial body of archeological evidence points to the contrary being true), and he makes some assumptions that are unfounded (for example, that human diets without cooking would be comparable to those of chimpanzees. This is highly unlikely, since pre-humans were bipedal, which suggests a far greater mobility geared toward different food preferences than apes that move on all fours or in trees. It is possible, if not likely, that human ancestors used their greater mobility to extract higher quality food from a larger home range more selectively than chimps.)

However, despite these shortfalls, the ideas presented in the book are extremely important to the study of human evolution and anthropology, as well as the endless and robust contemporary debates about nutrition and health. The book reflects something that I have been telling participants in my wild food foraging workshops for years: that cooking and processing food is the most significant human invention of all time. We would be wise to remain aware of that, and I am grateful that this author has increased my understanding of this issue.

Indeed, I feel that this is the single most important contribution to anthropology in decades. It is also well written, enough so to keep the interest of the casual reader.
22 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Me Tarzan, You Make Dinner 6 septembre 2009
Par Wanda B. Red - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This is a mind-bending book. While I was reading it, I bored everyone in my family (especially at every meal) with the details of Richard Wrangham's startling thesis: that of all the changes that distinguish ape from man, the ability to control fire and cook one's food comes first. It's cooking, argues Wrangham, that liberates us to travel widely and hunt effectively (other primates spend too much time chewing); it's cooking that creates the conditions for differentiated sex roles (and the relegation of women to the kitchen); it's cooking that denudes us of our hair (the fire keeps us warm), making us better runners (less overheating) and again adding to our ability to travel distances; cooking gives us small guts (well, not mine) and big brains (guilty as charged!).

The implications of this thesis are both historical and contemporary. The reader gains insight into how family structure evolved, and at the same time is enlightened about what kinds of foods are really contributing to 21st-century obesity and its related health problems. The epilogue, which explains and criticizes how calories are counted by the food industry, is quite illuminating on this last point.

The book is billed as being path-breaking and original. While written for the educated rather than academic reader, it does contain thorough and informative endnotes (they are unobtrusive as you read, since subscripts are not inserted in the text). I have not reviewed these notes completely, but my impression is that many parts of the book, rather than being paradigm changing, chiefly synthesize work on food that has already been done. I do not say this as a criticism -- his references demonstrate his impressive command of the field and range from well known sources (like Stephen Jay Gould) to the most up-to-date breaking scientific studies (for example, evidence that the digestion of hard foods is more costly than soft comes from a scholarly article that at the time of this writing [2009] is in press rather than in print; see p. 255). But it may be that the book as a whole can be characterized mostly as putting together work that others have done.

Still, I do think that there are some very original insights here and that the synthesis itself is distinctive. Wrangham is a biological anthropologist, whose academic work is in the study of chimpanzees. The observations he offers about the differences between the organization of human society and that of other primates seem less derivative and related more closely to his his own empirical observations. I would put in this category the insight that it is food rather than sex that really drives behavior. I was fascinated by the speculations on sex roles in which Wrangham engages, which fly in the face of some traditional explanations of the origin of human society in the regulation of sex relationships. He is quite persuasive that the hunter's need for a cooked meal and the gatherer's need for a protected hearth are more fundamental than the father's desire to know that his children are his own and the mother's appreciation for male help raising and protecting her young.

Whether you agree with everything that Wrangham proposes (or it squares with your own observations and experiences as closely as it did with mine), this is a well written and thought provoking book that should find a wide readership.
30 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Up-ends All Assumptions About the Paleolithic Diet! 16 août 2009
Par Sheryl Canter - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I first encountered Richard Wrangham some years ago, while searching the internet for information on when humans started cooking their food. I came across a video of a talk he gave at the International Association of Culinary Professionals 2005 International Conference called "The Natural Cook: The Significance of Paleo-Gastronomy". It was electrifying. I'd never heard this theory before, and it totally made sense. I bought the talk on CD and then went searching the internet for articles he'd written. So I was excited to see this book.

The reason I was researching whether paleolithic people cooked is because the paleolithic diet defines "good nutrition". People argue endlessly about whether we should eat cooked food or raw, meat or vegetarian, low carb or high carb, etc. The answer to all questions such as these is found in the answer to this question: "What did we evolve eating?" What we are adapted to eat is what we should eat. I talk about this - and how the processed food industry turns our instincts against us - in my own book, "Normal Eating for Normal Weight".

There's a movement of people trying to eat according to the paleolithic diet, and quite a few books attempt to describe what this is (e.g. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat). The touchstone for what's paleo has always been, "Can you eat it raw?" since it was assumed that cooking came later in human evolution. Wrangham turns this touchstone on its head. If humans are human BECAUSE they cook, if there is no such thing as a human who didn't cook, then there's no reason to believe that we evolved eating only those foods that could be eaten raw.

It was my hope that "Catching Fire" would give an outline of the paleolithic diet in light of this new "cooking" perspective. But it did not, and that is my one disappointment with the book. Traditionally, the paleolithic diet was thought to exclude grain, beans, potatoes, and milk products (and, of course, anything refined or factory processed). Grain, beans, and potatoes cannot be eaten raw, and wild animals cannot be milked. Are grain, beans, and potatoes still to be considered "not paleo" in light of the cooking hypothesis? What was the nutritional profile of the paleo diet - fat, carb, protein? What was the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio? I wish he'd addressed these issues.

Sadly, the only aspect of our modern diet that he addressed was the calorie density of our food, and flaws in how we count calories. He said nothing at all about any other aspect of our modern diet. There is a lot more to nutrition than calories! The book ended with an endorsement of Michael Pollan's recommendation to eat whole, unprocessed foods, but I already knew that. I was hoping for specifics. Maybe Wrangham will write a second book that gives more detail on the nutritional profile of the paleolithic diet, especially as compared to the modern diet. An increase in calorie-dense food is by no means the only difference!

That said, there is much to love in this book. The analysis is brilliant, it's extremely well-documented, and at the same time it's highly readable and often amusing. Some aspects of the theory are disturbing. He gives a very strong argument for how cooking led to a patriarchal social system where women serve men by performing the cooking and all other domestic tasks - a social system that persists to this day.

This is a brilliant book and a great read. It's just oddly lacking in a nutritional profile of the paleolithic diet. I hope he follows up with a second volume.
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