Tagged hunter gatherers

Psychological States As Ancient Adaptations

Depressed? Anxious? Happy? Resilient? Thank a hunter-gatherer in your past.

women-at-mongongo-groves-copy3I’ve considered here the high probability that obesity and diabetes are diseases of civilization and the possibility that ADHD may in part be as well. But what about other psychological symptoms and disorders? Randolph Nesse , a distinguished psychiatrist at the University of Michigan, has long been thinking about depression and anxiety in evolutionary perspective, and so have I and others.
Depression is a kind of withdrawal. Although it can be severe or long enough to hurt your reproductive options and even endanger your life, it is sometimes a symptom that gets you out of harm’s way. Read more

The Social Network, 10,000 BP

Do 21st-century networks hark back to the distant past?

Picture a fire in an otherwise pitch-dark cave, or outside on a still plain on a moonless, starry night. Drop the temperature a bit, perhaps, and add the distant wail of a coyote or some wild dogs. Now add the most important ingredient: four or seven or ten people sitting around the fire talking, Read more

Is ADHD a Disease of Civilization?

Many kids we diagnose would be fine hunter-gatherers.

childgroup-c02reducedDuring my two years of research on children among the Kalahari San, or Bushmen, I watched kids scramble over huge termite hills, chase each other around the scrub brush in the savanna, practice dance steps, stop to dig up a tasty tuber, pick some berries, or throw a rock at a hapless bird or turtle which they could then cook and eat. I often wondered how many of them Read more

Epidemic Obesity: Adaptation Gone Wild

Obesity is unnatural, but it’s natural to try for it.

titian_venus_mirrorThis morning I sat on a panel for medical students; the subject was obesity. Nationally, as anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock knows, the picture is not pretty-in fact it’s pretty ugly. By the standard definition, obesity means a Body Mass Index (BMI; weight in kilos over height in meters squared) above 30, and in about 15 years starting in 1990 we went from 22 percent to 33 percent obese.

Now, I don’t care what you call it or Read more


Professional Biographical Sketch: Melvin Konner, M.D, Ph.D.

Melvin (“Mel”) Konner is the author of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1982, American Book Award nominee). A completely revised edition of The Tangled Wing was published by Holt/Times Books/W.H. Freeman in January, 2002.

His forthcoming book, Believers: Faith in Human Nature, will be published by Norton in Summer 2019. His last book was Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy (Norton, 2015). Other books include Becoming a Doctor: A Journey of Initiation in Medical School (Viking/Elisabeth Sifton, 1987; front page review, New York Times Book Review; Georgia Author of the Year, Nonfiction, 1988); with S. Boyd Eaton and Marjorie Shostak, The Paleolithic Prescription: A Guide to Diet and Exercise and a Design for Living (Harper and Row, 1988; a pioneering book about the “Paleo” diet); Why the Reckless Survive, And Other Secrets of Human Nature (Viking Penguin, 1990);   Childhood, the book for a major nine-hour public television series on which he appeared (Little, Brown, 1991); Medicine at the Crossroads: The Crisis in Health Care (Pantheon, 1992), for a seven-hour WNET/BBC series; Dear America: A Concerned Doctor Wants You to Know the Truth About Health Reform (Addison-Wesley, 1993; advocating a single-payer system); Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews (Viking Penguin 2003); The Jewish Body, in the Nextbook/Schocken “Jewish Encounters” book series (2009); and The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind (Harvard University Press, 2010).

Konner was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Russell Sage Foundation from 2000 to 2010.  He has testified twice at U.S. Senate committee hearings relating to health care policy.

He was a regular contributor to the “Mind and Matter” column of The Wall Street Journal weekend Review section (every 4th week from November 2015 to July 2017). He published seven columns on The New York Times Op-Ed page, was a regular contributor to the “Body and Mind” column of The New York Times Magazine, and wrote the regular column “On Human Nature” for The Sciences, the prizewinning magazine of the New York Academy of Sciences. He has written for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The American Prospect, M.D., Psychology Today, Omni, Ms., and other newspapers and magazines, and has reviewed books for Science, Nature, Scientific American, The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review. His scientific writings have appeared in Science, Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, Child Development, Human Nature, and other journals.

He has been a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Foundations’ Fund for Research in Psychiatry, and he received the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology in Media Award for 2004. His distinguished lectures include the 15th Annual Raymond D. Pruitt Lecture, The Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical School (1995), the McGovern Lecture in Medical Humanities, Yale University School of Medicine (1996), and the Abraham Flexner Lecture at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine (2009). He was named “Best Local Intellectual” in Creative Loafing’s annual “Best of Atlanta” edition for 2004.

He attended Brooklyn College (CUNY), holds Ph.D. and M.D. degrees from Harvard University, and is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University. He spent two years among the !Kung San (Bushmen), and has taught at Harvard and then at Emory, for over 40 years. He teaches courses on human biology, human brain/behavior relations, biological approaches to childhood, human nature, medicine and society, and the anthropology of the Jews.

Konner was raised as an Orthodox Jew and, though he lost his faith at age 17, he is still keenly interested in Jewish culture and civilization. For more about this see his other website, “Jews and Others.”

He was married to Marjorie Shostak (May 11, 1945-October 6, 1996), author of the anthropological classic Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman and the mother of their three children, Susanna, Adam, and Sarah, now grown. He was a single father for a decade and has two grandchildren, among other rewards. His wife’s eight years with cancer stimulated an interest in that disease and in the psychology of terminal illness. He is remarried to Ann Cale Kruger, Ph.D. (a developmental psychologist), who added a third daughter, Logan Kruger, to their blended family, and has found happiness again after much suffering.

Curriculum Vitae

A Hero, a Villain, and a Leader

Three stunning current examples of human character reflect our evolutionary history

Yesterday’s New York Times had three remarkable specimens of humanity on the front page, and together they say much about the human species and our long evolution. They say a lot too about human nature, and perhaps even more about human culture.
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Biophilia in Michigan

The love of the living world is built into human nature, and it's good to be reminded again and again.

My daughter Sarah, 21, who cares for nature as much as anyone I know, took me under her wing today-as usual, to my benefit. I said at every choice point, "I am placing myself in your very capable hands," and she led me into the Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, known to the citizens of that marvelous town as "the Arb."
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Kangaroo Care, Infancy, and Survival

Can skin-to-skin contact save premature babies?

A few days ago I found myself at the podium of a large lecture hall in Uppsala, Sweden, a three-century-old, grand space with a great chandelier and the look of an opera house, but then the scene of a symposium at the academic medical center of Uppsala University.
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Republican Socialism

"Conservatives" nationalize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, mocking their own market mantra

Anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists are fascinated by two poles of human behavior: cooperation and competition. You've got to get your own in terms of reproductive success, but you're in a relentlessly social species, so you often have to do well by doing good.
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