Book Review: A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century
November 05, 2022
My parents taught me to always “clean my plate” at meal times. That is, you should eat all that you’ve been given.
“Please clean your plate dear, the lord above can see ya. Don’t you know people are starving in Korea?” — Alice Cooper, Generation Landslide
Intentionally or not, for my whole life I’ve adopted that same attitude towards reading books. Oh, I have plenty of books in my library that I haven’t read (in re tsundoku), but once I begin reading one, I feel obligated to finish it.
That is, until this book. Written by “Heather Heyring and her partner Bret Weinstein, it is subtitled “Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life.” That intriguing premise, and the cool cover (yes, I know) made it seem like something I’d enjoy. I was mistaken.
I won’t belabor the point, as based on other online reviews and the vitriol expressed towards the authors, I don’t need to overly justify my viewpoint. (Unfortunately, I learned about all this after I had purchased the book.) I’ll only add that while the authors might be smart biologists, when it comes to sociology, anthropology, and technology they are sadly lacking in sophistication.
But as is my practice, here are a few points that stood out for me:
- “…culture exists in service to the genes. Long-standing cultural traits are as adaptive as eyes, leaves, or tentacles.”
- The authors insist on using WEIRD as an acronym for societies which are “Western nations, with highly Educated populace, an Industrialized economic base, and are Rich and Democratic. That they labored so hard to make this derisive naming work will tell you a lot about their mindset.
- “…the methods and language of science are imitated by institutions and systems not engaged in science, such that the resulting efforts are generally not scientific at all. Not only do we see words like theory and analysis wrapped around distinctly untheoretical (sic) and unanalyzed (and often unanalyzable) ideas, but — worse — we see the rise of a kind of fake numeracy, in which anything that can be counted is, and once you have the measurement, you tend to forgo all further analysis.”
- don’t mistake identifying an effect for understanding an effect
- REM sleep is the creative stage of rest
I stopped reading the book after one too many Jesus references, assertions about males being inherently dominant and females naturally submissive, and a statement that gender dysphoria is caused by endocrine disruptors in our environment. Skimming ahead, the latter half of the books seems filled with platitudes (“smile more”), glib advice (“sit around campfires with your family”), and, sadly, anti-vax bullshit.
Typically, when I’m finished with a book, I’ll donate it to a local Little Free Library so that others can enjoy it. This one is going straight into the trash.