Harvard primatologist and anthropologist Richard Wrangham’s new book will hit bookshelves on May 25. In Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Wrangham theorizes that the evolutionary success of humans was originally the result of mastering fire and using it to cook. In the past, scientists have said that tools and meat consumption lead to the development of modern man. According to Wrangham, our ancestors began cooking about 1.8 million years ago, and this lead to a more nutritious diet that required less eating time. Cooking also lead to a rich diet that shaped the human body, and lead to the development of the large brain.
I like this theory – it seems logical enough, although I’d have to read the book for myself to determine whether Wrangham makes a sound argument. I don’t believe there is archaeological proof that humans made fires 1.8 million years ago, and this is troubling because it seems like Wrangham’s argument requires that we assume this to be true. The absence of evidence does not disprove Wrangham’s theory, but it makes me consider his point of view with a critical eye an cautious mind.