Saturday, June 10, 2006

The least tasty way to support evolution

When Adam Scott got it into his head to eat monkey chow for a week, I don't think he was particularly trying to prove our kinship with nonhuman primates. In fact, his stated reason is that he hates food shopping and doing the dishes:
Imagine going to the grocery store only once every 6 months. Imagine paying less than a dollar per meal. Imagine never washing dishes, chopping vegetables or setting the table ever again. It sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

But can a human subsist on a constant diet of pelletized, nutritionally complete food like puppies and monkeys do? For the good of human kind, I'm about to find out. On June 3, 2006, I began my week of eating nothing but monkey chow: "a complete and balanced diet for the nutrition of primates, including the great apes."
Still, while this is an effective (if foolhardy) way to get out of doing the dishes, it's also an interesting (if foolhardy) experiment in human-monkey kinship. In a sense, Adam is martyring himself for all of us, staking his health on his innocent conviction that what's good for our monkey brethren is good for us. It's touching, really.

It makes some sense, too. The stuff is labelled "Primate Food," we're primates, so it's good for us, right? The answer is that I'm not sure. Monkey teeth are pretty close to ours, and the only significant jaw difference I could find had to do with minor disparities in stretchiness and bite force. It's not as though you can't have speciation based on food choices -- Galapagos finches, anyone? -- but I would think that the dental similarity would indicate that we're akin to other primates in that particular. Nutrition-wise, it's not at all tough to imagine that we could survive on the fruits and leaves that monkeys eat in the wild; in fact, this rather obsolete press release indicates that we might be better off. In short: besides the fact that we enjoy nice tastes, there's no obvious reason why monkey chow shouldn't be human chow.

But to understand that, you have to be fully committed to the deep and abiding brotherhood between man and monkey. So Adam, thank you; you're not just avoiding the dishes, you're lending credence to evolution. In the words of interviewer Steve Johnson (not that Steven Johnson): "This is a great thing you're doing, both for science and for my personal enjoyment."


Anonymous said...

Great idea! I have actually been an advocate of this philosophy for a long time. I was just about to be motivated to post my own blog on the subject from a different POV when I read yours. I am interested in the details of the experiment and the results. Once several years ago I called the Ralston-Purina company to ask if they ever thought about making human chow and they told me no (of course)I still wonder about the viability of this project.

8/21/2006 8:53 AM  

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