This is the tenth(!) part on the evolution of human mating behavior, comparing evidence for promiscuity and pair-bonding in our species. Please see the Introduction here.
In her new book “Paleofantasy,” Marlene Zuk (2013) takes on the notion that our diet, exercise, and mating patterns are out of synch with our evolutionary biology. Some have argued that we have modified our environments too quickly for our own good, leading to the position that we would be better off if we could return to the days of old, before the modern world messed things up. There is probably some truth to this argument (an example I use in classes is that in only a few seconds, inserting $1.00 into a vending machine could return you over 400 empty calories bereft of other nutrients, a scenario our ancestors never encountered). But Zuk counters that the idea that we are stuck with hunter-gatherer bodies and minds in a modern world is overly simplistic.
Zuk notes that attempts to find health and happiness by returning to our idyllic, ancestral past (i.e., paleofantasies) face a few challenges. Among these are:
1. The methodological difficulties in determining exactly how our ancestors lived.
2. The variation among human groups across time and geography.
3. The idea that we were ever fully (perfectly?) adapted to our environment.
4. The fact that evolution does not stop; we are not ‘stuck’ evolutionarily in time.
In sum, she writes: