FAQ for the Evolutionary Fitness list List name: Evolutionary-Fitness   Members at 28 January 2003: 144

List owner: Keith Thomas

FAQ revision: 1.8, 8 December 2007 (v. 1.7 was 23 Feb 2003)

1.  Nothing written here has been endorsed by Art De Vany. The substantive portions of the document, such as the suggested reading list, are contributions by subscribers to help other subscribers.

2.  This FAQ is for the Evolutionary Fitness discussion list, a list for the discussion of the ideas of Art De Vany.  Neither the ideas or perspectives of www.evfit.com, where this FAQ resides, necessarily mirror Dr De Vany's ideas; indeed, they strive - in true paleo style - to reflect our diversity as we
move toward a fuller understanding.

This FAQ is under constant review and your suggestions for enhancing or clarifying it are welcome.  To be accepted, enhancements need to be broadly consistent (but not necessarily in agreement) with Art De Vany's overall approach - see here  (for example, we're not interested in posting suggested reading on the case for creationism).  We also need to keep the FAQ to a manageable length. Please e-mail keith@evfit.com with your suggestions and notice of broken links.


1.      Posting standards

2.      How to manage your account, including unsubscribing

3.      Where to find the archives and this FAQ

4.      Suggested reading

5.      Art De Vany’s book and website


Be civil.  Post in plain text, not HTML.

Select a title for new posts which begins with a term that will help future searchers locate it in the archives.Quote only the relevant portions of the post you are responding to.  In making a new post, a subscriber can quote a previous post in entirety, often because their e-mail software defaults to this protocol or they assume the posting standards of a different forum or community.  Here, since we maintain archives and the posts are threaded by subject, a subscriber can readily pick up the context of any posting, obviating the need to help the reader along by quoting everything.  Unchecked quoting creates cumbersome, lengthy posts with proportionately little of the new post itself.  This is ugly and irritates other subscribers who exercise the courtesy of deletion or <snip> in their own posts.

Sometimes, you may have good reason to quote a post in entirety.  For instance, if you follow up on a much older posting; if you interleave your response with the prior post to pinpoint specific sentences or paragraphs; or if you start a new thread by changing the subject of a previous thread.  Use your judgement.You may want to bring a web page or web site to the attention of other subscribers.  If you do, exercise the courtesy of adding a 10-20 word critical abstract rather than simply posting a URL with the vague and off-hand 'this looks interesting!'


The easiest way to manage your account, including unsubscribing, is by changing your account settings through the web interface at the following URL: http://listserv.icors.org/scripts/wa-icors.exe?INDEX. Alternatively, you can manage your account through e-mail. 


In particular, to unsubscribe by email, send a message to the same address with the text, SIGNOFF EVOLUTIONARY-FITNESS.


There are two sets of archives for this list: one for the original list before it went into hibernation 1998-2000, and one for the period after this dormancy.The original archives contain a rich trove of discussion.  Subscribers can request a copy from the present list owner at keith@evfit.com.  The file is 700kb in size and will need adequate space on your mail server.  It will not get past many institutional firewalls, so don't ask for it to be sent to a business address.  The file is a compressed file containing e-mails to the list in text form from 1997 and 1998.  You’ll need to use zip software to decompress the file.  For Windows users, http://www.winzip.com offers a trial version of their software.  This file prints out at about 1300 pages, but this contains about 20% listserv babble.  The posts on the file are, unfortunately, only in general chronological order.The recent archives can be found at the following URL: http://listserv.icors.org/scripts/wa-icors.exe?A0=EVOLUTIONARY-FITNESS

The FAQ (the document you have before you) can be accessed directly at http://www.evfit.com/faq.htm



This is the present suggested reading list which will help members of this group learn more about evolutionary fitness generally.  There really is no single definitive document just yet.  Those who want more information will have to be 'hunters and gatherers' on the internet and in libraries and bookshops.  Here are a few of the richest sites and the best books.

Human evolution 
A beautiful and accessible book which covers the story of human evolution comes from the BBC: Ape Man (Dawn of Man in the USA) by Robyn McKie (see reviews on Amazon).  In many ways a book like this should be required reading for anyone interested in evolutionary fitness.  Without this background, you can easily become preoccupied with weight loss, anti-aging, exercise, weight training, food, treating illness, psychology, physiology, supplements or ecology.  Evolutionary fitness is the bringing together of all these in the one coherent framework, using scientific method and with an eye to personal and societal practicability.  On the net the BBC has produced a complementary package to Ape Man which you can listen to online.  They also produced their own links of relevant internet links.  The Institute of Human Origins does a similar job but with a focus on our African origins and the discoveries that made possible our present understanding of human evolution.  For the more scientific evolutionary approach check the Go Animal site and the site about Richard Dawkins.  The Dawkins site has a host of stimulating links. 
At the next level two Cambridge University Press encyclopaedias are excellent resources: The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Hunter-Gatherers (which includes recent and contemporary ethnographic detail) and the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Human Evolution. Still more specialized, but replete with comparative ethnographic detail, is Lewis Binford's Constructing Frames of Reference. Coming Home to the Pleistocene, by Paul Shepard (1998) is an inspiring, fertile exploration of the the fundamental question: 'What can we do to recreate a life more in tune with our genetic roots?'  In this book Shepard suggests ways to foster the kinds of ecological settings and cultural practices that are optimal for human health and well-being.The earliest synthesis of human health - physiological, psychological and social - with the environment in an evolutionary context was Stephen Boyden's 1973 paper Evolution and Health.  In many ways, this is still the best overview as it succeeds (brilliantly!) in assuming no prior special knowledge. A remarkable book is Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.  This is Price's well-illustrated account of his travels around the world in the 1920s and 30s, tracking the effect of diet on health, focusing particularly on hunter-gatherers and other traditional peoples and how their physical well-being deteriorated sharply when 'civilization' moved in - and nature moved out.Art De Vany is working on a book based on his own experimentation, experiences and research. As we understand it, this will bring together information on exercise (and, more broadly, physical behaviour), diet, thinking, aging and how they all interact. He will, I expect, use the evolutionary framework which he outlines on his website.


Exercise and diet
A good, objective summary of evolutionary fitness is that Clarence Bass wrote in 2000.  A sound work dealing with diet and exercise is the web site of Tamir Katz.  Tamir is a recent medical graduate and previously an active participant on this list.  He has a lively mind and an exercise program for sale at a very low price.  He does not make as much of the evolutionary framework as Art and the theoretical underpinnings are not to the forefront, but the net result in terms of a diet and exercise regime is an excellent jumping-off point for developing your own routine.  Probably the best single book there is, especially for beginners.Neanderthin by Ray Audette is still in print and a good introduction to human evolution, diet and - to a lesser extent - exercise.  This pioneering work deserves to be read by everyone interested in evolutionary fitness. 
The best single book on exercise is Frank Forencich's Play as If Your Life Depends on it.  This book was reviewed on the Evolutionary Discussion list on 8 April 2005 and a more recent review can be found at http://www.evfit.com/Forencich_review.htm TopDiet
A useful review of the available information on food is at the Paleo Diet site  You will find a wide range of views there, some contradicting the others and enough URLs to keep you off the streets for a few weeks.  If that is not enough, Beyond Vegetarianism is another rich treasure trove.  For information on diet and the way it produces the hormonal responses which lie behind muscle growth, deposition of fat, and fat loss, health and disease read Rob Faigin's book Natural Hormonal Enhancement.  This book has a useful chapter on the relevance of human evolution for present day fitness and it also has evolutionary references throughout the text.  More information at Rob Faigin's site.  Again, Tamir Katz's book is excellent, giving the best simple and clear account of what is good and what is bad about dietary fats.In December 2001 (and January 2002 in the UK), Loren Cordain's book The Paleo Diet was published.  This gives the best single overview of diet, but some paleo diet enthusiasts have indicated irritation at the publisher's concessions to the demands of the US popular self-help book market (for example, the emphases on fat loss and on gourmet food preparation - two things likely to have been quite absent from the minds of our ancestors in the Pleistocene!).  Cordain's book has stimulated a continuing debate on the Paleofood list about the advisability of different types of fats and macronutrient ratios.  The book has a complementary, sensible and practical - but all-too-brief - guide to exercise.As a counter to the political correctness of The Paleo Diet, read the work of Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, particularly Fallon's introduction to her Nourishing Traditions (see also the reviews on amazon.com) and their article 'The Oiling of America' which exposes the commercial and ego imperatives that oppose widespread adoption of a Paleo diet.  Uffe Ravnskov's book The Cholesterol Myths and his site The Cholesterol Skeptics are worth taking in to counter the mainstream food industry nonsense.Protein Power by Michael and Mary Eades is probably the most comprehensive and readily available mass market book which draws on the paleo perspective on diet.  Details on their website.  The Eades' customers seem preoccupied with fat loss, only a small part (and the easy bit) of evolutionary fitness.  The Eadeses themselves, however, have a wider view; chapter 1 of The Protein Power Lifeplan is entitled 'Man the Hunter'The Omega Rx Zone by Barry Sears (see reviews on amazon.com) has a succinct account of human evolution on which he bases his approach: considering food as a pharmaceutical, not only as a source of macronutrients.  Top

Currently the best source of ideas is the Go Animal site of Frank Forencich.  Frank has also written Play As If Your Life Depends Upon It, one of the most thoughtful and thought-inspiring books on human exercise, and publishes an e-mail newsletter which is (September 2004) becoming very thoughtful and inspiring.  For descriptions of specific exercises, base your program on more than one of the following: Tamir Katz's book  and Frank Forencich's for practical body weight routines and Pavel Tsatsouline for weights.  Also check Weightlifting and Weight Training, Dinosaur Training and Rob Faigin's book Natural Hormonal Enhancement (more holistic and Paleo - better than his later Hormonally Intelligent Exercise  which emphasizes gym and standard weights workouts - not Paleo) and his video.  The key features are a focus on intensity, variety and a minimal use of machines: body weight, free weights and vigorous, playful activities followed by stretching (like a lion!).  No steady-state aerobic exercise.  Matt Furey, if you ignore the macho excess and exhausting marketing hype on his site, has in his book Combat Conditioning, one of the best sets of exercises in print.  The Dinosaur Training site is one of many that use labels from the popular paleo lexicon, but does not use a Darwinian framework.  Both Dinosaur Training and Pavel have great exercise and physiology ideas, but employ 'macho' language which appeals most to a male teenage bodybuilding stereotype. Such 'macho' language gives a quite misleading impression of evolutionary fitness and distracts from the fact that it applies equally to men and women, young and old.  Tamir Katz's book stands out as being as useful for women and parents as for young men.

Lights Out, by Wiley and Formby, (see the reviews on amazon.com) is a good beginning, but has been criticized for shallowness and sloppiness. Nevertheless, read it for its accessibility and the way it links our failure to satisfy our inherited sleep requirements to many modern afflictions - especially if you are a shift worker.

Complexity and power laws
This is a gap in the available non-specialized literature.  However, New Scientist magazine provides balanced and up-to-date reporting of the latest discoveries and major advances in human evolution studies and almost weekly refers to power laws and the application of complexity theory to the understanding of natural phenomena.

What's missing
Evolutionary fitness desperately needs development in the female direction. Most of the fitness ideas are premised upon the model of the masculine (and, generally, male) 'hunter' rather than the female. The archives include extensive discussion on evolutionary fitness for women and, at one point at least, middle-aged obese women. Other gaps include pre-natal health (although Weston Price refers to it throughout his book), childhood and old age. Evolutionary fitness also needs the insights Art De Vany was working on: the synthesis of exercise, lifestyle, cognition/psychology and diet in the context of human evolution and analyzed using contemporary developments of complexity theory. Art was forming his synthesis to maximize its applicability by ordinary people in 21st century Western societies. None of the above suggested readings covers adequately the gaps mentioned above (but Frank Forencich comes closest), let alone brings to bear the synthesis De Vany developed.



The short answer is that De Vany is working on the manuscript with a view to publication.  In a retirement interview with Art published in January 2003, he is reported as saying "I will reveal my training technologies in my book, which I am now back to work on", as he has behind him now his academic career at UC Irvine.  His earlier 'essay' was withdrawn around 2001, and Art reminded participants in the list that his Evolutionary Fitness materials are copyrighted and are not to be distributed, archived, reproduced, or used as a basis for someone else to write a book.  Until Art publishes his work, participate on the list and Art's blog and read the wealth of information in the archives.  In March 2005 Art De Vany wrote on the Evolutionary Fitness list that he had "started a new web site, pretty much for the purpose of working through my book. I will be putting sections from the book up now and then. I will also link to articles and interviews. I am just getting started, so don't be impatient about content. I will also put up a recent version of the essay that started it all."

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