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I'm a student of evolution -- especially of primates -- and it's been generally accepted that tool making & meat eating were instrumental in humans evolving from earlier ape lines. But here's a new theory that makes a great deal of sense:

Richard Wrangham, a primatologist and anthropologist, has spent four decades observing wild chimpanzees in Africa to see what their behavior might tell us about prehistoric humans. Dr. Wrangham, 60, was born in Britain and since 1989 has been at Harvard, where he is a professor of biological anthropology. His book, “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human,” will be published in late May. He was interviewed over a vegetarian lunch at last winter’s American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago and again later by telephone. An edited version of the two conversations:

Q. In your new book, you suggest that cooking was what facilitated our evolution from ape to human. Until now scientists have theorized that tool making and meat eating set the conditions for the ascent of man. Why do you argue that cooking was the main factor?

A. All that you mention were drivers of the evolution of our species. However, our large brain and the shape of our bodies are the product of a rich diet that was only available to us after we began cooking our foods. It was cooking that provided our bodies with more energy than we’d previously obtained as foraging animals eating raw food.

For the full article (it's short), see: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/21/science/21conv.html?em

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