Evolution, Covid-19 and Natural Selection with Spencer Wells: EMP Podcast 55


Listen to the EMP Podcast on the go with iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher!! Don’t forget to subscribe, comment and give us a 5-star rating!

00:00 – Intro
05:47 – Considering Covid-19
13:39 – Evolutionary Myths and Misconceptions
29:14 – Risk and Immunity
34:21 – Engineering vs Complex Systems
41:14 – Natural Selection
46:46 – The Origins of Europeans and Puerto Ricans
01:09:29 – The Disease Drive
01:18:02 – Outro

Evolution, Covid-19 and Natural Selection with Spencer Wells: EMP Podcast 55

Understanding the lifestyles that our ancestors evolved for can give us a useful perspective on the types of nutrients (physical, dietary, social, emotional, etc…) that might help us to reach our own optimal health in this modern era.

A big reason that we lean into the study of play so much is because it’s a profoundly powerful learning system that exists to drive us towards our most genetically relevant skills and abilities. Children climb, jump, roughhouse, throw and creatively use objects like sticks and stones because those physical abilities have been crucial for the survival of our species for an incredibly long time.

In fact, they have been so key to our evolution that when we engage in them, our brains actually release reward chemicals so that we’ll be more likely to repeat them in the future.

Yet biology and evolution are incredibly complex and when it comes to human health, it can be easy to fall into the trap of reductionism. There will never be any diet or movement routine that can act as a definitive cure-all for the entire population. Even routines that work wonders for one person can be ineffective or detrimental to another person, so it’s highly important to keep an objective mindset and pay attention to nuance when looking to build a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

The fact that our evolutionary heritage is both highly relevant and staggeringly complex means that we should look to experts like our guest Spencer Wells to draw insights from that can help ground our understanding and make better decisions about our health as modern day humans.

Spencer is a population geneticist who spent 10 years as the director of the Genographic Project at National Geographic, which aimed to create a picture of how our ancestors populated the planet by analyzing DNA samples from around the world. We brought him on today to talk about human evolution and how we can look to our past to improve our present and future.

Outside of human evolution, Spencer is also well versed in immunology and virology so throughout the conversation we’ll visit the subject of Covid-19 and the role that disease in general has played on society throughout the ages.

This turned into a long chat, so we’ve split it into two parts and will be releasing the second half in the coming weeks, so don’t forget to scroll down and sign up for our weekly newsletter so you can be notified when part 2 drops!

It’s great to have a professional on the podcast that can offer such great insights into human evolution, so if you enjoyed this episode and want to dive deeper into human evolution, anthropology, genetics or the coronavirus pandemic, let us know! You can also check out our related content section to browse through past episode that cover similar topics.


[How Should a Human Learn to Move? Ecological Dynamics and Natural Movement: EMP Podcast 35]

[Examining the Risk of Covid-19 with Erich Lin: EMP Podcast 45]

[Evolution, Broken Systems and the Problem of Updating with Razib Kahn: EMP Podcast 12]


If you would like to support us at Evolve Move Play, don’t forget to like, share, comment and rate our content. 

You can also hit the link below to become a patron.

Nature Connection

Leave a Comment


Start typing and press Enter to search