“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” -Theodiosis Dobzhansky
The thesis behind my approach to physical training and lifestyle is based on this quote. The human body is a biological phenomenon we can not hope to understand how to best optimize its function for health or performance without approaching it from an evolutionary perspective. We need to understand the context from which we have arisen.
As my thinking has evolved it has become clear to me that evolution is poorly understood by many in the fitness field and that far too many in the fields of health and fitness fall into naturalistic fallacies when trying to understand the human body’s function.
According to Crossfit, squatting is natural but leg pressing is not. According to Methode Naturelle, it is natural to be nearly nude and it is not natural to wear clothes. According to MovNat, practicing movement is natural and conditioning training is not.
According to the Paleo Diet it is natural for humans to eat meat, it is unnatural for us to eat grains. According to vegetarians it is not natural to eat meat. According to bodyweight culturalists it’s not natural to train using weights, etc., etc.
Each of these are based on assumptions of an inherent human nature that is unchanged and unchangeable from some primordial beginning. Instead of basing beliefs on Genesis, Paleo proponents for example see 100,000-10,000 years ago as our time of being natural and everything that deviates from that as unnatural.
All of this is logically very weak and easily falls into dogmatism. If humans are an evolved phenomenon and a product of nature then would not everything we do be an expression of nature? How and where do we define the line between natural and unnatural? Furthermore, there is an assumption that what is natural is good and what is unnatural is bad, at least in whatever domain we are talking about. Of those who advocate for a natural diet, few are advocating for abandoning their central heating or plumbing, which are certainly no more natural then Hot Pockets.
“Natural” is an ill-defined concept that does nothing to further our understanding. Peach pits filled with arsenic are perfectly natural and they are not good or bad in and off themselves. What we can say though is that humans do not have an evolved capacity to handle the levels of arsenic present in them and that using them as food sources is a dangerous and stupid idea.
Therefore, by basing our hypotheses about health, movement and fitness on evolution, rather than what’s “natural,” we are able to use and apply a logical and extremely powerful theoretical framework to our understanding of how best to optimize human function.
By understanding the evolutionary context of being human we can evolve better methods for becoming more effective humans.