Herman Pontzer in Scientific American:
It was my daughter Clara’s seventh birthday party, a scene at once familiar and bizarre. The celebration was an American take on a classic script: a shared meal of pizza and picnic food, a few close COVID-compliant friends and family, a beaming kid blowing out candles on a heavily iced cake. With roughly 380,000 boys and girls around the world turning seven each day, it was a ritual no doubt repeated by many, the world’s most prolific primate singing “Happy Birthday” in an unbroken global chorus.
Such a wholesome setting seems an unlikely place for rampant rule breaking. But as an evolutionary anthropologist, I can’t help but notice the blatant disregard our species shows for the natural order. Nearly every aspect of our modern lives marks a cheerfully outrageous departure from the laws that govern every other species on the planet, and this birthday party was no exception. Aside from the fresh veggies left wilting in the sun, none of the food was recognizable as a product of nature. The cake was a heat-treated amalgam of pulverized grass seed, chicken eggs, cow milk and extracted beet sugar. The raw materials for the snacks and drinks would take a forensic chemist years to reconstruct. It was a calorie bonanza that animals foraging in the wild could only dream about, and we were giving it away to people who didn’t even share our genes.