Piero Scaruffi(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"
The British anthropologist Richard Wrangham argues that the discovery of fire, about 1.8 million years ago, caused a major evolutionary change corresponding to the emergence of Homo Erectus. Humans started cooking, the first and (so far) only animal to do so, which resulted in the ability to extract more calories to support big brains. This fueled the evolution of both the body (that could survive with smaller jaws, teeth and guts) and the brain (that could grow virtually at will). The advent of cooking also had an impact on the evolution of society. For example, it freed men and women from the chore of chewing food that tends to require much more time in other primates. Men and women had more time during the day to invest in other activities. According to Wrangham, cooking is not only a product of human evolution, but also the enabling factor of it.
The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss had already emphasized that cooking prompted the transition from “nature” to “culture” because it separated (once and for all) humans from other animals and it heralded the conquest of nature by humans.
However, the only part of the story that has solid foundations is that fire significantly changed the daily life and the chances of survival for early humans. It provided (besides cooked meals): light in the dark, warm temperatures in winter, a way to dry clothes after a rain, protection from bigger mammals, a signaling system, etc. Each of these factors laid the foundations for major changes in human civilization: longer periods of activity, survival in cold climates, safer dwellings, long-distance communications and, sure, a more efficient diet.
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