Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Evolution of Picky Eating

Today's gratuitous reference to evolution comes from an article from the New York Times titled "Picky eating? It's genetic, study finds."

The entire article is a sore disappointment--it is lengthy but very superficial. It begins by mentioning new research (out of University College, London) that queried the eating habits of 5,390 pairs of twins between the ages of 8 and 11. The conclusion with regard to picky eating in kids is that
78 percent is genetic and the other 22 percent environmental.
We are not given enough information to evaluate this research, and the lead researcher demonstrates a bias going in...
I came from a position of not wanting to blame parents.
Of course, I suspect we're supposed to accept her conclusion in part because she also makes certain to invoke evolution...
If we just went running out of the cave as little cave babies and stuck anything in our mouths, that would have been potentially dangerous.
As usual, the conclusion of this research (if accurate) has nothing to do with evolution, and certainly not (the controversial) macro-evolution. We are talking about humans, after all, and everyone accepts the idea that minor changes have occurred within the human population. Then there is no evidence (at least supplied by this article--and the research appeared to be a questionnaire rather than a biochemical study) of a genetic disparity among human populations in this regard. Moreover, we are expected to believe that--a mere tens of thousands of years ago (since the first Homo sapiens sapiens seem to have appeared very recently)--such a gene-based trait (for finicky eating) provided its carriers with a sufficient advantage such that natural selection favored such early humans over their non-picky cohorts. Were we not hypnotized by the evolution myth, would any clear-thinking modern really believe this nonsense?

If the conclusion of this research (that heredity plays a larger role than environment in this human characteristic) is valid, it suggests one thing...that there is adaptive advantage to being somewhat finicky at a young age. This realization doesn't provide support for any particular metaphysical belief (naturalistic evolution, intelligent design, creation). In other words, it would be much more factual to simply say that finicky eating is adaptive--such a statement would be non-controversial and (more importantly) more accurate than the baseless evolutionary claim made by the lead researcher.

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