A Creationist’s Response to the Primal Lifestyle and Evolutionary Fitness

posted in: Miscellaneous, Uncategorized | 9

I originally wrote this article on March 8, 2010. Yes, that was over two and a half years ago. Since then, I’ve revisited the text ten separate times to revise it, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I’m a hopeless perfectionist, and given the sensitive subject matter, I wanted it to be “just right.” So, it’s been doomed to the Siffer-archives with over 150 other drafted articles, at least until this morning, when I made the decision to publish it today regardless of how I felt about it. It’s simply time to get it out there. 

The purpose of this article is to share a creationist perspective on health and fitness and foster unity in our industry by juxtaposing health and fitness topics that are based on both evolutionist and creationist views. Please note that my purpose is NOT to debate creation versus evolution, as that would detract from the actual subject at hand, which is how our lives are shaped by our views – not about whose views are actually correct.

Mountain

The Argument

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Theodosius Dobzhansky (theistic evolutionist)

Hold your horses there, bub. I’ve seen that quote in so many places recently that I’m beginning to think a massive brainwashing has occurred. What Dobzhansky meant is that nothing in biology makes sense to him except in the light of evolution. Just a little clarification I wanted to point out.

That said, there is a revolutionary trend that has been sweeping the health and fitness industry for some time now. While there are many different facets of this revolution, they all hold one characteristic in common. Each is based on the evolution theory. This reform has taken many shapes including primal fitness communities, Paleo eating and lifestyle design, evolutionary fitness and hunter-gatherer idealism. This new trend has not only been voraciously growing in the self-publishing fields, it’s also becoming commonplace in mainstream media sources as well. It’s no longer just made up of an eclectic group of devoted, purist enthusiasts, but it’s being espoused on a much larger scale.

The fact of the matter is that a lot of people are going Paleo, Primal, and even getting their hunter-gatherer on. Today, some commonly accepted health and fitness organizations are now completely based on evolutionary views (e.g. Exuberant Animal and MovNat, which are both organizations that I fully support despite our philosophical differences).

Now, I’m an adamant creationist. There’s no denying that. If you believe in the theory of evolution, then we disagree – and that’s ok with me. As far as I’m concerned, we can still be friends at the end of the day. I will respect your views and will require that you respect mine while you’re on my turf. I’m not trying to convert anyone to my belief system, but I am going to share my views in order to open a door to learn together.

Setting The Stage

First, let me explain some of my beliefs so you know where I’m coming from…

  • I believe that everything in biology makes sense in the light of Creation.
  • I believe in Divinity (God). God created this world in which we live – the entire scope of physical existence, from every particle of matter in our universe and beyond. Everything we know was created by God: matter, time, and us – body, mind, soul. In essence, God created something out of nothing.
  • I believe in MICRO-evolution (ie adaptation within a species), NOT macro-evolution. For example, I believe that all the species of dogs that we see today may have resulted from a few or even just one type of canine in ancient times, but I do not believe that dogs evolved from rocks. That is, I don’t believe that life can evolve from nonliving materials, even though this has been taught as scientific fact in schools around the world for decades.
  • I also believe in a young Earth. How young? I couldn’t tell you. Most young Earth scientists tend to believe it’s somewhere in the approximate range of 6,000-15,000 years old, and I’ll go with the consensus. Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter to me how old the Earth actually is since it won’t change anything about the way I live my life today. And honestly, like most people, I’m not exactly a subject matter expert on the age of the Earth. I’ve looked into it enough to have an opinion and also to understand that it’s not a black and white subject as many of the experts on both sides tend to claim it is. This is one of those areas where we’ve got infinitely more questions than answers. Obviously, the discussion is of huge importance with earth-shaking implications, but I really don’t concern myself with it and certainly don’t lose sleep over it either. I’ll leave that to the scientists. But suffice to say, I do not believe the Earth or our galaxy, universe, etc. is much older than that general range, and certainly not millions or billions of years old. But I understand why some people do – even if they are crazy due to culturally-induced brainwashing on an epic scale (that was a joke – a JOKE!).

Now that I’ve spoken that out loud, I can hear the sound of evolutionist Internet trolls gathering in the distance – ready to wage war with my heresy-laden beliefs. Jaws are tightening. Blood is curdling. And computer monitors are receiving an overdose of verbal abuse the world over. But again, the purpose of this article is not to debate WHAT we believe, but to look at how our beliefs affect our lives. I’m not interested in debating Creation VS Evolution or young Earth VS old Earth. At least not online. I’m just not.

Now, you’re clear about what perspective I’m coming from, at least pertaining to this discussion. So, I’ll leave it at that.

Health and Fitness Conclusions – Compare and Contrast

Now, before you get your panties in a bunch and start calling me names, just hear me out. The truth is that some of these evolution-based fitness methods and health systems make a lot of sense to me, even through my creation-filtered perspective. Let me show you what I mean. We’ll start with a very simple and obvious example…

Conclusion #1: When environmental conditions permit, going barefoot (as opposed to being shod) is best for health, fitness, and quality of life in humans (and some other species, too).

Evolutionists will tell you that the human foot evolved over a series of countless generations and it is what it is today because of that gradual evolutionary process.

On the other hand, creationists will tell you that the human foot was created specifically for our environment and it hasn’t changed much in anatomy, if at all, since humans were made.

The underlying conclusion is that regardless of whether creationists or evolutionists are correct about the origin of our species, the human foot is perfectly suited to our natural environment.  So, whether you believe that our feet have gradually evolved over countless generations or that our feet were designed for our lifestyle needs – they’re the same feet, people!

So, we have many groups of people in the primal and paleo communities among others arguing – often successfully – that we need to go barefoot more often because that’s how we’ve evolved. Well, as a creationist, I agree with the first half of that statement. We need to go barefoot more often… because that’s how we were created.

Likewise, we can logically assume that the full extent of each argument is also congruent. Evolutionists believe that not only has the human foot evolved gradually over a series of countless generations, but the entire human body has, too. I know. This isn’t rocket science, folks. Similarly, creationists will tell you that the entire human body was designed for our natural environment called Earth (some parts more preferable for permanent living than others – for example, there aren’t too many barefooters in Antarctica). So, from both viewpoints, the human body is perfectly suitable for our environment/habitat.

How ’bout that? Maybe we’re onto something here. Here’s another example.

Conclusion #2: Humans will receive the most health benefits from eating foods that are naturally occurring (ie plants and animals) and avoiding foods that are not naturally available (ie candy, soda, etc.).

Evolutionists will explain that humans have evolved to eat the food supply that has been naturally occurring and abundant throughout our Earth’s history. On the flip side, creationists will tell you that we were designed to eat the foods that were created specifically for us.

Obviously, there are major disagreements on what is considered the best food for human health, but one thing we can all agree on is that natural food is best for everyone. So, regardless of which camp you dine with, it’s the same food for optimal human health. And that’s true no matter what your nutritional beliefs and food habits are (Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, high-protein, low-carb, intermittent fasting, carnivore, omnivore, etc.).

Conclusion #3: Move it or lose it.

Evolutionists will tell you that the human body has evolved to require physical activity in order to survive and thrive. This makes sense in that pre-historical humans must have had to hunt animals, gather food, build shelter, among other things. Physical activity was just a normal part of life for the vast majority of our ancestors – whether from the past thousands of years or millions of years. So, call it what you want, but movement/exercise/activity is essential for human survival and evolutionist fitness professionals tend to agree. But again, creationists will tell you that God made us this way.

Are you starting to see a trend?

Building Bridges

So, now you see it’s a classic case of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” – just taken to an extreme when addressing the subject of the origin of physical existence. Did we evolve or were we created? There are good arguments (and many bad ones) from each perspective, strong opinions, convincing and not-so-convincing evidence, but we aren’t discussing that here.

What I want to get across is that while our belief systems dictate how we see the world, they don’t dictate what we see – only how we interpret it. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re an evolutionist or a creationist, the fact of the matter is that we are all composed of the same genetic makeup, the same flesh and blood. Whether we’re created beings or evolved beings, we’re all human beings. When environmental conditions permit, going barefoot is generally best for all of us. Eating natural food is best for all of us. Regular physical activity is best for all of us. We’re all in the same boat.

So, Dobzhansky was wrong. Either that, or just strongly opinionated and misquoted (and/or taken out of context). Some things in biology can make sense in the light of evolution. Likewise, some things – and I would argue all things – make sense in the light of creation. So, now that we’re clear on that, what’s next?

Turning Enemies Into Allies

We’ve now established that we almost always reach the same solutions for optimal living even when using completely different belief systems. If you think about it, that’s really interesting, isn’t it? Most people would think that a creationist and an evolutionist would have little in common. But from what I’ve seen, a lot of so-called opposing groups have more in common that most people realize – especially in the health and fitness world.

As a culture made up of countless families, communities, social networks, groups, and organizations, we tend to fixate on our differences in an effort to carve out our own personal space of belonging in this world. And it makes sense, too. We want to be respected, appreciated, and valued for our own unique contributions. We want to matter and to make a difference in this world. However, I would reason that this effort to stand out – to be uniquely ones own – does more harm than good because it isolates us in our own little world. It’s true that qualities like independence and individualism have immense value, and they are glorified in the USA. But taken to an extreme, they quickly turn into elitism and that’s when the problems start to arise.

We see certain groups pitted against other groups who have opposing views, and that division starts a chain-reaction of negative consequences. For example, functional fitness trainees poke fun at those non-functional bodybuilders, and bodybuilders joke about all those weak and injury-prone functional fitness geeks. CrossFitters rarely train with TacFitters. Weight lifters scoff at bodyweight trainees. Parkour athletes laugh at track athletes. The low carbers mock the high carbers. Endurance athletes rarely associate with ball players. Golfers are in their own little world. And then you have all the various martial art and self defense disciplines that are constantly trying to one-up each other as the most deadly, reality-based, street-effective, mortal combat system that can win any fight in seconds. It’s not just in the world of exercise and athletics either. In the same way, you can forget trying to organize a dinner party for a group of vegans and Paleos in the same house unless you’re ready to start a civil war!

And in the end, everybody loses.

But are we really so different? Maybe I’m prone to fanciful thinking or I’m just delusional, but I’d like to think that most people could come up with the strength and humility to accept each other for who they are, share with each other, and grow together as a community. Just the fact that you are reading this is a strong indication that you have the capacity to do so. And just imagine what would be possible if all of the different communities in the health and fitness world united together for one common purpose! We could quite literally alter the course of human history and change the world. It sounds grandiose – even impossible – but I think there’s a simple way to make it happen.

Putting It All Together

So, how do we work towards such a seemingly insurmountable goal? I think it’s really quite simple, and I think it can start with as little as one choice from one person. It can manifest in a lot of ways, but here are some ideas to get you thinking. First, we need to open our minds to new ideas. We need to show a genuine interest in other people and other perspectives. We need to make an effort to try new things and actively seek out new experiences. We need to have those uncomfortable conversations with people who disagree with us, and do so with humility, compassion, and authenticity – and always with a mind for growth.

Most important of all, and as cheesy as it sounds, we need to accept each other for who they are, respect their views, and treat them as we’d want to be treated – exhibiting love to everyone we encounter. Basically, each one of us should be able to sit down around a dinner table and enjoy a meal with diverse company. And I really think it’s that simple: all we need is love.

Coming Full Circle

Now, getting back to the whole creation vs evolution issue, we’ve established that our our belief systems dictate how we see the world, but they don’t dictate what we see – only how we interpret it. We’ve also established that we almost always reach the same conclusion for optimal living solutions even when using completely different belief systems. So, that said, I propose that there is one major flaw that permeates the primal lifestyle, evolutionary fitness, and paleo nutrition communities – and it actually has nothing to do with creation versus evolution.

Here’s the problem: these communities, and others, often point to pre-historical humans as the quintessential human beings – nearly perfect in every way, or at least superior to modern day humans in every way. And given the current state of modern man, they may have a point. However, using this as our foundation for which to base training programs, diet plans, and lifestyle transformation systems is short-sighted, and I propose an alternate, and I believe, more appropriate solution.

Instead of considering what human health, fitness, and nutrition used to be like, try to think about what it could be like. Instead of trying to take our bodies back to what our ancestors used to have, let’s see what we can do with what we’ve got today. Learn from history, yes, but focus on reality. Forget the past hypothetical, and consider the realm of future possibility. This is not just the best way to help people. It’s the only way!

So, let’s stop all the romantic pandering. We’re facing some of the harshest physical circumstances in the recorded history of mankind, and we’ll need to work together in order to make a difference. One of the best things we can do is stick together, to practice unity in the health, fitness, and nutrition industries, instead of dogmatically ascribing to one philosophy and only associating ourselves with those who agree with us. We should make it our priority to find the similarities between our belief systems, and not focus on the differences. What most of us would probably find is that we agree on a lot more than we realize, or that our disagreements aren’t as big of a deal as we might have thought.

Besides, we’re all in this together whether we like it or not – for better or worse.

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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach

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9 Responses

  1. John,

    Thanks for that. I’ll be unbunching my panties and pulling “informational” links out of my keyboard for at least a week.

    This is the third time (charmed) I’ve started a comment, so might as well go with it.

    When you say “I’m not interested in debating Creation VS Evolution or young Earth VS old Earth.” that hits the heart of the problem, for me. These things(CreationVsEvolution PaleoVsVegan)almost always become debates rather than discussions (at best). Hard to not have a war when there’s a Vs. in the room. It’s all the Vs.’s fault, the only thing now is to find out who’s behind the Vs. and get them to quit it.

    So, my takeaway is “all we need is love” and that we need to pull together or end up being torn apart, and I can’t say anything to that but AHMEN.

    peter

  2. Thanks for the article, John.

  3. Phillip Upton

    “So, Dobzhansky was wrong.”

    I’m not here to bash your creationist beliefs. Period.

    But, coming up with a theory you believe doesn’t make the other person wrong. It simply means that you have a competing theory. And, saying that there are only two possible ways to interpret the conflict between his theory and yours did not allow for yours to be wrong.

    We call that a false dichotomy, because there are more than two possible explanations.

    And, it is entirely possible to come up with a theory that accounts for all the ‘facts’ (quoted because learning more may actually change them… they aren’t facts in the literate sense, but rather what we think we know) that is wrong.

    That is why they are theories.

    And, having competing theories doesn’t make one of them wrong. It makes at least one of them wrong, because they could both be wrong.

    “Here’s the problem: these communities, and others, often point to pre-historical humans as the quintessential human beings – nearly perfect in every way, or at least superior to modern day humans in every way.”

    And some people think times were better when you could beat your slaves and keep your women in their place. Lots of people romanticize the past. That has nothing to do with creationism or evolution.

    The ‘humans’ of the past may have been better suited for the environment of the past (which is an unproven conjecture), but that environment doesn’t exist any more. And if you believe in evolution, then it should be crystal clear that those ‘humans’ don’t exist today because they were poorly suited for the changes that happened. And that is what evolution is all about: adapting.

    Their suitability for their environment isn’t the real issue. The issue is understanding the path that was taken to get us to where we are today, so we can better understand how the circumstances of that journey will influence us as we continue onward. At least that is the issue from a paleo perspective.

    “Instead of considering what human health, fitness, and nutrition used to be like, try to think about what it could be like.”

    You mean like taking a pill instead of eating and exercising properly? I mean, it *could* be like that. And ‘think about what it could be like’ is exactly what has been happening for at least as long as Muscle & Fitness has been in print. Take these chemicals and do these exercises and perhaps you too can look healthy for a few years.

    I like the sentiment, but I think you may have misinterpreted the ‘romanticising’ about the past.

    The health and fitness levels of my ancestors isn’t the goal. It is the minimum. We ‘know’ what is possible from a health and fitness perspective bacause it already happened. The past provides a foundation to build the future on.

    In short, I don’t think the ‘problem with paleo’ is the reliance on evolution. The problem is not understanding that evolution is core to the very idea of paleo.

    Perhaps the real solution is to start your own fitness movement that encompases your beliefs, and doesn’t rely on evolution as a basis.

    • Thanks for your detailed comment, Phillip.

      you wrote:
      “But, coming up with a theory you believe doesn’t make the other person wrong. It simply means that you have a competing theory. And, saying that there are only two possible ways to interpret the conflict between his theory and yours did not allow for yours to be wrong.”

      Of course, having an opinion on a theory doesn’t make one right or wrong, but presenting an opinion on a theory as absolute truth is wrong for exactly the reasons you mentioned. And an all-or-nothing statement like the Dobzhansky quote I cited is a good example of this – particularly, the use of the word “nothing.”

      That said, it’s just one quote from one man, and I’m merely using it to assist in making a series of points about how our beliefs influence how we interpret information. Reading too far into it would only distract from the ultimate goal of the article.

      you wrote:
      “The issue is understanding the path that was taken to get us to where we are today, so we can better understand how the circumstances of that journey will influence us as we continue onward. At least that is the issue from a paleo perspective.”

      I Agree 100%, just with a different set of belief systems behind that.

      you wrote:
      “You mean like taking a pill instead of eating and exercising properly? I mean, it *could* be like that. And ‘think about what it could be like’ is exactly what has been happening for at least as long as Muscle & Fitness has been in print. Take these chemicals and do these exercises and perhaps you too can look healthy for a few years.”

      No offense, but you must be new around here to think I’d advocate something like that :-)

      you wrote:
      “The health and fitness levels of my ancestors isn’t the goal. It is the minimum. We ‘know’ what is possible from a health and fitness perspective bacause it already happened. The past provides a foundation to build the future on.”

      Maybe, maybe not. As you said, we are dealing with a completely different circumstances today – new environment, lifestyles, even new bodies despite our ancient DNA. I would argue that the ancient past has little to no weight to look towards our future health and fitness needs, and ultimately, our potential. For example, if I have a client with unique needs today, it makes little sense to consider what their great, great, great, grandfather from 1000+ generations ago was like. In my opinion, it’s romantic, distracting, and counter-productive to do so.

      you wrote:
      “In short, I don’t think the ‘problem with paleo’ is the reliance on evolution. The problem is not understanding that evolution is core to the very idea of paleo.”

      Absolutely!

      you wrote:
      “Perhaps the real solution is to start your own fitness movement that encompases your beliefs, and doesn’t rely on evolution as a basis.”

      Which is exactly what I’m doing here, Phillip. But I think the ultimate goal will take quite a bit more effort than my own, which is why I’m trying to do my part to encourage unity among a very diverse group of industry leaders who are prone to division as a cultural norm. If we don’t work together, we’ll continue to progress at a snail’s pace, and I don’t want that. We can’t handle it.

      Thanks again – good discussion.

  4. To simplify this a bit isn’t this really a discussion about context and practice. Evolution or Creationism would be the context being discussed while the “primal lifestyle” would be the practice. Ultimately what this post suggests is we can still continue to practice with the same, with different or even without context.

    Personally I have no need for either the creationist or evolutionary context as what I do I base on what I did yesterday and the day before and adjust accordingly. Or, perhaps to get a bit Zen about it all: “When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.”.

    • That’s a great point, Nick. Ultimately, using personal feedback is more useful than merely following a theory. That doesn’t invalidate the role of a theory/context, but puts its true value into perspective.

  5. Sorry for being simple-minded, but are you actually a creationist John?

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