Monday, October 27, 2008

Thanks Mr Cannibal

I remember reading a news report some time ago about how worried people in Germany were about Creutzfeld Jacob disease. It was actually making a lot people sick with worry yet at the time statistics showed that not even one person had come down with the disease inside Germany. Creutzfeld Jacob disease was going to become the new AIDS - which by the way didn’t turn out to be as bad as was predicted but that’s another story. Scientists certainly made the disease look like it had the potential to become a major problem with its long incubation and widespread entry into the human food chain from dodgy animal feeding practises.

Now below I mention that our pre-historic ancestors probably indulged in a lot of cannibalism. This is a direct result of our intelligence strangely enough as intelligence can easily over-ride innate instincts that largely prevent such repugnant behaviour from occurring. From a pre-historic person’s point of view it makes a lot of sense to eat the flesh of humans rather than just let it go to waste. It tastes a bit like pork apparently which is a favourite of all primitive people. Also it is likely that humans didn’t even consider humans from other tribes to be of the same species. Even in recent times it has been common for human races to consider other races to be somehow sub-human and closer to animals than themselves. There have been reports from the Congo of rebels hunting and eating pygmies as if they are food animals for example. The widespread occurrence of cannibalism amongst primitive peoples across the planet implies that it has been very common throughout human history. Evidence gathered from bio-chemical analysis of fossilized human faeces and the cuts and scrapes found on human bones all suggest widespread cannibalism.

Well it turns out those Germans didn't need to worry because cannibalism might have saved us from an epidemic of Creutzfeld Jacob disease or other prion diseases. It appears that most humans are protected from prion disease and the only explanation is that we have been selected to survive such diseases. Our ancestors indulged in so much cannibalism that we all now possess genes that protect us from the unhealthy effects of cannibalism.

Widespread cannibalism may have caused prehistoric prion disease epidemics, Science study suggests:

Human flesh may have been a fairly regular menu item for our prehistoric ancestors, according to researchers. They say it's the most likely explanation for their discovery that genes protecting against prion diseases -- which can be spread by eating contaminated flesh -- have long been widespread throughout the world.

The genes, which are mutant versions of the prion protein gene, show key signs of having spread through populations as the result of natural selection, the researchers report in the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Such mutations, or "polymorphisms," could have provided prehistoric humans a better chance of surviving epidemics of prion diseases, similar to modern day diseases such as Creutzfeld Jacob disease, or kuru.

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