Health and happiness the Flintstone way

Geoffrey Lean on a call for Stone Age lifestyles

Humanity's way forward is back towards the Stone Age, a leading scientist says. He is calling on governments to build "a Paleolithically correct future".

Dr Gustav Milne, of the Institute of Archeology, believes that the modern love of soap operas and shopping, and such recreations as stamp collecting, football and picnicking, all prove that we have never grown out of a prehistoric mentality and that this may be partially responsible for "today's diseases of anxiety, depression and ill-health".

He says we still have the bodies of hunter-gatherers, and our digestive systems have "not yet caught up with the Neolithic farming revolution".

Designed for unprocessed, fresh foods, our stomachs rebel against junk food and we become unhealthy if we do not get enough exercise and fresh air. Our minds, too, are "languishing to some extent in the Paleolithic," writes Dr Milne in the current British Archeology, and "our hunter-gatherer emotional demands" come out in our enjoyment of open fires and picnicking and the psychological satisfaction of keeping pets or filling homes with pot plants.

Playing football and shopping are "attempts to compensate for the terrible psychological vacuum felt by hunter-gatherers lost in the 20th century.

"Football is a compensation for the hunt, combining the elements of male bonding, adrenalin and the prospects of reward. And when we shop, we sublimate our need to comb the hedgerows for ripe and interesting foodstuffs.

"We all retain the Stone Age need to acquire, collect and store, although foodstuffs have been replaced by stamps, sea-shells or antiques."

People respond to artificial crises in soap operas while often being left cold by great tragedies in the real world, Dr Milne believes, "because we have a Paleolithic need to identify with a small extended family or tribal unit, and find it difficult to respond emotionally to over-large groups".

Compelled by market forces and economies of scale to work in big companies and live in large towns, we should instead design more PC (in the new sense of Paleolithically Correct) lifestyles that are based on smaller communities and greater respect for the countryside, he concludes. "Small is beautiful because small is Paleolithic."

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