Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dimensions in Ancestral Health by Ed Wilson ... & Nassim Taleb speaking @ #AHS13 !

Primo, Nassim Taleb will present on the importance of second order effects at the Ancestral Health Symposium (#AHS13) in August in Atlanta. There are many awesome presenters this year; I will be there--I hope you will be too!

#AHS13 information:

Segundo, Edward Wilson just released his book, Dimensions in Ancestral Health, and I composed a Foreword for it.


Urban Paleo:

Tercero, here is my Foreword to the book (note: I did this voluntarily; and, I do not receive any financial benefits from anything associated with this book--I enjoy supporting the Ancestral Health movement):


Unlocking dimensions in Ancestral Health:
You are an expert when it comes to your own body, your own ancestry

Brent C. Pottenger, MHA, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Co-Founder: The Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS), and blogger at Healthcare Epistemocrat

At the end of the day, one thing remains: you are an insightful, outstanding expert when it comes to your own body.

Regardless of how advanced the skill-sets of other people are, no one else has access to the information about and the physiological feedback loops within your body that you do. This is powerful; it is something to be mindful of, and it is something to harness strategically when it comes to understanding how lifestyle choices and their constructs influence your personal health, wellness, and, perhaps most importantly, your happiness.

I do not mean to minimize the value of health and fitness experts; many do have valuable things to say about human physiology that are applicable to you; that is, they share conjectures (statements about the world and its principles) that might prove beneficial when applied to your particular daily life, when interpreted through the lens of your individual world view. If we could consider an evolution of experts in our modern ecological niche, there is one type of expert in particular who is perhaps most valuable: an expert who helps you help yourself.

How does this expert help you in the arenas of health and fitness? Here are two possible ways:
(1) sharing tools for filtering through and making sense of the vast expanse of information available to us today; and,
(2) sharing personal experiences and lessons learned from practice as a mechanism for adding narratives to the world.

It goes without saying that contemporary human beings are bombarded with health and fitness information in the forms of research studies, blog posts, op-ed essays, and so on. Yet, it should also be said that, although this complex milieu seems unwieldy at first glance, it should be viewed as a blessing, as a treasure trove of information that we can explore for insights. This is why I helped co-found Ancestry (see:, the nonprofit organization that leads the Ancestral Health Symposium and Society (AHS): I am passionate about harnessing the energy and the insights of the diverse community of people who are self-experimenting with conjectures about health, fitness, and lifestyle choices informed by evolutionary perspectives [1]. That is, we founded Ancestry and AHS to support collaborative efforts between people who are interested in respecting our ancestral heritages as human beings.

Time is a powerful phenomenon, and there is tremendous wisdom embedded in human history, whether we look back five, ten, or one million years ago. If you are reading this book, Dimensions in Ancestral Health: Controversies and Applications, then you’re likely already intrigued by or find value in the idea of Ancestral Health [2] in general. Yet, you’re also likely looking for tools that could help you apply Ancestral Health ideas to enhance your life. Here is where this book comes in.

Today, more than ever, a health and fitness expert should be willing, at some point, to say, “I don’t know what is best for you in your particular case given your unique circumstances, but I can share with you some tools that could help you help yourself.” To do this, these tools must help people engage in processes, such as self-experimentation [3], that will lead to tangible beneficial outcomes. In this book, Edward Wilson makes a bold attempt to play this role: he builds for readers a broad framework that they can utilize to assess the gamut of paleo, primal, evolutionary, et al. conjectures that the Ancestral Health community offers. In this way, this book can help you unlock dimensions in Ancestral Health: it succeeds in giving you an abundance of tools that you can use to unleash the wisdom embedded in your own ancestry.

I challenge you to read this book from this perspective, from this view about tools. Personally, I do not have to (and, by the way, I don’t) agree with every single specific conjecture about health and fitness in this book to find it valuable in my life. This book is not about whether you should eat salmon or beets (I happen to enjoy eating both, as does Edward); it is about how you can figure out for yourself to what extent, if any, you should eat salmon or beets. Similarly, this book is not about whether you should try yoga (I’m all for it, Edward not so much); instead, this book is about helping you, as a reader, build mental models that you can engage to assess how yoga might fit into your own personal exercise regime. It allows you the opportunity to come to your own conclusions. Thus, ultimately, this book is about hybridizing thinking and tinkering; it is about what I call thinkering [4].

That is why this book should be read as an exploration of a toolbox, not as a memorization of dogma. Take what you find useful and try it out for yourself. If you are able to approach the book in this way, I suspect you will find yourself both enriched and empowered in your drive towards improved health. I happen to think this book does an excellent job of comprehensively informing readers while at the same time providing the room necessary for individualization and self-discovery.

In the end, I wish you well on your Ancestral Health journey as you explore your ancestry and unlock the wisdom embedded in your body thanks to the powerful human history that lives inside of you. Respect this wisdom. Harness this wisdom.

Use tools to figure out what does and what does not work for you.

At the end of the day, that is the best we can do.

To good health [5],


[2] My friend, Navanit Arakeri, coined the term ‘Ancestral Fitness’ as a book title while working on an anthology project that involved Art DeVany, Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, Matt Metzgar, Tim Penn, and me. From there, I coined the term ‘Ancestral Health’ to serve as an open-source umbrella concept for all things paleo, primal, evolutionary, et al.
[5] I have used this phrase as a salutation to sign my blog posts on Healthcare Epistemocrat ( I owe a special thanks to Dave Lull, my blogging caddy, for sharing with me countless resources over the years to fuel my thinkering, my writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment