Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, With Bill Schutt

Bill Schutt
Bill Schutt

Human cultures carry taboos against certain forms of behavior, and one of the strongest is the proscription against cannibalism. Our literature and arts treat cannibalism as lurid and abhorrent, and yet we return to the subject in attempts to understand what would lead people to eat other people.

Our Least Likely Meal?


Anthropologists study cannibalism in order to understand the antecedents, such as population pressure or shortage of food, or even as an act of desperation and survival. Are there cultural reasons for colonialists to accuse those savages, whose homelands they are taking, to accuse them of cannibalism?
Biologists study cannibalism as well, to understand if there is an evolutionary advantage in some situations to cannibalism. What species use cannibalism to enhance their selfish genes? What are sand shark fetuses doing when they eat their half-siblings in the womb?

Bill Schutt, a biologist, has published a new book on the matter; “Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History,” exploring the topic from several angles in all sorts of species. You are invited to purchase a copy to help support your favorite podcast. Greg Laden, an anthropologist and a host of this show, explored cannibalism as a potential avenue of study as he was developing his career in science. Greg and Bill provide an enlightening discussion on Cannibalism here on Ikonokast.

Be sure to check out Bill’s other books on Amazon, as well:

Dark Banquet:  Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures

Hell’s Gate, A Thriller

Evidence for Democracy – Katie Gibbs on Science Resisting

Parliament Hill, Ottawa

The new administration tried to silence federal scientists in ordering the official twitter accounts not to tweet. The administration of the 45th president sent out signals they were going to control the scientific message byscrubbing the government websites of mention of climate change. They nominated a secretary of education who has promoted schools which place a low priority on teaching evolution. In the last two episodes of Ikonokast we have talked about science and  as methods of inquiry that lead to better public policy decisions.

The executive and the legislative branch in the current government seem very much vested in not using what scientists have discovered while deciding policy. There have been very clear directives that they intend to ignore science in service to energy goals, education, industrial regulation and public health care.

Government Can’t Govern if They Don’t Know

Dr. Katie Gibbs
Dr. Katie Gibbs

Canadian scientists have experience with a government that placed economic needs in front of the realities that science was discovering. In response to censorship and political control of the Death of Evidence march in Ottawa led to the formation of a science advocacy group, Evidence for Democracy. For this episode, our guest is Dr. Katie Gibbs, a biologist and the executive director of Evidence for Democracy. This show is about the Canadian experience and what American scientists can do to keep science public in a hostile governmental environment.


The Experimental Lakes Area

The March for Science