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: