Correlation of Body and Soul (Ancestral Health Symposium 2013)

Geoffrey Miller, speaking at the Ancestral Health Symposium, said that every mental disorder impairs your sense of humor, so sense of humor is a good marker for overall brain function. It’s a fascinating point: what is the evolutionary reason that humor exists? Miller says it helps in mate choice. We select people in many ways (spouse, lover, business partner, friend, student, teacher, etc.). Maybe sense of humor is a general signal of health.

At the first Ancestral Health Symposium, Tucker Max noted that the attendees looked much better — healthier — than usual. It was a good point. Almost no one was fat, for example. And a large fraction of them became interested in paleo because of their own poor health, which paleo helped with. At this year’s symposium, I’ve noticed that the attendees strike me as in unusually good mental health, in the sense that I find everyone easy to talk to. For example, I had an interesting talk with a woman about “unschooling”. (I realized from what she said that non-traditional schooling is close to common sense when it is done with kids who are doing badly in school Why repeat what isn’t working? My experience suggests it also helps kids who have done well in school. Where it is non-intuitive. If something is working, why change it?) Likewise, all of the questions after talks are polite, none are too long, none are grandstanding.


5 Replies to “Correlation of Body and Soul (Ancestral Health Symposium 2013)”

  1. There’s a question I’ve wondered about since childhood. How does one know that a joke has been made even if one has not seen the joke? By “one” I mean an ordinary, well-adjusted person.

    Would the same question be valid for a psychopath?

  2. “Actually, I don’t agree with the premise. One person comes to mind: Woody Allen.”

    Humour is a good sign of intelligence, perhaps, but not of emotional stability. One could add Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Peter Cook, Lenny Bruce, Richard Prior, Rodney Dangerfield, Tony Hancock and Kenneth Williams, and that’s just a drop in an ocean of misery.

  3. Some of the best comedians are seriously disturbed individuals. (I feel certain this has been the subject of many a suitably boring Ph.D. thesis.) Nevertheless, studies have shown that women do seek a “good sense of humor” in mates, so there is both reproductive and survival value, I think, in one’s ability to find humor in things. It’s a tricky area, though. Finding inappropriate humor in things is not unknown in schizophrenia. Norman Cousins famously tried to tie sense-of-humor to reduced mortality. It would be interesting to know if any recent work has been done in this area.

    Sounds like a great area for future blogs.

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