Just how long have humans been hunting with dogs anyway?

A recent book on human evolution suggests humans began Hunting
with domesticated wolves 135,000 years ago – right after our species began
migrating out of Africa. According to evolutionary biologist John Allman,
the domestication of wolves may have played a key role in Homo Sapiens
successful competition with other species, including the Neanderthals.

In Allman’s book,
Evolving Brains, he argues that domesticated wolves “would
have been a huge selective advantage for whatever human population did
that because it would have allowed modern humans to move into areas that
were previously inhospitable.”

Interesting hypothesis,
but is there any evidence for it? Allman believes DNA evidence and observations
of contemporary humans, wolves and dogs support his claim.

DNA evidence of humans
suggests homo sapiens began migrating out of Africa into Asia about 140,000
years ago. Analysis of canine DNA suggests domestication of wolves began
about 135,000 years ago.


Human hunting skills linked to domestication of wolves. Minerva Canto, Associated Press, January 19, 1999.

The PETA Files

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has made its usual share of media appearances in
the last few weeks. Among the various news stories:

  • While protesting proposed payments to pig farmers to compensate for
    low pork prices, twelve PETA members were arrested on the steps of the
    U.S. capitol after they set fire to several bales of hay they stacked
    on the steps. PETA outlined its position on pork in a press release,
    saying pig farmers “should be prosecuted, not rewarded.”

  • Singer Melissa Etheridge, who appeared in one of PETA’s “I’d rather
    go naked than wear fur” ads several years ago, continued to distance
    herself from PETA over the animal testing issue. Canada’s Halifax Daily
    News asked Etheridge about PETA’s campaign featuring Linda Blair speaking
    out against animal research. Etheridge, who lost her father to cancer
    several years ago, told the paper “if there is a chance that human
    lives can be saved by performing experiments on animals, then there is
    no way I could be against that.”

[Thanks to Americans for Medical Progress for its excellent monitoring of PETA’s activities.]


Etheridge confronts PETA on anti-research campaign. Americans for Medical Progress, Newsletter, January 19, 1999.

PETA-philes set fire at U.S. Capitol. Americans for Medical Progress, Newsletter, January 15, 1999.

Memo to the Nuge: think before you speak

It seems Ted Nugent
recently became angered at Ontario, Canada, for canceling its spring bear
hunt. Nugent quickly proclaimed he and his fans were boycotting tourism
to Canada until Ontario lifts its ban. The only problem is a couple days
later Nugent confirmed he would be traveling to Canada in March to speak
at Canada’s Music Week. Announcing a boycott and then confirming you’re
going to break it a couple days later is the sort of bone headed move
one would expect from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Besides, the boycott
itself seems like an almost certain failure. Living only a few miles from
the Nuge here in Michigan, I can certainly attest to his popularity in
this part of the country, and he does get a lot of support for his pro-gun
and anti-animal rights message, but does Nugent really think he can get
his fans to boycott visiting Canada? This would be like telling people
to simply stop visiting Indiana or Ohio if those states enacted a ban
on hunting — it is just not going to happen. To make boycotts like that
even begin to be effective requires convincing large corporations and
others to take convention and other business elsewhere.

The most likely result
of Nugent’s “boycott” will be to strengthen the resolve of the opponents
of the bear hunt in Ontario who will certainly point to yet more meddling
in their affairs by their neighbors to the south.

There are better
approaches to getting the bear hunt resumed than an ineffective impromptu
boycott that even its chief organizer can’t abide.


Rocker won’t abide own boycott. Betsy Powell, Toronto Star, January 1999.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine mobilizes against March of Dimes

Sometime this year,
the March of Dimes’ Walk America event will reach an incredible milestone
— it will have raised over $1 billion since its inception in 1970. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine could not pass up this opportunity and
is seeking activists to leaflet at upcoming Walk America events to “shine
a spotlight on the dark side of the March of Dimes” (has Neal Barnard
seen Star Wars once too often?)

According to PCRM,
not only has March of Dimes-funded research produced no progress in preventing
birth defects, but in fact the charity has intentionally ignored the
best solutions to solving birth defects (which, of course, do not require
using animals).

This is just the
sort of ridiculous distortion that led the American Medical Association to condemn PCRM in 1991 for “misrepresenting the critical role animals play in research.” Apparently Barnard and company still haven’t figured
it out.


PCRM needs volunteers. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Press Release, January 1999.

UNICEF Report Exaggerates World Illiteracy Rates, Lacks Context

       Illiteracy is
an enormous problem around the world – few people would deny that – but
UNICEF appears to be exaggerating the level of illiteracy and failing
to put illiteracy statistics into context.

        In its recently
released report, “The State of the World’s Children 1999,” UNICEF
warns “nearly a billion people, two-thirds of them women, will enter
the 21st century unable to read a book or write their names.”
Following UNICEF’s lead, many newspapers in the United States and elsewhere
ran headlines trumpeting the fact that 1 billion people are illiterate.
As the CATO Institute’s David Boaz points out in a recent op-ed, there
are some important qualifiers to these figures that UNICEF leaves out.

        First, UNICEF’s
“nearly a billion” figure is a 14.5 percent markup – the actual
report estimates 855 million people are illiterate. Adding 145 million
people to get “nearly a billion” is quite a feat.

        Second, although
the report insists illiteracy rates will increase in the 21st
century, this is contrary to the historical trends in this century which
UNICEF, conveniently, doesn’t mention in its report. Take literacy rates
from UNESCO during this century:


Estimated illiteracy rate

Prior to 1926

75 percent


52 percent


20 percent


16 percent

        Certainly a
16 percent illiteracy rate is too high, but at the same time it represents
an enormous victory in the space of less than 70 years. There is no
reason to think the illiteracy rate will not continue its long decline.
The major real threat to higher literacy rates are authoritarian governments.
The militant Islamic Taliban recently forbade girls to receive a public
education, for example.


Illiteracy – The Bad News and the Good. David Boaz, The CATO Institute, January 20, 1999.

Where Will Life Expectancy Gains Stop?-

        It’s hard to imagine how much
life has improved in this century until someone like Dr. Thomas Perls
of Harvard Medical School’s New England Centenarian Study comes along.
As the title suggests, Perls studies people who are 100 years or older.

       According to Perls, “Centenarians
are the fastest growing segment of our population.”

        In 1900, there were so few
people 100 years or older that the U.S. Census Bureau didn’t even track
statistics for them. In fact, life expectancy was so short (45 years)
that the government simply lumped everyone over 55 together.

        Based on actuarial and life
insurance tables, however, it is estimated that an infant born in 1900
had a 0.031 percent chance of living 100 years. By contrast, an infant
born in 1990 has a 1.42 percent chance of living 100 years or longer.
Perls suggests that if this trend continues, 800,000 Americans could be
100 years or older by 2050 – an unprecedented demographic shift.

        Traditionally, the age structure
of societies has resembled a pyramid, with numerous young people at the
base and the number of people at each older age cohort declining until
there are only a few people at the top. With the extension of life expectancy
in this century, however, the American population is beginning to resemble
a rectangle, with roughly similar numbers of people at each age cohort.
At some point in the future, it may even come to resemble an inverted
pyramid with far more older people at the top than younger people at the


No time like the present to live longer, study shows. Thomas Hargrove, Scripps Howard News Service, December 28, 1998.