Re: Who Killed the Australopithecines?

JoeBeaver (
22 Apr 1995 05:09:31 -0400

BARD writes:

>JoeBeaver <> wrote:

>> Read my post again. You'll find that I did not make any such
>>proclamation. Nonetheless, I do support such a hypothesis. Why? Ever
>>heard of Occam's Razor?
>> To argue by analogy, it is more reasonable to state that homicide
>>the exception to the rule of "natural" death. It is more reasonable to
>>assume that genocide is the exception to the rule of "natural"
>> That being the case, we assume that all extinctions are "natural"
>>confronted with evidence to the contrary.
>> By the way, you will have noticed my placing of the word natural in
>>quotes. This is because I do not believe that anything can be
>>"unnatural." The word has no meaning. I took it as intended, however.
>> Joe Beaver
> __________________________________________
> Whooaaa....!
> Not so fast, Socrates....
> Ever hear of fallacious reasoning...?
> Your analogy doesn't work at all...
> Comparing death to genocide reminds
> us of the child seeing a Kangaroo and
> saying, "Mommy, mommy, look-- a giant mouse!"
> You really need to put Occam's Razor down until you learn
> how to use it properly.
> And what ever do you mean by the following:
> "It is more reasonable to assume that genocide is the exception
> to the rule of `natural' extinction."
> -- Joe Beaver
> "RULE of `natural' extinction....?"
> Pray, tell us more about this "rule."

Not so fast yourself, buddy. Yes, I've heard of fallacious
reasoning. I wish I could accuse you of such, but since you don't present
any attempts at reason of any sort--fallacious or otherwise--I can't. My
analogy doesn't work? I'll admit it isn't all that good, but argument by
analogy is always tricky--witness your kangaroo analogy. As for my
learning to use Occam's Razor properly, I can see where that statement
came from. My homicide-genocide analogy was an attempt to illustrate an
application of Occam's Razor, not an attempt to apply it to the original
point. I made the assumption (apparently incorrect) that you knew what
Occam's Razor was. . .oh, well.

Now, Occam's Razor. Occam's Razor states that ONE SHOULD NOT UTILIZE
difficult concept. It means that if I come home and find my door open, I
should not assume that I have been the victim of a break in until it
becomes logically necessary--I probably just left the door open when I
left earlier. When I go inside and find the place a mess or when I notice
that the lock is damaged, then I can come to the conclusion that there has
been a break-in. By the same logic, I don't assume that I've been robbed
until I find something missing. etc. etc.

Are you beginning to get the point?

In science, we utilize Occam's Razor continually. It is, in point of
fact, the basis for the entire scientific method. Without it, we would be
free to accept UFOs as aliens, the existence of the Loch Ness monster,
etc. Or, your genocide model of human evolution.
Does this mean that we must reject these things utterly? No. In
most such cases, scientific honesty requires us, in the absence of
evidence, to admit the possibility--as I am willing to do with you
genocide model. (Perhaps you ought to make up an acronym for it. . .too
bad GMHE doesn't have a good ring to it, but maybe you can come up with
something more catchy.)
Now, to apply Occam's Razor to the GMHE (what the hell, it makes
things simpler) we ask whether GMHE requires more assumptions than the
standard model, so-called "natural extinction." Natural extinction
appears in the fossil record as far back as it exists--this utilizing your
definition of genocide (I believe you said something like "hunting them
down and killing them much as we do termites"). Therefore, by Occam's
Razor we apply the same cause of extinction to Australopithecines that we
do to Mammoths and Giant Sloths (yes, I realize that these are too recent
to be in the 'fossil record,' but that does not invalidate the argument).
To claim that genocide is the cause of Australopithecine extinction would
be to make a logically unnecessary assumption and would violate Occam's

Am I getting through yet?

I stated above that I am willing to admit that GMHE (The more I use
it, the more I like it. Of course, since the idea was yours, so are the
rights to the acronym if you want them--that is, if you don't like the
acronym, I'll stop using it.) is possible. Occam's Razor prohibits me
from doing otherwise without evidence against it. And what evidence there
is against it is circumstantial--much like AAH. (Great, if Elaine Morgan
sees this, she'll be after me for comparing GMHE to AAH--oops, AAT, she
thinks it's a Theory.) Where was I? Oh, yes. Now, if faced with
evidence which makes the assumption (GMHE) logically necessary, I would
have to accept it. I do not find this likely, mind you, in view of the
circumstantial evidence.

As to what I meant by the "rule of 'natural' extinction", I was using
the common idiom "exception to the rule" in a way which I admit was
certainly prone to causing confusion. I was not referring to a RULE such
as "don't run by the pool" or "don't talk in class" but as a standard, a
normal condition, etc.

I look forward to the next exchange.

Joe Beaver