Re: Social evolution of hominids

Phillip Bigelow (
Tue, 14 Jan 1997 22:08:44 -0800

Paul Crowley wrote:
> Phillip Bigelow <> wrote:

> >As with many behavioral theories for hominids that have been put
> >forth, I always ask this question: Is the hypothesis testable?
> Phil, I think you should switch to Chemistry or some other
> discipline that allows high standards of proof.

No thanks. Geology and paleontology are all based on hard evidence
and falsifiability. I don't need to switch over to another science.
But I *refuse* to get sucked into "interpretive-science" of untestable
It's prevalent in the behavioral sciences, and I will have no part of

> Take this issue. The approach should be to consider all the
> possible explanations for it. There aren't many.

I disagree. There are as many different explainations for any
given phenomenon as there are opinionated people on the earth.
Unfortunately, 5 billion "plausible hypotheses" by themselves
don't get us any further along the pathway of science.
Only the hypotheses that are backed-up with
reproducable evidence, or the ones that can be tested,
are worthy of serious consideration as a "working hypothesis".

> attempt to attach a probability to each,

I have never observed you attach a proability to any
speculations that you have put forth.

> stating the degrees
> of uncertainty, also saying how other aspects of hominid
> evolution would link in.

You mean like James Howard's suggestion that testosterone is
responsible for just about every evolved human character trait?
Hell, Paul, any yahoo can link something with something else.
(BTW: the keyword "James Howard" is now happily residing in my
newsreader's killfile).

> But the first stage is to consider possible explanations.

Well, I would emmend that by adding: possible explainations that
are either backed up by evidence, or possible explainations
that can be tested and falsified.
The "rest" are mindless speculations...which can be truely boring....
really, really boring.

> I'm not aware of any - other than the facilitation of
> monogamy. Are you?

Hell, there isn't even a consensus agreement that monogamy
(even in it's on-again off-again "facilitated" form) is
present in humans TODAY.
How on earth can we extrapolate this equivacality backward to
fossil forms and have any way of knowing that we are on
the right track?
One way of looking at this contentious issue, Paul, is to
consider the following. Should some standards be utilized
in determining the value of any speculation that is put forth?
If you answer "no" to the above, then what criteria do you
believe should be used to distinguish your ideas from that of
someone else's ideas that (coincidentally) you disagree with?