Re: AAH update (was: Bipedalism and other factors and AAT)

Alex Duncan (
7 Jul 1995 21:35:46 GMT

In article <3te3ng$> Pat Dooley, writes:

>You miss the point. I was referring to species, and to the old joke
>about the two safari hunters who, when they were out of ammunition,
>were confonted by a rather hungry lion. Hunter #1 says, "Let's run".
>#2 says, "Why? The lion can run faster than either of us.". #1 replies,
>"Yes, but I can run faster than you." The tottering ape going through
>the transition to exclusive bipedalism would always be #2 - what
>I'd call a "disadvantageous intermediate".

By the same logic, chimps can be called disadvantageous intermediates.
After all, they are by no means the most capable or efficient quadrupeds
in the forest. All terrestrial African carnivores that I can think of
can outrun a chimp. Its a wonder they've survived as long as they have
(sarcasm -- for those of you who don't notice).
I can imagine some day in the future a more intelligent chimp
might evolve, that might have a more efficient mode of quadrupedalism,
and they'll be having these same kinds of arguments. The ignorant among
them will suggest that their ancestors couldn't possibly have functioned
in a forest/mosaic environment as largely terrestrial quadrupeds, because
they clearly weren't as good at it as the other animals. They will claim
that a model of chimp evolution that suggests terrestrial quadrupedalism
combined with arboreal skills couldn't work, because the animal would
have been a "disadvantageous intermediate". They will invent ridiculous
stories to explain aspects of ancestral anatomy that don't seem (to them)
to make sense, and they will adopt dogmatic positions that aren't
supported by comparative anatomy or by examination of living animals.
They will, in fact, ignore any information that doesn't support their
"hypothesis", and cite authorities who don't know any more than they do
to make their points.
I'm reminded of a quote. I don't know the source, but Isaac
Asimov used in one of his books. "Against stupidity, the gods themselves
contend in vain."

Alex Duncan
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712-1086