Wallace Neslund (
Mon, 08 Jul 1996 23:46:06 -0700

david l burkhead wrote:
> In article <> James Borrett <> writes:
> >David Cloutman wrote:
> >
> >>
> >> It is generally agreed upon that humans are one of the few mammalian
> >> species that do NOT have an instinctual ability to swim. It seems odd
> >> that this would be so if our ancestors were aquatic.
> >
> >Generally agreed upon by whom? Do you have a reference for this claim? Do
> >wading birds have an instinctive ability to swim? Do humans have an
> Are wading birds a mammalian species? This one is news to _me_.
> >instinctive ability to climb trees? I don't think so, so whoever
> >suggested our ancesters were arboreal must have been smoking crack. :O)
> As a matter of fact, humans _do_ have a pretty good "instinctive"
> _ability_ to climb trees. Nobody _taught_ me to climb trees when I
> was a kid. I managed that quite on my own as soon as I was physically
> able to manage it (and was quite a terror to my parents from that).
> And if humans _did_ have an instinctual ability to swim, there
> would be a lot of swimming instructors out there put out of work. You
> don't have to be _taught_ something that's instinctive.
> --
> David L. Burkhead "If I had eight hours to cut down
> a tree, I'd spend seven sharpening
> FAX: 330-253-4490 my axe." Attributed to Abraham
> SpaceCub Lincoln

I think you are confusing instinct with behavior. Humans are born on land. They learn to crawl,
walk, and run on land. By the time children go outside to try climbing their first tree, they have
already had years of experiance climbing chairs, tables, even ladders. A tree is just a wild
extension of what they have already been practicing for inside.

If a baby were born in water, or even spent a lot of time in water when it was very small, it would
not have the fear of water shown by many adults and some children who are taught to swim for the
first time. There was an interesting show on the Discovery channel a few years back called "Water
Babies". It showed babies being born in water and swimming quite freely.

There are also many people who will NOT climb a tree, who have a deep fear of heights. Does this
fear of heights rule out an arboreal past for Homo and its ancestors? I don't think so. Environment
can make huge changes in the mentality of people. I wonder what the effect would be if children were
raised in rooms were everything is at floor level? No chairs, tables, or anything that rose above
the level of the floor. If they never climbed on anything as a child, would they be able to in later


God knows, I don't. - Thomas Aquinas

He's so dumb, he not only doesn't know anything,
He doesn't suspect anything. - unknown