Re: Adaptive Niche of Archaic Humans

Norman Sides (
16 Jun 1995 02:06:10 -0700

Uh, Jim? Sorry about the catastrophe I just posted. It involved repeated
loss of contact with my access provider. I kept going off-line while
typing the post and evidently bungled the operation of retrieving a saved
file. Somehow a conglomerated hodge-podge got posted rather than what I
had on this screen. Yeah, well.. I'm a newbie on this internet thing and
clearly as clueless as they come. I still hold to the idea that computers
may just be a passing fad. But I gotta post again because my final
remarks got sliced off. Serious apologies, but what the hell! Foul-ups can
be amusing.

I just wanted to respond to your "quibbles" about semantics and
methodology. Well, you can see I somewhat lack method. My questions,
assertions and speculations were not the product of any coherent research
program (coherency is not one of my strong points). I haven't done any
rigorous testing of hypotheses, and I wouldn't swear that I got all my
facts right. Take 'em for what they're worth! :-)

Your "quibble" about my use of the phrase "speciation event" was right on
the money. The "event" must have been spread out over fifty or a hundred
thousand years. The suite of adaptations enabling modern humans to create
ways of life is too well developed to have sprung up overnight.

As for your doubts about the phrase "adaptive abilities," I see your
point. I didn't clearly enough distinguish between cultural and
biological adaptation. The semantic problem arises because humans interact
with habitat in fundamentally different way than do all other creatures.
A creature such as the koala has adapted biologically to a diet of
poisonous eucalyptus leaves. The Semang culturally adapted, by means of
their food preparation techniques, to a diet containing poisonous plants.
There ought to be a way to distinguish between these different ways of
utilizing habitat resources, but i just went ahead and used sloppy
language. I think an essential point here is that human beings have
*biologically* adapted to culture as much as to any particular set of
habitat conditions. Physically we are tropical animals but the Eskimos,
through their cultural "adaptations" to habitat, were perfectly at home
on the arctic ice-sheets.

Norman sides (