The need for theory in PA

Paul Crowley (
Mon, 06 Nov 95 02:45:46 GMT

In article <46kapq$> Alex Duncan writes

> The fact is that most paleoanthropologists don't sit around trying to
> develop models for the origin of bipedalism. A lot more time is spent
> trying to understand the adaptations of the hominids for which we have
> a fossil record. Someday, we'll have a fossils that document the
> origin of bipedalism. When that happens, we'll see a lot more
> speculation about the adaptive circumstances the earliest
> protohominids were dealing with.

It's the absence of any theory - or even of a desire for a theory
that us non-professionals find so irritating. We don't mind the
professionals rejecting the AAT if they would suggest something
better. But most of them assidously suggest nothing. We can see
the reasons why they want to "play safe", but they are evading
their responsibilities to their public and themselves.

They're forgetting extreme importance of the subject. We want to
know WHAT WE ARE. We have to understand our evolutionary history.
There is hardly a more important question in the whole of science

The avoidance of theory is also bad science. As Phil Nicholls
reminds us in his sig:
"To ask a question you must first know most of the answer."

Without a theory (or theories) you have no means of asking sensible
questions, even basic ones like "Where should we look for fossils?".

Of course, you do have theories. The interpretation of all data
depends on their existence. But you are afraid to articulate them.
You deny their existence. So what you have is vague, inchoate,
uncertain. And you wonder why you are making so little progress.
What you have is some remnant of the old "savannah theory"
surrounded with numerous confusions.

In a few years or decades the answer will be clear. I am sure that
you will then look back and kick yourself for not realising it;
because enough of the facts are known now; and the AAT has a
better attitude to most of them than you do.