Re: The need for theory in PA

Alex Duncan (
6 Nov 1995 14:20:06 GMT

In article <> Paul Crowley, 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.

I think you misunderstood me. There are plenty of models about the
origins of bipedalism. For the most part these models ask (or attempt to
answer) two questions. 1) What were the ancestors of the earliest
hominids like? and, 2) what were some of the potential advantages of
becoming bipedal? However, generating these models is not what
paleoanthropologists spend most of their time doing. I'm sorry that you
find it frustrating, but most paleoanthropologists would prefer to work
on problems that are potentially answerable with the material at hand,
and currently the origin of bipedalism is not one of those problems.

As far as suggesting something "better than the AAT" goes, you see it all
the time in this newsgroup. HUMAN BIPEDALISM IS AN ADAPTATION TO A
TERRESTRIAL EXISTENCE (as opposed to an arboreal existence or a
semi-terrestrial existence).

Paleoanthropologists are not "playing safe" by not suggesting models for
the origin of bipedalism. Lots of models have been suggested. I suspect
the real problem is that you are not familiar enough with the field to
know what the models are.

I predict you will see a good deal of new speculation about the subject
when the rumored postcranial remains of A. ramidus are published.

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