Re: The straw man.

Thomas Clarke (
8 Nov 1995 13:47:15 GMT

In article <47ovnf$> Alex Duncan
<> writes:

>I can't believe I'm reading this.<

> Several points come to mind here. One is that falsification is in the
> eye of the beholder. As far as I'm concerned, AAH is falsified.


> The
> abundant evidence of terrestrial adaptations in fossil hominids, and
> complete lack of aquatic adaptation in hominids, is sufficient for
> falsification.

It falsifies the (staw-man) version of the AAT that you put up for
test. Clearly there was no period when hominds sports about in
the water the way they do in Vonnegut's novel, _Gallapagos_
There is clearly a continuum between a fully aquatic creature and
a creature that never goes near the water. It would not suprise
me at all, and I don't think it has been falsified, that water
played a significant role (in terms of calories consumed, or
percentage of time spent near or ...) for hominids. It certainly
does for present day hominids.

> Again, I can't resist drawing a parallel between AAH and
> creationism. As far as people actively involved in the particular
> sciences (paleoanthropology, evolutionary biology) are concerned, these
> ideas were falsified a long time ago. Nonetheless, people who remain
> ignorant of the evidence available find these ideas plausible. It is a
> sad commentary on the state of education in this country.

Yes, especially in the ares of the history of science.

> ... AAH could be unfalsified (in my view) by
> the discovery of fossil hominids that had unambiguous skeletal
> adaptations to aquaticism.

Open your eyes, man, a case could be made that Lucy shows unambiguous
skeletal adaptations to aquaticism. She could wade far better than
any other ape. But of course that is falsification in the eye of
the beholder as you point out.

You have an interesting view on falsificiation, it is relative, time
My first reaction is that this is wrong. In physics there is the
idea of a critical experiment, like the Michaelson-Morely experiment
with regard to the existence of the ether. The ether is dead,
it will stay dead. If a later theory introduces something that looks
like an ether, then it will be the case that to a good approximation
the new ether-stuff doesn't exist in the regime that M-M tested, that
is the classical idea of ether will stay disproven.

In geology there is the Wegener continental drift that was falsified
and stays falsified - the current plate tectonics is different, but
still the same, in a way.

In cosmology Einstein introduced the cosmological constant so the
universe could be static. Then Hubble discovered the expansion
of the universe and Einstein called the CC the biggest blunder of
his life (he could have predicted the expansion). At first
the Big Bang was a perjorative term for the idea that the universe
originated in an explosion - worse yet, the Church endorsed the Big Bang
since it had a "creation" - then Penzias and Wilson discovered the
microwave background radiation which clinched the Big Bang and falsified
alternative theories. Ironically I just read in Nature that when
you combine all the evidence from a lot of sources it looks like
there is a need for a cosmological constant - Einstein may have been
right after all!

Why am I carrying on so? I am just bemused by your absolute opposition
to the AAT. I would think that the proper attitude would be
something like "The AAT is a hypothesis with little chance of being
correct." If I were a budding PAist I would tuck the AAT into the
back of my mind. Then if some strange fossil were to come your way that
demanded an aquatic explanation, you would be prepared and could scoop
the other PAists. Keep an open mind.

By the way, what's the official PA line on the so-called
"West Side Story" - hominid, pongid speciation caused by geographic
isolation of the African Rift?

Tom Clarke