Re: Crowley posts again

Phil Nicholls (
Mon, 20 Nov 1995 14:10:26 GMT

Paul Crowley <> raged:

>In article <48km24$>
> "Phil Nicholls" writes:
>> >>> > > - when hands are need to carry food.
>> >>> > > - to obtain a better view of the surrounding area.
>> >>> > > - jumping across small brooks
>> >>> > > - treat displays.
>> >>> > > - when watching an unusual part of the surroundings
>> >>> > > - when locating another member of the group
>> >>> > > - greeting and courtship displays.

>> The list above is NOT a list of ideas accounting for the origin of
>> bipedalism. It is instead a list of situations during which
>> chimpanzees have been observed walking bipedally (and yes, that was
>> threat displays, not "treat" displays.)

>I can't see how the original quotation could be taken except as
>"a list of ideas accounting for the origin of bipedalism". For full
>original quote see under thread: "Bipedalism facts to deal with".

Here is the full text of the quote from a response I originally made
to Elaine Morgan:

I believe I am also the first person to raise the point that you have
created a "savannah theory" to push your "aquatic ape theory" against
and that the savannah theory is a straw man of your own creation --
not some old model of the 50's and 60's no longer in vogue but your
own creation entirely. There is and never was a "savannah theory" in
which simply living on savannahs somehow magically transformed
arboreal apes into bipedal hominids.

I have several textbooks in physical anthropology on my bookshelf.
Some of them are classics I have collected at used book stores. I
have searched through each of them for reference to a "savannah
theory" and I can find none.

The savannah plays a role in most scenerios of human evolution because
we KNOW that hominids occupied savannahs. However, other primates
have also adapted to terrestral environments. It is therefore not the
savannah itself but something hominids did on the savannah that other
primates don't do that promoted bipedal locomotion. Every author I
have read has pointed out the traditional nature of the
savannah-woodland habitat as providing trees for ready escape from
predators and open space to practice bipedalism. This is not a
theory, it is a setting which numerous authors exploit in developing
possible behavioral scenerios that might have lead to bipedalism.
Many of these were simplistic, focusing on a single behavior such as
food carrying or intimidation. What these hypothesis have in common
with later hypothesis is that they propose the following scenerio:

[1] Preadaptation = most primates can walk bipedally. Apes are the
most bipedal of all primates with chimpanzees reported to engage in
bipedalism something like 10-11% of the time they are on the ground.
This means that the common ancestor was at least as proficient at
bipedalism as living apes and may have been more so as they had not
yet become knuckle-walkers.

[2]Behavioral Shift more than likely early hominids undertook a
behavior shift toward increased frequency of bipedalism. Very likely
it occurred under conditions that are likely to result in bipedalism
in living apes today (Goodall, [1986] ;Kortlandt, 1962) [year for
Goodall reference provide, missing in the original]

- when hands are need to carry food.
- to obtain a better view of the surrounding area.
- jumping across small brooks
- threat displays. [typo corrected]
- when watching an unusual part of the surroundings
- when locating another member of the group
- greeting and courtship displays.

[3] Biological Changes = simply put, morphological changes follow
behavioral ones.

Hence the role of the savannah is important to all of these scenerios
because it provides a transition from an arboreal to a terrestrial one
and because hominid fossils are found in association with
savannah-woodland environments. ANY explanation of hominid
evolution must involve the savannah because it is obviously important
to our evolutionary history. This does not justify taking all of
these explanations and calling them the "Standard Savannah Theory."
To do so is a classic strawman exercise which is why myself and others
have called you on this.

There are almost as many explanations for the evolution of various
aspects of hominid morphology as there are paleoanthropologists -- a
large but finite number. Yours is certainly no worse than some but
that is not saying a lot. If you really want to impress people I
suggest you spend less time complaining about ill treatment and more
time proposing a way to test the AAH. If it is not testible I am
afraid it doesn't even deserve the "H".
Primate behavior gives us a starting point. Evolution usually works
by modifying existing structures or behaviors.

>You can see why PA'ists so rarely put forward any ideas. Whenever
>they do, they make an utter hames of it.


Physical anthropologists have put forward a great many ideas on the
origin of bipedalism. All you have to do is go the the library, look
them up and read them. The are located in general introductions to
human evolution but if you want the whole story go to the original
literature. I have provided citations numerous times and what is
really interesting is that I have yet to find an AAH supporter who has
gone to the trouble to review Rodman and McHenry or any of the
articles by Pete Wheeler. Now perhaps I am wrong but before you take
a dim view of physical anthropology perhaps you should, you know, READ
SOME OF IT and stop expecting Alex, Jim or myself to do your homework
for you.

You know, when I began this debate I actually went out and read _The
Aquatic Ape_ and _Scars of Evolution_. I actually own a copy of the
latter. Is it too much to ack you to go to the library and photocopy
a few pages?

Phil Nicholls
"To ask a question you must first know most of the answer"
-Robert Sheckley