Re: The UCL meeting, and PV Tobias" apology" to Morgan...

Catherine Jane Arthur (
Sun, 26 Nov 1995 17:36:01 GMT

Following recent discussion on the Tobias lecture at UCL , I
feel I should contribute another personal account of the
Tobias gave a fascinating lecture detailing recent Australopithecine
findings in southern Africa, and the implications these findings
have for future paleoanthropological research, in particular for the
status of Australopithecus afarensis. His new findings consist of
four associated foot bones, thought to be A.afarensis, which
Tobias argues show that although afarensis walked upright on two
legs, they were not habitual bipeds and there was no evidence
that they were creatures of the savannah.
Tobias went on to say that the savannah hypothesis had been unable
to explain many of the traits that are unique to humans, and that
alternative explanations for these traits must be found. He mentioned
AAT in this context - as an alternative explanation for many of these
unusual traits. He did not say that AAT was the right answer, but
rather that it was the right approach to the problems and that the
savannah theory definitely was not. In a most honourable way,
Tobias admitted that he had been wrong in the past but that
the reason for his work was to prove/disprove existing hypotheses.
It was a great lecture, and I certainly felt that Tobias, the world-
renowned paleoanthropologist, was saying something important.
Paleoanthropologists must strive to explain all human traits, and
must not hold onto a theory which is unable to shed light on
specific problems. We must not be afraid to concede defeat, no
matter how long and how hard we have been working to prove
a point.
Time will tell whether or not Tobias's announcement means that
the paradigm change is already well under way.