Re: Becoming altricial/bipedal

Paul Crowley (
Wed, 04 Oct 95 06:15:32 GMT

In article <44skbj$> "Alex Duncan" writes:

> I may have adopted somewhat abusive tactics... I apologize. However, you
> have not responded to a single one of my critiques.

Thanks for the apology. The abuse does not bother me; it just gets in
the way. I would have responded to your post anyway, but I felt that you
had all the answers to your critiques in my original posting.

Anyway, at the risk of repeating myself:

> 1) Why do you think early hominids would have been constantly
> encountering predators? Humans occupy a diurnal foraging niche, which
> means we're active at a time when most big predators like lions and
> hyenas (but not crocodiles) are resting.
> 2) You seem to have forgotten that humans (and presumably our ancestors)
> are the most social primates. If you were a lion would you attack a
> GROUP of large primates wielding branches and stones? I think not.

The predation we have to be concerned about is at night. That's when
the cats and hyenas are active. On moonlit nights they will often
wait until a cloud obscures the moon. As I keep emphasising, the
early hominids must have a safe refuge at night.

> >Consequently transitional hominids could not possibly have been living
> >in trees, nor could they have had any significant contact with them.
> >A forest or mosaic environment must be ruled out.
> Most paleoanthropologists (who have actually studied the material in
> question) would disagree quite strongly with you on this point.

I'm sorry, but they are wrong. The history of science is very strange
and it's often the case that the points that seem most obvious (when
viewed with 20:20 hindsight) are the ones that get overlooked by the
professionals. This is one such case, and it only someone as ignorant
and as dumb as myself who could have seen it.

It "should" have been seen twenty years ago, as soon as it was realised
that bipedalism predated brain development. But once your mind gets set
into a particular way of thinking, it's very hard to get out of it -
especially when it's institutionalized. If it had not been for the
Internet, and if the professionals had just kept talking to each other
without external input, it would not have been realised for many more

Weird, in'it? It makes you wonder how much more there is like this.
Be grateful that you are in a science, where evidence and logic still
count. Your colleagues in the English and History departments still
think that the greatest writer in the language was some guy who could
barely write his name: a guy who left six signatures, spelt and written
differently each time. But that's another story.

> The fact
> that most of the earliest hominids are found in depositional contexts
> that indicate forested or mosaic environments also contributes to the
> sense that you don't know what you're talking about.

I live in the Clwyd valley in North Wales. In the Summer of 1831, just
before the Beagle voyage, Charles Darwin spent some weeks here with his
Geology professor from Cambridge, the great Adam Sedgwick, investigating
the local geology. Decades later, when glaciation was understood, he
looked back on his time here, remarking how every rock had showed glacial
markings but he had seen nothing. He said it was like doing a detailed
survey of a burnt-down house - but seeing no effects of fire. Sedgwick,
himself, never accepted the theory of glaciation. Old scientists don't
change their minds; eventually they just die.

You see what you expect to see. I'm sure (although I have no evidence)
that those depositional contexts are packed full of lacustrine indications
and that savannah data is virtually absent.

> >Such creatures would be lucky to survive a single night on the ground
> >in the open. Some safe refuge must be proposed.
> Trees? Would a PRIMATE climb a tree? Nah.....

You're a primate. Here's an experiment: Take your extended family with
wife, grandparents, cousins, several small children and newborn infants
and spend a night in a tree. You must all be naked and have nothing
artificial. Imagine it every night, for twelve cold, dark hours, while
keeping alert for leopards. Imagine trying to spend your days finding
food for all of them while enduring such nights.

> >The ability to cling to the mother has such a high survival value that
> >its disappearance is still hard to explain.
> Unless your mother happens to be a biped whose hands are free.

Try climbing a tree while naked, holding onto a naked new born infant.
You'll need more than "free hands".

Why don't paleoanthropologists ever do real hands-on research?