Re: Auditory Exostosis and Skeletal Evidence for the AAT

David Froehlich (
Mon, 9 Oct 1995 19:04:41 -0500

On 9 Oct 1995, JTHURB wrote:

> In article <451kmc$>, (Phillip
> Bigelow) writes:
> > Auditory exostosis is a *pathology*, it is not an evolutionary
> >adaptation. If humans were well-adapted for a cool-cold water
> environment,
> >then we would not show the pathology at all. The same logic applies to
> >another, more common cold-water pathology encountered by humans:
> >hypothermia. Both auditory exostosis and hypothermia in humans clearly
> show
> >we are not able to take cold water without exibiting these conditions.
> Let's assume that you are correct. Then:
> a. Auditory exostosis will occur in all cases when humans are
> repeatedly immersed in cold water.
> b. There is no inherited tendency causing any individual to be
> more susceptible to auditory exostosis than another.
> c. Auditory exostosis is simply a pathogenic reaction to cold
> water. It varies in degree depending on the severity of the exposure.
> d. AE has no evolutionary significance, and there is little
> chance that I will be awarded a medal for suggesting otherwise.
> Hope I've got it right, because-given the above conditions- it would
> appear that the fossil skull of any aquatic hominoid would have to exhibit
> symptoms of AE if its habitat had included frequent immersion in cold
> water.


> The problem is how cold is cold water? If it's too cold the AAT debunkers
> will say the "H" word . . . hypothermia. Conversely, if it's not cold
> enough, they'll say no AE. For more on this subject, please see my post
> of 8 Oct 95 11:44:22 -0400 "RE: AAT:A method to falsify."

I am sure there is data among the diving community for the devolopment of
this pathology. Cold should be quantified but I am not a diver nor a
medical doctor so I do not know where this information can be found.
However, you have a point.

> (Let's face it. The opponents of AAT are really working overtime to
> falsify what they claim to be a non-falsifiable hypothesis.)

Of course we are. Haven't you read the various posts about the
philosophy of science and its inability to prove anything. Scientific
test can only provide either falsification or an inability to falsify.

AAS is proposed as an explanation of certain features found in the
anatomy of modern humans. At this point in the arguement it is as valid as
any hypothesis of aquisition of these traits. As valid as the Opuichi III
gene labs. Where there is a basic disconect among these threads is that
such an hypothesis must be tested. In other words it must make testable
predictions about other portions of the anatomy, geology, etc. One basic
premise is that besides the previous mentioned aquatic adaptations there
should be others if we were to look (tests for historical sciences). The
exostosis was suggested as such and found to possibly be lacking (we do
not know the potential distribution among the other apes etc.). For it
to be a true test we would have to see if such occurs in other
terrestrial organisms that are subjected to continued cold water
immersion. Unfortunatley, his kind of data is probably not available,
but by inference to other cases of exostosis the pathological nature
seems likely.

> Now, how would this question of mutation or pathology make any difference
> to an anthropologist observing a fossil skull exhibiting symtoms of AE?
> The answer is "it would not." He would have to draw the same conclusion
> regardless of the cause of the AE. Whether or not it was caused by a
> mutagen or a pathogen is irrelevant. The conclusion would have to be that
> the skull belonged to some individual who had been routinely immersed in
> "cold" water. (See page 72 of the March 1995 issue of National
> Geographic.)
> So-and this continues to be MY POINT-if we were to find such a fossil or
> fossils dated appropriately, and near to, or depositional from the locale
> postulated in Elaine's THE AQUATIC APE or associated with some other
> ancient East African littoral, we would have strong PHYSICAL evidence to
> support the AAT.

I will grant that if auditory exostosis were found among hominids it
would indicate such a lifestyle (the example of the skull mentioned in
the initial post is a perfect example). I have no doubt that the
peruvian skull's owner dived repeatedly in cold water. Furthermore, I
would also agree that if such a condition were found in a fossil ape it
would provide evidence (confirmatory, not falsification) for an ape being
immersed in cold water repeatedly (e.g., AAS). However, such a fossil
has not been found. You are welcome to go look for such and I would wish
you the best of luck. Where you misunderstand the science is that we do
not argue the strength of an hypothesis on what might be found. You have
to deal with the data that you have not the data that you wish you had.

Argueing from the data that is available, IMO AAS is only weakly supported
and there seems to be a preponderance of the evidence that does not fit
the AAS, no matter how hard it is twisted. The hypothesis must fit the
available data.

David J. Froehlich Phone: 512-471-6088
Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory Fax: 512-471-5973
J.J. Pickle Research Campus
The University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712