Re: Moving Targets

Tom Clarke (
23 Oct 1995 12:14:48 -0400

In article <466kg2$> (Phillip Bigelow) writes:
> (Thomas Clarke) writes:
>>everyone freaks. But unlike planetary geology where some professionals
>>hold the uniform view and some the catastrophe view, in P.A. no
>>professionals hold other than the tree to savannah view.

>>This mystifies me.

>>Tom Clarke

> I also watched the NOVA program on the study of Venus. It is a poor
>analogy to the AAT, because in the case of planetary geology, professional
>scientists are arguing with professional scientists.
> In the case of the AAT, nearly all of the pro-AAT people are NOT
>evolutionary biologists, physical anthropologists, or paleontologists.

Like I said, this mystifies me. Why do the professionals all have
the single theory?

>Yet, they are trying to promote a theory from a "hobby-ist", or
>"recreational-anthropology", or "armchair anthropologist" point of view.
>There is nothing intrinsicly wrong with having an amatuer interest in a
>particularly theory, but it REALLY puts them in a disadvantage when it comes
>to debating a professional. Professionals don't have a monopoly on all
>the good theories, but they do have access to all of the relevant data.

But one theory seems to have a monopoly on the professionals.
This is what I find bemusing, but I had better read on ...

> When Elaine Morgan claims in her books that humans are the only
>primates known to produce emotional tears, does she REALLY have all of the
>data to make such a bold claim? No. So, then, why did she make the
>statement? In order to make the claim (in other words, do real science),
>Morgan would have to compile a list of ALL extant primate species in the
>world, itemize which ones can or can't produce tears, and provide the
>ORIGINAL journal reference for each species studied.

Well there is science and there is science I guess. It is alleged
that Albert Einstein did not know of the Michaelson-Morely experiment
before he published his special theory of relativity paper in 1905.
He was working from theoretical considerations, a mismatch between
Newton's mechanics and Maxwell's electrodynamics which he neatly
solved and in the process derived E=mc^2.
I guess physicists aren't as good scholars as paleoanthropologists.

I suspect Elaine Morgan comes from another tradition of scholarship
as well.

> She didn't do that.
>Instead, Elaine "fudged" a bit (you can get away with it in general audience
>books), by inserting the words "known to produce tears".
>From a drawing-a-conclusion point of view, what a meaningless statement!
>Why on earth bother to use it as "evidence" of anything?

So when is a paleoanthropologist going to do the definitive scholarly
study on tear production and put this to rest?

Right, never! Such a study would be perceived as career suicide by a PAist.
Rightly so. Science works by fad and fashion as well as data and logic.
Wavelets are hot now in signal processing, neural networks in AI, although
both have nearly run their course. Neural networks were not in 20 years
ago, however, primarily because a guru, Marvin Minsky, said they were
useless (I read the book back then, I remember being put off NNs).

Maybe PA is just too small a field. There are not enough PA researchers
at any time to pursue more than one theory.

>From my armchair, I am inclining toward a very mild version of the AAT
in my very own personal synthesis of how man came to be on this earth.

A group of late miocene apes were geographically and reproductively
isolated from the rest of the ape population when sea level rose
isolating the Danakil alps. The apes on the island became bipedal
during a period that lasted a million years or so and speciated from
the line of apes that led to Pan.

When sea level fell, the proto-Australopiths entered the mainland and
were very successful in the mosaic savannah there. After another
million years or so an adaptive radiation occurred among these successful
bipeds leading to the Paranthrops as well as the later Australopiths.
The gracile line was the most successful and because of niche competition
or change in climate the robust varieties died off.

The rest of the story is uncontroversial.

In this very minimal aquatic version, the only essential role played
by water is to isolate populations. Of course the apes on the
island might have had selection pressures for wading skills or whatever
That is subject to debate. Whether tears or fat or hairlessness
is important is really irrelevant to this island ape scenario.

I don't go the AAPA meetings or ... Do the attendees speculate about
things that aren't proven by hard fossil evidence when they are chatting
in the halls? They certainly do in physics meetings.

Tom Clarke

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment
and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against
the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices - Adam Smith, WofN