Re: AAT Theory

Alex Duncan (
6 Sep 1995 21:13:27 GMT

In article <> Elaine Morgan, writes:
>As one of the AAT folk I would like to amend his verb. I did not
>"admit" it: I asserted it. And it will be great day for science
>when the savannah folk have the grace to "as much as admit" that fossil
>proof or disproof of their own ideas is equally impossible. In the past
>they have made no predictions that have not turned out to be wrong,
>but that has done nothing to shake their confidence.
>At first they predicted that when the earliest hominids were found they
>would be tool-makers. Not. Later they were convinced that bipedalism
>arose as a consequence of - and therefore subsequent to - the
>emergence of savannah conditions. Not. They were confident that for
>an ape, life in the open must be more conducive to bipedalism than
>life in the trees. Not. They felt sure that the earliest hominids would
>prove to have lived in the open and not among the trees.

Sometimes I wonder if you read what you write. First you say that
"savanna folk" do not subject their own ideas to proof or disproof, and
then below you cite numerous instances where "savanna ideas" have been

>Except among the untypical faunal assemblages at Laetoli, no traces
>have ever been found of hominids that died on the savannah. This has
>not prevented the experts from believing that nevertheless the
>creatures spent all their lives out there, though the terrain was
>unfortunately not conducive to the preservation of their bones. It might
>even be true, who knows? but this ad hoc assumption makes their claims
>unfalsifiable. Hardly, as you say, the earmark of a scientific theory.

This is becoming tiresome. It has been pointed out to you again and
again that virtually no one now claims that early hominids evolved on the
savanna, and yet you insist that this is the "theory" that competes with
AAT. Among modern "anthropologists" (I use the term extremely loosely)
you seem to be the only one who thinks the "savanna theory" hasn't been

>As for their successors the savannah/mosaic folk, they are a newer
>breed and if they are making predictions I am unaware of them. My
>impression is that they are much more cautious nowadays; some of them
>appear to be tentative about even the hyphenated savannah, and show
>some signs of turning into arboreal folk.
>They remain united however on four propositions:
>(1) We cannot decide what caused bipedalism but it cannot have been
>wading behaviour. We do not have to give reasons why it cannot -
>we know it in our bones.

I don't think anyone would rule out the possibility that wading may have
had some impact on the acquisition of bipedalism. But "wading" isn't
what the AAT is all about, it it?

>(2) If we are not convinced by AAT arguments, it is because the
>arguments are faulty.

How could we be so incredulous?

>(3) If other people are not convinced by our arguments, it is
>because those other people are stupid.

This is a tempting perspective. I prefer to think you're merely biased.

>(4) Fossil evidence good; anatomical evidence bad (however much of it
>there is, and however consistently it all points in one direction).

This is an outright lie. If you don't know it, then you are incredibly
unfamiliar with current paleoanthropological literature. The anatomical
evidence is not bad, and it doesn't point in the direction you claim.

>D.L.B: "The AAT people have shown a remarkable lack of willingness
>to respond meaningfully to criticisms of AAT"

I would say that DLB's point is made by your post.

Alex Duncan
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712-1086