Re: AAT Theory

Phillip Bigelow (
19 Sep 1995 17:45:50 -0700 (H. M. Hubey) writes:

>The problem in determining the effect of the aquatic environment
>on the physical shape has to take into account two factors

>1) the time that the animal went aquatic
>2) the time that the animal stayed in the environment

>I don't see any reason to assume that an animal that went
>into the water at a very late period in its development and
>stayed there much less than some other animal has to have
>the same shape. This much seems obvious.

Your comment begs the question of, "then why bother to develop the aquatic
hypothesis in the first place?".
If the animal spent such a brief time (geologically-speaking) in an
aquatic environment that no _clear_ aquatic anatomical characters developed,
then I would find it hard to justify using comparative anatomy at all when
determining "aquatic-ness" from Lucy-age fossils.
Since this discussion thread makes use of analogies, here is one that has
some bearing on this:
I could make the claim that, during Caesar Augustus' reign, he made a trip to
Japan. If you challenged me to prove that he was there (from written
records, Roman artifacts in Japan, etc), I could simply say that he didn't
spend enough time in the country to leave any proof of his presence there.
I could then point to the fact that Augustus had an Oriental ink tapestry in
his palace, and claim that that is circumstantial evidence of his visit.
It was, say, a one day stop-over of sorts. Well...not only is my historical
hypothesis flawed, but the whole notion of speculation on his visit is a
worthless intellectual pursuit. Science is best served by testable
hypotheses (or by tests that can't be done today because of technical
limitations, but are known to be testable in the future).
I had pointed out a while ago that, if the polar bear was only known from
fossils, it would be a waste of time to go to elaborate lengths to speculate
that it could be anything OTHER than a fully-land carnivore.
However, since we KNOW that the polar bear is semi-aquatic, we have perfect
20/20 hindsight. Science doen't have the luxury of knowing the answer and
then going about fitting the evidence to it. For some reason, this reality
is hard for some people to grasp.