Re: Technology & Intelligence

Mr J.M. Ottevanger (J.Ottevanger@LIVERPOOL.AC.UK)
Fri, 10 Feb 1995 19:10:20 +0000

This thing about precision grip, bipedalism and canine reduction being
simultaneous is rather glib. Some points:
(i) Bipedalism seems to have "phased in" to some degree.
(ii) H.habilis is regarded by many as having been partly arboreal and
maybe less specialised for tool use than the supposed Paranthropus bones,
despite brain expansion being underway.
(iii) The way I see it, canine reduction is only related to tool-use if this
is tied in with sociality, as discussed previously (though not quite in this
regard). Incisor and molar reduction, now there's a whole different can of
worms to stay out of.
(iv) I would like to see (or do) some work on to what degree the human hand is
specialised per se as opposed to being a generalised form unrestricted by
locomotor constraints. Then I will be pleased to consider what specialisations
may be involved in the "Paranthropus" hand.
(v) As you suggest, keep an open mind.

Your hard facts look to me to be rather close to assumptions, Bob. But I guess
one has to draw ones own lines for scepticism. All good fun.

See y'all next week, Jeremy.

In the last mail SS51000 said:
> The folks raising questions such as whether robust australopithecines
> needed tools, or whether the precision grip they evidently had may have
> been related to seed-gathering rather than to tool use, should at least
> be aware that they are throwing out a considerable parsimony: the
> precision grip's appearance seems to coincide with other basic hominid
> anatomical adaptations: bipedalism and reduced canines. Now, what the
> technology hypothesis achieves is tentative explanation of all three of
> these adaptations in one fell swoop (so to speak); furthermore, the
> subsequent brain expansion falls into place nicely. In light of the
> remarkable economy of explanation provided by the technology hypothesis,
> its cavalier rejection seems to me imprudent at best, and an injustice
> to anthopology as a science at worst. --Bob Graber