Re: Survival of the Fittest

Iain Davidson (idavidso@METZ.UNE.EDU.AU)
Wed, 13 Sep 1995 14:27:18 +1000

>On Wed, 13 Sep 1995, Iain Davidson wrote:
>> may well not be fit at all. So how do we measure fitness? Or to put it
>> another way, how adapted is adapted?
>Thanks Ian for a lovely contribution. My two points:
>1 re definition of "fitness". You cannot even measure it with the
>athletes, i.e. who is fitter a marathon runner who in the gym cannot lift
>up (even with their legs) a lightest weight, a bodybuilder who has
>stamina to lift up heavy weights and lifts really heavy and a lot, or a
>person who does not run a marathon, but is fit to do some things and who
>lifts weights (quite well) but is miles away from a bodybuilder?

Of course what you say is true, and fitness is not a word I use very much
(personally or professionally), but that is the word that started the
thread. What I was concerned about was trying to get beyond the social
Darwinist position to see if anything like this could be applied, and
myONLY point for this list is that there must be a time dimension to the
evolutionary concept.

>2 A propos Aboriginal people in Australia. Isn't there some
>research going on by Steve Webb in Australia telling us that the history
>of people in Australia does not follow a straight simple line?? Then
>again, why should it? It's amazing that some people think it should/does
>only because Australia is far away/ but from what?

Well, I do not think that Steve Webb is the only one. I have certainly
published on the view that we need to think beyond the view that the first
colonists worked out how to cope with Australia on Dat One 40 000 bp. How
much importance do we attach to the times it did not work out in measuring
"their" fitness? Indeed, what is this unit "they" whose fitness we are
measuring. I am sure that the problem itself is relatively intractable,
but the question is "good to think".

(Of course discussing the real theoretical issue in the context of the
appalling history of real people gives the appearance of sanitising it, but
I am happy you recognised from what I wrote that I have no sympathy with
the early colonial historical treatment of Aborigines.)

Iain Davidson
Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology
University of New England
Armidale, NSW 2351
Tel +61 +67 732 441
Fax +61 +67 732 526