EVOLUTION: The Aquatic Ape

John K Clark (johnkc@well.com)
Wed, 22 Jan 1997 21:19:02 -0800 (PST)


On Tue, 21 Jan 1997 Keith Henson <keith@filoli.com> Wrote:

>I can't recommend enough that you *read* Calvin's work
>before arguing this topic.

I did read Calvin's "The Throwing Madonna" a few years ago, I have not read
his "The Cerebral Code", except for a few pages I thumbed through in a
bookstore. The trouble I have with his idea is that throwing an object with
power and accuracy is the most complex, difficult, motion you can put your
arm through, it's hard to believe that it's also the first motion an arm was
used for when it was no longer needed for locomotion, even modern humans are
not very good at it. Baseball pitchers get paid millions of dollars because
they have more natural ability at throwing things than 99.9% of the
population, and they still miss the strike zone about as often as they hit it,
and that's a lot bigger than most animals you would hunt, and it's not moving,
and you're using aerodynamic baseballs not irregular rocks, and your brain is
almost 5 times as big as Lucy's. Also, throwing hard creates a huge amount of
ware and tare on the arm, after a few years of doing it for a living the arm
is not of much use for anything, ask any old retired baseball pitcher, an old
man of about 35.

>it seems that pre humans got along just fine as projectile
>hunters using hand axes thrown discus style into groups of
>animals at water holes/streams for millions of years.

This might be true but could have nothing to do with the development of
bipedalism. Lucy was as bipedal as you or me but it would be a million years
later before anybody on earth had a hand ax or a tool of any sort.

>In such an environment, really good projectile throwing made
>the difference between a line which left a lot of descendants
>and one which left none. Calvin argues (very well I think)
>that this is what drove the expansion of the human brain

It seems to me that if Evolution was only interested in solving one
particular problem, rather than problems in general, it would have developed
an elaborate throwing reflex, not intelligence. Then again, Evolution never
does things the easy sensible way, so maybe.

John K Clark johnkc@well.com

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