Hairless Apes


Just been rereading Tom Wolfe’s wonderful book The Kingdom of Speech (2016). Read it if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed. It’s all about why and how human beings developed the ability to speak and whether there are rules which apply across different languages.

Wolfe entertainingly covers the debate between naturalists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, who independently discovered the phenomenon of natural selection. And the debate between linguists Noam Chomsky and Daniel Everett. Everett, initially as a missionary, lived among the Pirahã tribe in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest for a time stretching over thirty years. This very small insular tribe had a language which contained no words for the past or future; for yesterday or tomorrow. No complex sentences; only simple single-idea sentences. This upset Chomsky by breaking language rules which he had posited were universal. You gotta read it to get the full gist.

On natural selection, Darwin took the phenomenon all the way to man’s descent from an ape-like creature. Wallace wanted to keep man as a special category, distinct from animals; arguing that only a “superior intelligence” a “controlling intelligence” could account for man. Personally, I find evolutionary theory fascinating. But basically I don’t buy it.

When reading the book The Language of God (2007) by geneticist Francis Collins I was struck by the prime example he gave to back up natural selection. It was that stickle back fish in salt water had more pronounced spines to ward off predators, which were more prevalent in salt water, and less in fresh water where there were fewer predators and manoeuvrability aided in catching food. Makes perfect sense.

Fish with more pronounced spines would have a higher survival rate in salt water. Those with less pronounced spines a higher survival rate in fresh water. Voila! Overtime, the result would be evident. What it doesn’t explain is how stickleback fish turn into anything other than stickleback fish. We can see how dogs can be bred to make different looking dogs. But dogs can’t be made into cats. So far as I know.

Wallace reminded Darwin of three central assumption of natural selection. Powers expand only up until a survival advantage is attained. Nothing will be sustained which disadvantages a creature. And, natural selection can’t develop an attribute or organ which is either useless or will only become useful in the future.

And the queries followed. Why is man hairless, when all other animals have protective coats of hair to ward off the rain and cold? That is surely a disadvantage which natural selection cannot possibly explain. And it can’t. Humans didn’t lose hair because they knew they would invent clothes and warm fires. That’s not the way it works. Darwin had to go to sexual selection. Men started fancying women with less hair as did women start fancying less hairy males. Sexual congress became skewed towards the less hirsute and the rest is history. If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you. But there it is.

Another query, why did man develop brains capable of abstract thinking when there was little advantage to it in rude and primitive stone-age living? Why did man’s brain develop with far more power than he needed to survive, and when it was literally ages before he could and did make fuller use of it?

Questions, questions and no definitive answers. Equally no conclusive theory emerges from Wolfe’s book as to exactly how speech developed. From copying and eventually developing bird songs was one theory. As I understand it, speech seems to be an artifact invented by man and passed down from generation to generation rather than being the outcome of some biological natural selection.

Language it is suggested is a form of mnemonic; a code to assist memory. Words are codes representing something like, say, a tree or a thought like, say, feeling sad. But how it all began, who knows? However, without language nothing would have happened. We’d be still running around in the jungles and fields grunting. And we’d have to be hairy otherwise we’d freeze to death on cold wet nights. When you think about it, in those circumstances, the more hirsute the sexier.

Of course, if you want to be a radical you could bring God into the picture and Adam and Eve. Then we humans wouldn’t have to start out like hairy apes. Up to you.


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MareeS
MareeS
March 2, 2024 6:30 pm

A few years ago we sailed the Wallace Line on a nice little boa with friends from Madang. . Birds and marsupials were one of the amazing things. My husband’s mentor in art Bill Cooper and his friend Sir David Attenborough taught us about birds of paradise and flying marsupials in those islands,so when Bill died we did a homage thing. One day off our boat we floated down the Wallace Line, the day of a solar eclipse, 2018, I think. Once in a lifetime.

Roger
Roger
March 2, 2024 7:17 pm

Personally, I find evolutionary theory fascinating. But basically I don’t buy it.

It’s the atheist’s creation story.

Still waiting for the “missing links.”

Rabz
March 2, 2024 7:18 pm

So Gnome Chomskee was wrong, again.

Colour me completely unsurprised.

Muddy
Muddy
March 2, 2024 8:31 pm

I don’t have a woolly mammoth in this race, but I wonder how much human brain development is tied to nutrition and lifestyle (nomadic to settlements/agriculture)?

MatrixTransform
March 2, 2024 10:09 pm

humanity’s evolutionary pressure was other humans

John H.
John H.
March 2, 2024 10:16 pm

Roger
Mar 2, 2024 7:17 PM
Personally, I find evolutionary theory fascinating. But basically I don’t buy it.

It’s the atheist’s creation story.

Still waiting for the “missing links.”

Antecessor, Heidelbergensis not enough for you?

John H.
John H.
March 2, 2024 10:20 pm

Muddy
Mar 2, 2024 8:31 PM
I don’t have a woolly mammoth in this race, but I wonder how much human brain development is tied to nutrition and lifestyle (nomadic to settlements/agriculture)?

There is a very noticeable difference between human brains and other primates. Sugar transporters increased x4.

Humans loved being near water sources and not just for the water. Even salt water was preferred. Easy food, very high in omega 3 fats. The omega 3 DHA is an important substrate for a neuroprotectant and cannabinoids brains with the highest concentration in brains\retinas. Also, micronutrients like selenium and iodine might be relevant.

The shift to agriculture caused a shift in immune related genes. I have read studies on indigenous here which indicate a susceptibility to infections because of a lack of historical exposure. Not just the flu either.

John H.
John H.
March 2, 2024 10:29 pm

MatrixTransform
Mar 2, 2024 10:09 PM
humanity’s evolutionary pressure was other humans

There is something to that, it’s called the social chess theory. That our big advantage over other archaic humans was our ability to co-operate through predicting how others will respond to our behavior. I’m not convinced of it but as one anthropologist said: our evolution involved the negative selection of the asshole factor. Or as Haldane(?) stated: If hamadryas baboons had nuclear weapons they would blow the world up in a week.

Damon
Damon
March 3, 2024 9:31 am

The one factor that is never considered in this argument is time. Australian aboriginals were (allgedly) on the continent for 65,000 years, yet invented nothing. Over the same period, Europeans developed Western society. And you’re arguing about the probability that stickleback fish would not adapt to their environment over tens of thousands, if not millions of years?

Roger
Roger
March 3, 2024 9:46 am

Antecessor, Heidelbergensis not enough for you?

Two…that’s all?

Chuckle.

Vicki
Vicki
March 3, 2024 9:48 am

Indolent, try following this link. I actually found it via Google – searching latest research into Ivermectin.

Nurs Rep. 2023 Mar; 13(1): 315–326.
Published online 2023 Feb 22. doi: 10.3390/nursrep13010030
PMCID: PMC10054244
PMID: 36976682
Outcome of Ivermectin in Cancer Treatment: An Experience in Loja-Ecuador

Yuliana Jiménez-Gaona,1,2,* Oscar Vivanco-Galván,3 Gonzalo Morales-Larreategui,1 Andrea Cabrera-Bejarano,1 and Vasudevan Lakshminarayanan, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing, Supervision4,5
Maria Lavdaniti, Academic Editor, Zyga Sofia, Academic Editor, and Richard Gray, Academic Editor
Author information Article notes Copyright and License information PMC Disclaimer

Roger
Roger
March 3, 2024 9:49 am

humanity’s evolutionary pressure was other humans

Define ‘evolution’ in this context.

Boambee John
Boambee John
March 3, 2024 10:46 am

Damon
Mar 3, 2024 9:31 AM
The one factor that is never considered in this argument is time. Australian aboriginals were (allgedly) on the continent for 65,000 years, yet invented nothing. Over the same period, Europeans developed Western society.

Not only Europeans, China and India also developed advanced (but different) societies, as, for a time, did Middle Easterners.

Tribalism, however, might be the poison that prevents (or reverses) such developments. See much of Africa, Australian aborigines, and later developments in the ME/NA, after the arrival of the Islamic “tribe”.

Roger
Roger
March 3, 2024 11:06 am

Not only Europeans, China and India also developed advanced (but different) societies, as, for a time, did Middle Easterners.

The latter actually got there first.

Boambee John
Boambee John
March 3, 2024 11:20 am

Roger
Mar 3, 2024 11:06 AM
Not only Europeans, China and India also developed advanced (but different) societies, as, for a time, did Middle Easterners.

The latter actually got there first.

And then the arrival of Islamic tribalism caused a reversion to earlier modes.

Damon
Damon
March 3, 2024 11:51 am

I think the argument has devolved into two different streams. Evolution, in its purest sense, and the development of human society. They are completely different.

Damon
Damon
March 3, 2024 12:08 pm

Peter, I have a PhD in Biology.

John H.
John H.
March 3, 2024 12:25 pm

Damon
Mar 3, 2024 9:31 AM
The one factor that is never considered in this argument is time. Australian aboriginals were (allgedly) on the continent for 65,000 years, yet invented nothing. Over the same period, Europeans developed Western society. And you’re arguing about the probability that stickleback fish would not adapt to their environment over tens of thousands, if not millions of years?

Europeans are a mongrel breed. The Yamnaya, heavy on Y chromosome(5,000 years), the ME farmers, heavy on the X chromosome(8,000 years) because when the Yamnaya showed up they killed most of the males and kept the women, and a slight trace of the original hunter gatherers that occupied Europe(40,000 years). That analysis is based on recent genetic studies. Those analyses are backed by archeology findings, including many mass graves throughout Europe. A recent study concluded that the Yamnaya invasion left some Europeans with a susceptibility to Multiple Sclerosis. You baxtards!

Not 65,000. Genetic studies consistently point to ~50,000 years.

I’d put forward a different for why indigenous peoples across the world did not progress but that relies on multiple lines of evidence and I’d have to do too much homework to satisfy myself I was on the right track. I’d also be despised here and everywhere.

John H.
John H.
March 3, 2024 12:29 pm

Roger
Mar 3, 2024 9:46 AM
Antecessor, Heidelbergensis not enough for you?

Two…that’s all?

Chuckle.

I chose those two because of recency and both represent transition species. There is also the famous finds of Raymond Dart re Paranthropus going back several million years. Apart from that there are obvious problems with the concept of transition species and people who invoke that argument probably don’t appreciate the paucity of fossils allows them to forever argue about some gap in the lineage.

Roger
Roger
March 3, 2024 12:51 pm

Apart from that there are obvious problems with the concept of transition species and people who invoke that argument probably don’t appreciate the paucity of fossils allows them to forever argue about some gap in the lineage.

Thank you, John!

😀

Bazinga
Bazinga
March 3, 2024 1:45 pm

People who can’t control their emotions are not much more evolved than Apes.

Megan
Megan
March 3, 2024 7:46 pm

Interesting timing of this discussion. I’ve just read a wonderfully compelling book by Stephen C. Meyer – Darwin’s Doubt: the explosive origin of animal life and the case for intelligent design.

He claims that Darwin failed to explain the Cambrian Explosion, a mystery that his evolutionary theory could not adequately cover. Meyer sees this mystery more as a yawning gap and discusses the main weaknesses of Darwinism as an explanation for this event.

Highly recommend it. It certainly challenged my thinking on the topic.

MatrixTransform
March 3, 2024 8:28 pm

Define ‘evolution’ in this context

maybe as a species we always had the capacity for calculus
one minute we’re just another ape and then boom we start thinking about spears and wheels and angular momentum and stuff

but really, back in the day my ancestors only ever needed to outrun mUnty’s

Alamak!
March 6, 2024 12:25 pm

People who can’t control their emotions are not much more evolved than Apes.

Perhaps ability to delay rewards is a more evolved version of controlling emotions? Agriculture being one example where we do some work up front and “reap” the benefits later …

Great topic and very interesting to read comments here.

👌

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