Friday, May 4, 2012

Hunting For an Answer

While prowling the Net recently I came across the site of a fellow from Eugene, OR who has devoted himself to debunking The Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT). We corresponded a couple times until he quit responding.

Now, it’s curious enough to devote yourself to being against something rather than for something, but why AAT? What did it ever do to him to cause him such determination?
Well, that aside, I wrote him my usual question of “when did humans take to living at the water’s edge”? And cited our inordinate amount of water consumption as an anomaly that needed explaining. As is usual with savannistas, they can’t bring themselves to use the word “demographics.” I try to get them to say it out loud: “dem-oh-graficks.” No luck.

Jim dismissed human water consumption, saying it was the same as other mammals and then cited our industrial, agricultural, and transportation uses for pumping up our apparent consumption. When I cried foul on his arguments, he stopped writing.

I’ve had other savannistas allege human water consumption to be the same as other mammals, which I find exceedingly difficult to understand. Not that statement, I understand what they’re saying; but how could they possibly make such a statement and then expect us to stick around for the rest of the argument? Mammals? Let’s see, we’ve got whales and kangaroo mice and wolves and door mice and howler monkeys and bears and otters and beavers and zebras and elephants and hippos… Whew, can I stop now? They all have the same water requirements? Did anybody look? Did they think about it?
So, either they thought about it or they didn’t. If they didn’t think about it, they should have; and they have no business being in the business if they haven’t thought about it. Or they thought about it and came to a completely erroneous conclusion, only means they shouldn’t be in the business if they can’t think any better than that.

Did I make myself clear?

Likewise, it felt silly pointing out to Jim that I was talking about personal water consumption, not industrial/agricultural uses. Could he have figured that out from context? Well, if you think all mammals drink the same amount of water (per pound of animal, of course), you might have trouble with the rest of it. Jim has a religious focus on debunking AAT that I was unable to shake.
As you know, I’m not an advocate of AAT, but I do advocate that the problems raised by AAT be addressed.

I have come recently to an understanding about my argument with the savannistas. Perhaps part of the problem is semantics, how we’re using language. The savannistas claim that early man, when he descended from the trees, moved onto the savannas. My problem has always been, when did we then move to the waterhole? That’s where my discussions with paleoanthropologists breaks down; they are unable to conceive of humans in demographic terms. They don’t know what it means when I ask that question.
I think part of the problem lies in what we mean when we say “to live.” And perhaps that comes from comparing us with our cousins, the chimps, etc. It’s my understanding that the other great apes do not have regular camps, but move around as a group within their prescribed territory. Resting places may vary from night to night. Babies born are carried along with the tribe.

This, of course, is very different from most predators (all?). Predators have dens, lairs, where their young are born and raised until ready to join the hunt. The same den will be used for years off and on. The den will be as close to the hunting ground as possible yet be out of harm’s way. When I ask, where does that predator live? I’m asking where does it make its home?
What I’ve ignored in my arguments was the difference between nest site and hunting territory. Or at least I haven’t made this distinction clear. I’m full well ready to concede that, once we came down from the trees, we were hunters; that’s why we came down. But once we we down, we were no longer omnivores, we were becoming carnivores. We were adopting the manner of predators: one doesn’t take ones young on the hunt; one brings food back.

My contention is that place to where the food was brought back was by the waterhole. Ergo, we live there today and drink a hell of a lot of water.

In the end, that argument is dismissed but never rebutted. It’s going to be long after my death when someone in the field has a eureka moment and shouts, “I got it; we’ve always lived where we live, ever since we came down from the trees. How simple. Why did no one think of this before?”
Sorry I’m going to miss it.

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