Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Carbon Age

Mathias has lent me a book, The Carbon Age, by Eric Roston detailing the role of carbon in—well—the Universe. On page 48, Roston lists five things to remember about evolution, including: “only populations evolve; individuals adapt,” and “evolution has no goal.”

Ah ha! Someone tell that to the paleoanthropologists. It was a startling revelation to read those words as I’d begun to think I was crying in the wilderness. I’ve most often termed it that “DNA evolves not individuals,” but I believe we’re saying the same thing. And aimless evolution insures that one can’t evolve to escape danger. Thank you, Mr. Roston.

Mr. Roston didn’t use my favorite encapsulation that “evolution follows opportunity, not necessity,” but he well could have. In any event, it’s an unequivocal statement of the reason why people couldn’t have abandoned the trees because of the trees’ disappearance. That’s a goal: “We have to learn to stand up because the forest is going away,” (or its concomitant error, “Us fish should learn to walk on land to avoid predators”). As Roston points out, it couldn’t have happened. Those are side benefits to the effects of natural selection, not the intent. You can be quite sure that what drove us to the ground and fish to terra firma was food, pure and simple.

If I understand what I’m told, what distinguishes our ancestors from the pans is bipedality. We maybe didn’t give up our arboreal ways completely at first, but we right away began walking upright. For what we know, we didn’t have a period when we were knuckle-walking out on the velde, having abandoned the trees, but not yet taken to standing up straight. (How would we tell?) We never seemed to have went through a baboon period; we walked out of the forest upright.

That being the case, then abandoning the trees went hand-in-hand with walking upright. That fact uncouples bipedalism from the fate of the forest. If bipedalism first appeared in a savanna-like environment, it doesn’t mean that the environment was the cause of the bipedalism. Not to mention that it’s not agreed as to what kind of environment bipedalism first occurred in.

Ergo, I repeat, any theory of human evolution that doesn’t account for our letting go of the branches is no theory at all; and that “forgoing the forest because it was disappearing” is a circular argument. Fail.
carbon atom:

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