Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BBC 2 - Origins of Us - anatomist Alice Roberts

Very interesting return to quality programming from BBC 2 last night in the form of the Origins of Us documentary that speculated (via skeletal evidence) how we became the tall strong distance runners of today from the low-slung tree clamberers of our ancestors.

It was a bit slow to get going, with anatomist host Alice Roberts spending far too much time in the undergrowth of the Kibale forest in Uganda cuddling chimpanzees, even though they're not a direct ancestor of Homo Sapiens. Eventually the rhyme behind the rambling reason was revealed ... the contraction of the forests and the revelation of the Savanna. The major problem for these tree-dwelling monkeys then being their exposure to predatory wild animals on the open plains.

The star of the show, for me, was long-legged Nariokotome Boy aka Homo Ergaster; a strange blip in the genetic timeline. We've all maybe heard of  Homos Erectus or even Homo Habilis, but I'd never heard of this long-legged, long-torso'd, big-buttocked aberration of human randomicity before. And it really got me thinking about an enhancement to our 'survival' running on the open Savanna avoiding all the wild animals.

Pets.

Well, in the early years, not necessarily pets, but canine companions. Could it be that early man ran alongside those other pack animals he now calls "man's best friend", namely DOGS. Was the key to man's early survival the packs of dogs, wolves, hyenas he learned how to jog alongside, down-wind of, to mop up the spoils of predatory kills? Using his sticks and spears, the tools of his hunter-gatherer existence, to fend off the pack while his mobile clan fed?

This, of course, brings us to the ONE REAL SYNTACTIC ERROR of the show, and it happens in all shows of this sort where Evolution is talked about. It was a description of our super-strong thumb and I quote, "Our use of tools caused our thumb to grow larger."

What utter nonsense.

As with a skull that grows a spine directly below it...
As with a spine that supports a long, twisting torso...
As with a thigh and buttock that allows us to run...

The larger thumb CAME BEFORE the ability to use it to exert immense pressure on the flint cutting tool to slice meat from bone. That's why these things take centuries or millennia for the maturing DNA to achieve. You gotta have it before you can use it. Never forget that, producers, when talking about the passive act "Evolution".

1 comment:

Mike Philbin said...

I missed last night's show about FOOD, was it any good?