With Caveman Science, The Dream Is Alive

Posted on January 30, 2013 in Darwin and Evolution, Dumb Ideas, Early Man, Media, Philosophy of Science

It’s difficult to believe any other vaunted science than cosmology would be so rife with fact-free speculation.  Well, maybe paleoanthropology, too.

The Saga of Stone Tools

In an article on Live Science, the stone tools were mere props for the real story: a speculative wandering among possibilities.  This can be seen by distilling the key words into a seamless stream of consciousness:

Did Rise of Ancient Human Ancestor Lead to New Stone Tools?… the emergence of an ancient human ancestor …  the finding suggests an ancient tool-making technique may have arisen with the evolution of the new species.… “We think it might be related to the change of species.” …  emergedprobably used … scientists believed … but proving that was tricky … colleagues, however, have found Aucheulean tools that are indistinguishable in age from those found in Kenya, suggesting the symmetric hand axes were widespread in the region … increasing the likelihood … That the timing of this tool-making emerges at the same time as Homo erectus is intriguing, and allows for the possibility that the tools were made by this ancient lineage … But while the new study is suggestive that Homo erectus made these tools, it’s not a smoking gun.… It’s tempting to say … and that’s very difficult to prove.

The only tangible facts in this saga consist of a bag of scraping rocks gathered from disparate areas dated by fallible humans who didn’t see when and where they were made by whom.

The Running Man

Run for your life!” the hominid shrieked to his hairy companion dropping from the tree.  “It’s the only way to evolve!”  A slightly more academic version of this short story was told in Live Science, in “How Running For Our Lives May Have Made Humans Smarter.”  The operative phrase is “may have,” which implies its converse, “may not have”.  The article continues the stream-of-consciousness dreamland scenario of suggestion, emergence and possibility:

Could athletic prowess be linked to the size of our brains? Some new research suggests that exercise-loving mice have larger midbrains then their more mellow counterparts.

Scientists now think that the ability to run far and fast helped us evolve both physically and mentally. For evidence, look to the common house mouse.

It appears that the childhood storybook tale of City Mouse and Country Mouse has evolved (or emerged into) The Couch Potato Dufus and the Precocious Athlete.  But since the article promised “evidence,” it’s worth looking for evidence of the evidence.  Here it is: Mice on treadmills, bred for both their propensity and abilities on treadmill wheels were found to have slightly larger midbrains—“But the overall size of their brains did not vary significantly.”  This is a long way removed from the hypothesis at issue.  After all, mice are mice, and men are men, whether or not they operate treadmills.  Furthermore, the hypothesis sounds like a case of artificial selection, not Darwinism.  But it provided enough putative “evidence” to start the tale:

Whether the mice evolved larger midbrains because they exercised, or exercised because they had bigger brains, remains to be determined.

 In the classic comedy sketch, “The 2,000-Year-Old Man,” Mel Brooks, playing the title character, said the main form of transportation long ago “was mostly fear.”

 “You’d hear an animal growling and you’d go two miles in a minute,” he said. That was probably true, at least in spirit.

And so the Lamarckian story ran, based on a comedy sketch.  It’s frankly hard to know where the comedy sketch left off:

In 2004, Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University and Dennis Bramble at the University of Utah suggested that one of the reasons humans survived and evolved is that they learned to run faster and further. That allowed them, like Mel Brooks’ character, to get away from predators, and they also could walk farther so they could track down animals and bring food home.

Those who could run faster and walk farther reproduced more than those who could not, they wrote, so humans evolved endurance. Our legs grew longer, toes shortened; we lost hair, and gained more complex middle ears for balance.

Where, exactly, was the linkage between running farther and reproducing more?  While we’re imagining things, one could imagine the lazy guy in the cave having sex, while the distance runner is miles away. Other than that, the story is Lamarckian.  Learning how to run faster like Mel Brooks won’t make a bit of difference if the trait isn’t in the sperm.

Back to the stream of consciousness:

Another thing Garland and his team were trying to test is a theory called mosaic evolution. As animals evolve, do certain areas of their bodies change independently of what happens to the rest of the body, or does the whole body generally evolve simultaneously? … [time out for more mice on treadmills] … “They love going on the wheels and excel in both motivation and abilities,” said Garland … seems to support the mosaic evolution concept … For whatever reason … [a bystander] calls Garland’s work “an amazing step forward” … Garland’s next experiment, however, is to see whether it is the exercise that is increasing the midbrain in mice instead of the opposite. He thinks using MRIs and questionnaires with living humans could test to see if the same things are true of human joggers.

The question was, “How Running For Our Lives May Have Made Humans Smarter.”  Well, the answer is, Yes, it may have.  But then again, an equally valid answer in storytelling is, No, it may not have.

This gets so tiring.  Today’s evolutionists think they have done their job if something (anything) “suggests” that an unobservable event “may have” made us hairless rocket scientists with opposable thumbs and complex middle ears.  Evolution is the mother of invention.  Need shorter toes?  Got it.  Can’t keep your balance while running?  Semicircular canals coming right up.  Need opposable thumb for flaking rocks?  Oh, they just emerged right on time!  The storytellers weave effortlessly between Lamarckism and Darwinism, sipping their Darwine and plucking tantalizing speculations from thin air. Ah, science.  Ain’t it wonderful?  We can watch our mice on the treadmill and dream, dream, dream.

The dream is a lie.  One thing these unaccountable, reckless charlatans know with absolute certainty: criticisms of their speculations must be lied about, expelled and silenced (read previous entry).  Hearing them would ruin all the fun.

Dream, by the Evolutionary Brothers

Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream

Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream

When I want to get a grant

I tell a tale, though data’s scant,

Whenever I want funds, all I have to do is

Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream

 

When I feel lazy in the lab

I need a plot line that’s pre-fab

I grab old Darwin then all I have to do is

Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam

 

I can make it shine, drinking that Dar-wine

Anytime night or day

Only trouble is, gee whiz

I’m dreamin’ my data away

 

With critics gone, the media’s mine

They’re always there to make me shine

Whenever I want fame, all I have to do is

Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream

Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream

[fade out]

One Comment

rockyway January 30, 2013

Evolution is the mother of invention.’

- Darwinist storytellers have more in common with the Mothers of Invention than they do with real scientists.

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