March 31, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  The Evolution of Shopper’s Arm

This week’s prize goes to the Society for Experimental Biology, which, according to EurekAlert, said this in a press release:

The next time you are struggling to carry your bags home from the supermarket just remember that this could, in fact, be the reason you are able to walk upright on two legs at all!  How we have evolved to walk on two legs remains a fundamental but, as yet, unresolved question for scientists.  A popular explanation is that it is our ability to carry objects, particularly children, which forced early hominins onto two legs.  Dr Johanna Watson (University of Manchester) will present work supporting this theory on Saturday 31st March 2007 at the Society for Experimental Biology’s Annual Meeting in Glasgow….
    Results indicated that when carrying an evenly spread load humans are actually more efficient at carrying than most mammals but carrying awkward loads, such as an infant on one side of the body, uses much more energy.  However this sort of carrying would have been inevitable once early hominins lost the ability to cling on with their feet.  “The high energetic cost of carrying an asymmetric load, suggests that infant carrying would need to generate significant benefits elsewhere in order to be selected for,’ says Dr Watson.

This idea raises some follow-up questions not answered in the press release.  Don’t monkeys do quite well carrying their young?  Wouldn’t evolution fix its mistake?  Why is this still a fundamental question?  Why is it still unresolved?  How could tests with humans carrying dumbbells, or computer models of alleged hominids, provide any confidence in explaining unobservable historical events?  If evolution is so versatile and inevitable, why isn’t it helping us carry our shopping bags now?  Is this hypothesis claiming that the loss of clinging feet and the need for carrying infants was sufficient to generate significant benefits elsewhere, like big brains, supermarkets and Societies for Experimental Biology?  If so, and reason was only a by-product of an evolutionary trade-off, how could the Society know this?

Follow this line of reasoning far enough, and supermarkets arose by natural selection.  It would be religious to claim intelligent design had anything to do with the origin of paper and shopping carts.  How about a Society for Real Biology for a change.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Early Man

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