The Evolutionary Inference
Today’s Darwinian Just-So Story comes from a paper in PNAS.1 Three Italian scientists did experiments on the perception of two-day old human infants. They found that the babies tended to pay more attention to biological motion than non-biological motion, and looked longer at right-side-up displays than upside-down ones. Their conclusion: “These data support the hypothesis that detection of biological motion is an intrinsic capacity of the visual system, which is presumably part of an evolutionarily ancient and nonspecies-specific system predisposing animals to preferentially attend to other animals.” Previously, the inborn disposition to watch biological motion had only been demonstrated in one other animal: the chicken.
1. Simion, Regolin and Bulf, “A predisposition for biological motion in the newborn baby,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, published online before print January 3, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0707021105.
Observation: babies prefer looking at biological motion. Conclusion: Once upon a time, in an ancient swamp, an animal emerged that could not survive unless it followed its mother. Over millions and millions of years, these became chickens and babies. Isn’t science wonderful? If the publishers of science fiction or children’s books reject your manuscript, the elite intellectuals at the National Academy will welcome you with open arms, and the NCSE will bless you for adding to the mountains of evidence for evolution with which to bury the creationists.