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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Human evolution: The mystery solved! Why humans walk upright! Well ... maybe ...

A recent item in ScienceDaily claims,
A new study provides support for the hypothesis that walking on two legs, or bipedalism, evolved because it used less energy than quadrupedal knucklewalking.

American profs put five chimps and four humans on a treadmill. The chimps were trained to walk both ways. They found that
Humans walking on two legs only used one-quarter of the energy that chimpanzees who knuckle-walked on four legs did. On average, the chimpanzees used the same amount of energy using two legs as they did when they used four legs. However, there was variability among chimpanzees in how much energy they used, and this difference corresponded to their different gaits and anatomy.

So walking on two feet really has nothing to do with keeping one's hands free? Wow. The tale is also recounted here.

Re the obvious question, I asked around: If bipedal walking is just plain easier, why don't chimps do it more often? I wanted to know,
Does anyone know why – if the bipedal gait is so efficient – apes have been so slow to adopt it?

My impression is that a quadrupedal gait is hardly functional for people. Our arms are so much shorter than our legs. More important, such a gait involves the hands in activities for which they are not especially suited – and for much of the day, no less.

Yes, yes, babies crawl on "all fours" – on their hands and KNEES. As soon as they can get past that, they walk on their legs only, and grab expensive objects to dump on their own heads, from higher up.

Is there evidence of identified actual humans who were not bipedal? What were their hands like?

American neurosurgeon Mike Egnor wrote back,
Your question as to why apes retained quadruped locomotion despite its inefficiency is a good one. The bio mechanics of gait are worthwhile studying, but the really egregious thing about the press release and the hype on this issue is none of this speaks in any meaningful way to the core of Darwin's theory- that all biological complexity arose without teleology. This study will be touted as confirmation of the power of Darwin's theory, but of course it has nothing to do with Darwin's theory of the non-teleological origin of biological function. It's merely comparative biology and some paleontology, and all of the findings are entirely consistent with design theory.

The press isn't smart enough to see this, and the Darwinists aren't honest enough to say it.

Journalists are not always as dumb as the good doc thinks. The problem is that we are taught from early cubhood that our job is to promote materialism. There are lots of questions one is not supposed to ask. Anyway, we call these kinds of stories "hot weather stories" because they run much more often when the weather is hot and no one is thinking hard (except about truly critical issues like what time the beer store closes in July).

Sometimes the stories take on a life of their own. I could see a knuckle-walking race coming out of this one, in some stadium somewhere where everyone is hot and sleepy, and has had a tad too much beer.
Meanwhile, Dr. Egnor has some very kind words for Mario Beauregard's and my forthcoming book, The Spiritual Brain: a neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (HarperOne, September 2007). He writes,
just finished reading The Spiritual Brain (I was sent an advance copy). It's superb, and is a milestone in what I think is going to be a 'long twilight struggle' against materialist neuroscience. I'll blog on it shortly.
I deeply admire your work.

He is most kind. The book is written in a way that is very easy to understand, because otherwise, I would not have understood it. I was just lucky to be one of the first journalists to start asking around seriously. It was a lot of work - so much new information, and how does one tie it all together? For a deadline, too! But once the stories started to come out, well ... I wouldn't want to be a Darwinist or a materialist now for anything, that's for sure.

(Note: Yes, evolution happened. Anyone who wants to get anywhere in understanding how it happened, could usefully begin by addressing Michael Behe's indictment of Darwinism as laughably inadequate in Edge of Evolution. No use writing rude notes to me. I'm not the biochemist.)

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