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Aquatic Ape – Attacked Again

David Attenborough’s latest BBC documentary indulges wishful thinking over evidence.

Internet magazine, The Conversation, has published an article by authors Alice Roberts and Mark Maslin entitled “Sorry David Attenborough, we didn’t evolve from ‘aquatic apes’ — here’s why.” They begin by claiming that the Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT) suggests that a whole raft of our biological features stem from an aquatic phase in our evolution. Then they go on to imply that the “hypothesis” says that everything about those features could only have come about due to time spent in the water. Once they have set up this implausible falsehood, they proceed to cherry-pick it apart, beginning with the fact that the “hypothesis” had its beginnings a long time ago, and we’ve learned a lot since. They imply that the AAT is the plaything of fuzzy-thinking amateurs, while they represent clear-headed professionalism. In other words, it’s the same old thing all over again, only from a new generation of Savanna apologists.

Like their predecessors, they portray the AAT as an unscientific Just So Story, and say that all of the anatomical features can just as easily be attributed to other hypotheses. We’re left to presume that these other hypotheses are not Just So Stories, but Real Science. They run through all their Straw Men, showing that there are plausible explanations for all of them, thus implying that the Aquatic Ape explanations are not plausible. Then they accuse the proponents of the AAT of trying to use it to explain everything. That’s a typical ploy. You ask your opponent to support their argument, then when they’ve done so, you accuse them of overdoing it. It’s very handy. Either they don’t have enough, or they have too much. You simply ignore the sweet spot in between, all the while highlighting the weaker arguments and ignoring the stronger ones.

Their conclusion is nothing more than a reiteration of their opinions and beliefs. There’s nothing new here. It’s just the same old thing dressed up in new clothes. They say they’re making use of new knowledge and new ideas, but it’s obvious they’ve restricted themselves to those they agree with.

See for yourself.

Source: Sorry David Attenborough, we didn’t evolve from ‘aquatic apes’ – here’s why


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What are the Odds He’s Left-handed?

Credit Podzo di Borgo - CC-BY-SA

Credit Podzo di Borgo – CC-BY-SA

A while back I was sitting with some friends and relatives and we were having a conversation. We were talking about creative people. Writers, actors, dancers, etc. We were remembering how it seemed like in the olden days actors all had to be able to sing and dance as well. Acting well wasn’t enough. You had to be able to do it all.

One of my relatives said, “I know a guy who’s both an actor and a dancer.” Good. Someone keeping up the tradition.

As a complete non sequitur, I said, “Oh, what are the odds he’s left-handed?” I thought the odds were pretty good because it seems like a higher than average percentage of creative people are left-handed. Not very scientific, and not really supported by evidence either, but a harmless pop culture conversation. So far, so good.

But I lied to you. That’s not what I said. What I said was, “Oh, what are the odds he’s gay?” Uh-oh. Not so harmless anymore, is it?

So, why am I saying this? Why am I outing myself as a completely reprehensible human being? Well, I’m not. I don’t think there’s any difference between saying, “What are the odds he’s left-handed?” and “What are the odds he’s gay?” And not just because it seems like a higher than average percentage of creative people are gay, too. Another pop culture observation, also unsupported and likely untrue, but reliable conversation fodder.

To me, there’s nothing wrong with saying it. To me, those two phrases are equivalent. What is wrong is that we think they’re different, and as long as we think that, then we’re not where we need to be as a society.

What do you think?


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