Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

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Re: Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

Postby AlgisKuliukas » Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:59 pm

Some culling here for readability. See this link (viewtopic.php?f=10&t=133&p=664#p664) for more clarity of what each point was in response to.

John Langdon wrote:JL3: But that does not make them appropriate.


How do you know if they are appropriate or not? As we have no good candidate paleospecies for the LCA, we simply don't know.

Surely looking at the contexts where extant great apes (our closest relatives) do switch to bipedalism is a reasonable strategy. Jolly did with baboons, Livingstone with gorillas, Keith with gibbons, Hunt with chimps - and even very recently Crompton et al did practically the same thing - and made it to the front cover of Science, no less - by doing the same thing with Orang Utans in 2007. Why, suddenly, is it no longer de rigeur to do that? As Dan Dennett wrote about the counter arguments to Elaine Morgan's work - arguing about inappropriateness seems a bit thin and ad hoc. If looking at context of bipedalism in extant apes is not inappropriate, what's IS?

John Langdon wrote:JL3: ". . . so all this is conjecture anyway." That describes all discussion of evolutionary scenarios.


Sure, but it seems only those scenarios avoiding the dreaded 'a' factor are taken seriously. Mention wading and people start to raise their eye brows and think of Von Daniken. Why's that, John? Can't anthropologists differentiate between the plausibility that aliens might have come down from outer space, affected meso-aerican culture and then cleared off again without trace, and the possibility that wading through shallow water (to name just one idea) might have made us more bipedal? I think some of you guys have some real problems if that's the case!

John Langdon wrote:JL3: If it has not been discussed, I can't argue with you about it. Why has it been ignored? Many evolutionay scenarios (conjectures) are offered, but unless anthropologists find them really compelling they get ignored. That includes mose terrestrial scenarios. Kingdon, a respected expert on African mammals, wrote a whole book promoting his idea. I can't even remember what it was. Aside from a couple of book reviews I have never seen it cited. Nina Jablonski, is a prolific publisher in anthropology, She wrote an article in JHE on a sexual selection hypothesis for bipedalism and a book on skin coloration. I have never seen either discussed in the literature. Beyond a debate along the lines of "I think hypothesis A is more reasonable." "No, I think B is better." Unless someone can find a new way to generate evidnece, there simply is not much to say about evolutionary conjectures.
Consider David Horrobin's journal Medical Hypotheses. Every month a couple of dozen ideas are published -- well reasoned but unsupported by critical study. I am sure the authors feel passionately about their ideas; but I am also sure 90% of them are completely ignored.


Kingdon's idea is "squat feeding" - another odd idea in a series of 30+. The wading idea is not odd. It's obvious. What other model can say - place 20 otherwise quadrupedal apes in scenario x and they will all switch to bipedal locomotion (not just a temporary posture) for as long as the conditions prevail? I put it to you that NONE can, and yet this is the idea that is not only ignored it's sneered at (e.g. Crompton's review of Jo Myers Thompson's piece).
I guess what I meant is that it's not taken seriously in university texts. Jablonski & Chapman's 'threat display' idea is very popular in those, actually. I guess Kingdon's, like Filler's and Crompton's, are just too new. The wading idea's been around for 50 years and it hardly ever gets a mention. Your review of them in one such text (which I forget) was one of the few that did - and I congratulate you for that.

John Langdon wrote:JL3: Once more, my argument is that there are multiple hypotheses about bipedalism (and other features) most of which cannot be directly tested or disproved. (Some, however, are clearly weaker than others.) In the case of the examples presented in my article, they depend on different starting assumptions (umbrellas, paradigms). The assumptions themselves to not confer parsimony; but some assumptions are more parsimonious than others. I do think the AAH is unparsimonious and weak in its initial assumptions for reasons stated in the article.
I did not try to evaluate most of the specific hypotheses; however, in rejecting the starting assumptions of the AAH, I believe they are rendered useless.

So, can I - or can I not - from now on claim that even John Langdon argues that his paper was not meant to be a refutation of the so-called "aquatic ape"? Would that be a misrepresentation of your view? If not, it means that there is no refutation whatsoever in a 1st class anthro journal - and certainly nothing at all to reject the wading hypothesis.

Frankly, John, I think that if all your paper was meant to do was point out that there are other possible explanations for all the traits claimed by Morgan as being potentially better explained by wading, swimming and diving - it's rather underwhelming. Elaine made the very same point herself many times and, actually, for more thoroughly than you did. For example, on the discussion of nakedness you didn't mention the Pagel & Bodmer parasite idea or the even the classic sexual selection argument.

But this is the point you seem to be evading. It is YOUR OWN, PERSONAL starting assumption (Ok, and I grant you, many others too), that you contrive as a straw man, that has led you to dismiss the idea as "useless". Many others have read Elaine's books and not thought anything near as extreme as that. Colin Groves, David Attenborough, Philip Tobias and Dan Dennett to name perhaps the 4 most prominent. My assumption was that Morgan was overstating the case slight just as a way of making it more dramatic. I never thought the idea as being anything more than just that our ancestors were RELATIVELY (and only SLIGHTLY) MORE aquatic than our ape cousins.

Anyone can reject any idea if they are allowed to exaggerate it to breaking point. It's what creationists do with Darwinism all the time.

John Langdon wrote:L3: Natural selection won't operate on a species to procure resources that are not essential, because individuals who fail to obtain them will not be at a disadvantage. This goes with the definition of essential. IT also addresses your hesitation about "sufficient dependence" above.

Again, this is a little binary. To you, it seems, either our ancestors were "fully aquatic" (and hence you can safely reject the notion) or they were "fully terrestrial" in which case there is no "aquatic ape theory" to deal with. Can you not conceive of something in between? Derek Ellis could. Seen in this light, there might have been a waterside dwelling hominin that relied on the littoral food chain to a large degree but, clearly, that was also very much capable of living on land too. They did MORE wading than chimp ancestors, MORE swimming and MORE diving - but in no sense were they doing so exclusively. Why are such notions not helpful? Why do you have to do the very straw man thing you accused Elaine Morgan of doing?

John Langdon wrote:JL3: Did they live in the same sort of habitat as chimps and gorillas? We don't know since we have not been able to reconstruct the habitats in sufficient detail for the earliest hominins. In fact, as you know, the fossil record is pretty bleak before australopithecines. Since we do not have a fossil record at all, to speak of, for chimps and gorillas, we don't have any information about the habitat of their ancestors. Since we have not found fossils apes and fossil hominins together, there may well have been a significant habitat separation.
Yves Coppens ("East Side Story") created a scenario in which chimp and human ancestors were stuck on different sides of the Rift and then went their different merry ways. There are problems with the details of his version, but basic premise of a geographic divide seems reasonable if unproven.


I agree that Coppens' idea seems reasonable - even though it's the classic savannah theory really. I actually am not opposed to that. I just think people have forgot about micro habitats. As E Africa got more arid, forests would not turn to grasslands randomly or uniformly, they'd shrink back closer to permanent water courses like rivers and lakes. Our ancestors, no doubt, would shrink back into such refugia too. Hence, paradoxically, the drier it got the closer I see our ancestors depending on waterside niches.

Again.. why not? What's wrong with that?

John Langdon wrote:JL3: I'm not sure I follow you because I think you are deliberately distorting things. I make a distinction between the Savanna Theory (which I previously denied existed and Morgan rightly criticizes) and a savanna setting for evolution. The Theory was an intellectually lazy assumption that merely changing habitats led to the evolution of certain traits. That is very different from an assertion that certain stages of human evolution occurred in a savannah setting and we can construct hypotheses why certain traits emerged in that context. Paleoenvironmental evidence can now link the emergence of Homo to a more open habitat, but older hominins are still associated with a more closed one. We have gotten more cautious (sophisticated?) about stating everything as either or forest or savanna, recognizing that habitats are more complex. I can show you pictures I took in Kenya in 1980 on a savanna showing greatly different levels of tree cover with a few miles of each other. I know of one study site of chimps living on a savanna in West Africa.


I'm not distorting that your JHE paper made the astonishing claim that a 60-70 year long paradigm established in paleoanthropology was, somehow, a straw man invention of Elaine Morgan, John. I'm not distorting that practically every argument you make seems to be a straw man exaggeration yourself and that you seem to be avoiding discussing the fact that many people (on both sides of the 'aquatic' divide) made a very different (and less extreme) assumption about the idea than you did.

As I alluded to above, I think you're right that the savannah is not all open grassland and perhaps in that sense some "aquatic ape" proponents are also guilty of making straw man arguments against it. But please be clear about two things: 1) I (and a few like me) are not doing this and, 2) two wrongs don't make a right. You are every bit as guilty of the 'straw man' thing against the "aquatic ape" as you say Morgan is on the savannah, in my view.

John Langdon wrote:JH3: What trait(s) are you referring to? The two I identified on the chart that way are not present in dolphins:
bipedalism -- Do you have any other examples of aquatic bipeds, aside from penguins that were already bipedal?
speech -- Do you have any other examples of speaking aquatic mammals? (note that was a separate trait from complex vocalizations)


No, of course not. I was just making the point that by stating "not typical of aquatic mammals" the strong implication is that proponents of the idea you were critiquing (or maybe you weren't) think that they were. This is absolutely not the case.

John Langdon wrote:JH3: The traits that really might be compared with dolphins I listed as follows:
breath holding -- primary evidence
complex vocalizations -- parallelism
enlarged pharynx -- primary evidence
respiratory valves -- hypothetical trait
body hair reduction -- part of a thermoregulatory strategy
subcutaneous fat -- part of a thermoregulatory strategy [I would change this now -- I don't see it as part of the human thermoregulatory strategy.]
frontal sex -- secondary to bipedalism
enlarged brain -- parallelism
(By the way, when I described traits as primary evidence, consistent with AAH, or hypothetical, I was trying to infer Morgan's use of the trait.)
If you don't want to use cetacean models for your version of the WHHE, than there is no comparative anatomical support for including complex vocalizations, enlarged pharynx, hair reduction, fat, or enlarged brain as evidence for your model. This is exactly why I asked you to spell out which traits you think your WHHE explains and the evidence for that is. I don't think the WHHE can be as strong as the AAH without the cetacean analogies


I think this is a misconception. Hardy (and Morgan still does) believed a kind of "U-turn" hypothesis. It's a little vague, of course, but the idea was that our ancestors started out on the path towards becoming aquatic, and then turned back. This is not suggesting that humans ever actually became anywhere near as aquatic as them. The body hair loss is a pointer. As Morris put it - where else in Mammalia has evolution favoured the loss of a pelt. It does not necessarily mean that in order to do so we'd have had to have become full on "aquatic" mammals. The Sharp & Costil studies showed that shaving even slight amounts of body hair off men significantly reduced drag.

John Langdon wrote:JH3: You listed 6 specific traits (I will overlook "pretty much all of them".) Again, to avoid putting Morgan's words in your mouth, what are your hypotheses for how/why those traits evolved and your arguments supporting the hypotheses?
From your paper I assume your bipedalism hypothesis is that our ancestors (which and when?) found it necessary to wade (for foraging?) and that bipedal locomotion increased their efficiency in doing so. Is that correct? (If so, is that really better than "they found it necessary to forage more on the ground and since they were poor quadrupeds increased their efficiency by being bipedal?")
How about the others? I would like to see them all so I can get a better understanding of how you reconstruct our ancestors and their relationship to water. But I also don't think they will make a coherent model.


In a nutshell...
Bipedal origins through wading/climbing very early (pre- LCA). Since the split, Pan/Gorilla climbed more, waded less - reverted to the large primate 'norm' of quadruepdalism on land. Human ancestors climbed less, waded more - became obligate bipeds.

Human body hair pattern - as an adaptation to reduce drag whilst swimming (usually face down looking for food) in coastal shallows.

Infant (and mother) adipocity - to reduce the risk of drowning in coastal shallows.

Respiratory changes (all of them - e.g. hooded nose, descended larynx, improved voluntary breath control) as simple adaptations for better swimming and diving.

I call my model "River Apes... Coastal People". Seasonal flooded gallery forests in a broad savannah context (a la East Side Story) followed by a move to coasts (Rift Valley lakes at first but Indian ocean later). This is deliberately very compatible with the fossil record and many other published ideas, notably Coppens and Kingdon. I have always sought to look for common ground between these ideas, and depolarise the debate but as Elaine told me once - trying to middle of the road leads to the risk of getting stones thrown at you from both sides! True words - I seem to have upset both sides simulataneously!

John Langdon wrote:JL3: Honestly, I have not reread that volume since I wrote my paper 15 years ago. I don't own a copy, but obtained it at the time from interlibrary loan. I don't remember them enough to comment. I will not argue that they may have a different take, but what is your point? You stated that Groves argued it would be unfair for me to pick and choose among different authors to critique. I agreed and I didn't. I never pretended to discuss all models. (That didn't stop Morgan from trying to generalize about all terrestrial models under the distortion "Savannah Theory.")

No, I argued that Groves comment in his Roede et al review should have led to critics like you to have consider a milder interpretation of Hardy/Morgan's idea.

Roede et al presented several well written, scientific accounts - mainly of the Hardy/Morgan model, as well as a few others. That you did not cite any findings or opinions from that work makes your paper, in my view, remarkably unscholarly. I suspect that Leslie Aiello and the rest of the editors at JHE desperately wanted to get something published to "kill" this damned idea and you got the ticket. They seem to have lowered the bar and turned off their usual high levels of critical thinking to let it pass through peer review. I note that Elaine's reply was simply rejected.

It just isn't the way science is supposed to be done, John. It was shoddy. Let's raise the bar moving forward, please.

All the best, anyway. I am very much enjoying having this discussion with you. Thanks.

Algis
Waterside hypotheses of human evolution assert that selection from wading, swimming and diving and procurement of food from aquatic habitats have significantly affected the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens as distinct from that leading to Pan. (p118)
Kuliukas, A., Morgan, E. (2011). Aquatic scenarios in the thinking on human evolution: What are they and how do they compare?. In: Vaneechoutte, M., Verhaegen, M., Kuliukas, A. (2011). Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?
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Re: Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

Postby AlgisKuliukas » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:55 am

John replied [23 Jan 2012]

John Langdon wrote:
Algis wrote:On 1/23/12 5:39 AM, Algis Kuliukas wrote:
> Some culling here for readability. See this link (viewtopic.php?f=10&t=133&p=664#p664) for more clarity of what each point was in response to.
>
> JL3: But that does not make them appropriate.
>
> AK: How do you know if they are appropriate or not? As we have no good candidate paleospecies for the LCA, we simply don't know.
>
> AK Surely looking at the contexts where extant great apes (our closest relatives) do switch to bipedalism is a reasonable strategy. Jolly did with baboons, Livingstone with gorillas, Keith with gibbons, Hunt with chimps - and even very recently Crompton et al did practically the same thing - and made it to the front cover of Science, no less - by doing the same thing with Orang Utans in 2007. Why, suddenly, is it no longer de rigeur to do that? As Dan Dennett wrote about the counter arguments to Elaine Morgan's work - arguing about inappropriateness seems a bit thin and ad hoc. If looking at context of bipedalism in extant apes is not inappropriate, what's IS?


JL4: Yes, and where have these studies gotten us? They just generated more hypotheses or recycled old ones. They are unable to evaluate the hypotheses they put forward or even compare them with one another. (Crompton's study was qualitatively different from the approach we are discussing here and I would not put it in the same category.)

Algis wrote:> AK: Kingdon's idea is "squat feeding" - another odd idea in a series of 30+. The wading idea is not odd. It's obvious. What other model can say - place 20 otherwise quadrupedal apes in scenario x and they will all switch to bipedal locomotion (not just a temporary posture) for as long as the conditions prevail? I put it to you that NONE can, and yet this is the idea that is not only ignored it's sneered at (e.g. Crompton's review of Jo Myers Thompson's piece).
> I guess what I meant is that it's not taken seriously in university texts. Jablonski & Chapman's 'threat display' idea is very popular in those, actually. I guess Kingdon's, like Filler's and Crompton's, are just too new. The wading idea's been around for 50 years and it hardly ever gets a mention. Your review of them in one such text (which I forget) was one of the few that did - and I congratulate you for that.


JL4: I have see only one model of bipedalism cited repeatedly with any favor in textbooks of the last 15 years, and that is also one I present dismissively in class -- Lovejoy's provisioning hypothesis. His 1980 article had some good arguments that reminded us to think about life history and reproductive rates; but his "explanatory" scenario was an embarrassment, in my opinion -- both factually and politically incorrect. I don't know why textbooks like to repeat it, but nearly all the other models, terrestrial or aquatic, get short shrift.
The textbook I am using this semester, by Conroy, mentions five models in one sentence (carrying, hunting, better vision, seed-eating, feeding from bushes) and dismisses them all in the next. It does explore the energy efficiency argument at length before concluding that the evidence for it is "somewhat equivocal." I suppose Conroy could have mentioned the aquatic model and dismissed it in the same sentence with the other 5. Would that have made you happy?
The main problem here is that most anthropologists find selection scenarios of limited value except amusement because they simply are not testable. They are certainly not lining up to argue that any one is correct.
Algis wrote:> JL3: Once more, my argument is that there are multiple hypotheses about bipedalism (and other features) most of which cannot be directly tested or disproved. (Some, however, are clearly weaker than others.) In the case of the examples presented in my article, they depend on different starting assumptions (umbrellas, paradigms). The assumptions themselves to not confer parsimony; but some assumptions are more parsimonious than others. I do think the AAH is unparsimonious and weak in its initial assumptions for reasons stated in the article.
> I did not try to evaluate most of the specific hypotheses; however, in rejecting the starting assumptions of the AAH, I believe they are rendered useless.
>
> AK: So, can I - or can I not - from now on claim that even John Langdon argues that his paper was not meant to be a refutation of the so-called "aquatic ape"? Would that be a misrepresentation of your view? If not, it means that there is no refutation whatsoever in a 1st class anthro journal - and certainly nothing at all to reject the wading hypothesis.


JL4: My paper stated that the individual elements of the AAH cannot be disproven, but that the broader scenario is unparsimonious. I did not attempt to refute the individual elements; but the weakness of the umbrella, in my opinion, renders them highly unlikely. I guess you could say that is a refutation of the AAH.

Algis wrote:> AK: Frankly, John, I think that if all your paper was meant to do was point out that there are other possible explanations for all the traits claimed by Morgan as being potentially better explained by wading, swimming and diving - it's rather underwhelming. Elaine made the very same point herself many times and, actually, for more thoroughly than you did. For example, on the discussion of nakedness you didn't mention the Pagel & Bodmer parasite idea or the even the classic sexual selection argument.


JL4: I didn't need to. But I find Morris' Naked Ape equally naive and unsupportable. In the present time it is risible, but I acknowledge the ground-breaking value of it historically.

Algis wrote:> AK: But this is the point you seem to be evading. It is YOUR OWN, PERSONAL starting assumption (Ok, and I grant you, many others too), that you contrive as a straw man, that has led you to dismiss the idea as "useless". Many others have read Elaine's books and not thought anything near as extreme as that. Colin Groves, David Attenborough, Philip Tobias and Dan Dennett to name perhaps the 4 most prominent. My assumption was that Morgan was overstating the case slight just as a way of making it more dramatic. I never thought the idea as being anything more than just that our ancestors were RELATIVELY (and only SLIGHTLY) MORE aquatic than our ape cousins.


JL4: Wow. We really do see her model differently. How can relatively and only slightly more aquatic explain such a major transformation in body design in a relatively short period of time (in an evolutionary scale)? Nasalis and M. fascicularis are relatively and only slightly more aquatic than other monkeys, but you would be hard put to detect that in their anatomy.

Algis wrote:> AK: Anyone can reject any idea if they are allowed to exaggerate it to breaking point. It's what creationists do with Darwinism all the time.
>
> JL3: Natural selection won't operate on a species to procure resources that are not essential, because individuals who fail to obtain them will not be at a disadvantage. This goes with the definition of essential. IT also addresses your hesitation about "sufficient dependence" above.
>
> AK: Again, this is a little binary. To you, it seems, either our ancestors were "fully aquatic" (and hence you can safely reject the notion) or they were "fully terrestrial" in which case there is no "aquatic ape theory" to deal with. Can you not conceive of something in between? Derek Ellis could. Seen in this light, there might have been a waterside dwelling hominin that relied on the littoral food chain to a large degree but, clearly, that was also very much capable of living on land too. They did MORE wading than chimp ancestors, MORE swimming and MORE diving - but in no sense were they doing so exclusively. Why are such notions not helpful? Why do you have to do the very straw man thing you accused Elaine Morgan of doing?


JL4: Can I conceive of it? Yes, easily. But that image of a mixed economy is not generating much selective pressure on the species -- certainly not enough to produce the kind of results cited by any version of the AAH.

Algis wrote:> AK: I agree that Coppens' idea seems reasonable - even though it's the classic savannah theory really. I actually am not opposed to that. I just think people have forgot about micro habitats. As E Africa got more arid, forests would not turn to grasslands randomly or uniformly, they'd shrink back closer to permanent water courses like rivers and lakes. Our ancestors, no doubt, would shrink back into such refugia too. Hence, paradoxically, the drier it got the closer I see our ancestors depending on waterside niches.
>
> AK: Again.. why not? What's wrong with that?


JL4: We have not forgotten about microhabitats -- paleoanthropologists have only recently discovered them. The problem is, modern humans don't live in them and the fossil record seems to indicate that Homo never did. We range freely across many micro- and macrohabitats, exploiting whatever resources we find in any of them and dependent on none. We do need a source of standing water for drinking on a regular basis, but that is it. (Though a few modern peoples have found a way to do without that.) If some populations of our ancestors specialized in collecting shellfish or water plants, that is not going to shape the entire species.

Algis wrote:> JL3: I'm not sure I follow you because I think you are deliberately distorting things. I make a distinction between the Savanna Theory (which I previously denied existed and Morgan rightly criticizes) and a savanna setting for evolution. The Theory was an intellectually lazy assumption that merely changing habitats led to the evolution of certain traits. That is very different from an assertion that certain stages of human evolution occurred in a savannah setting and we can construct hypotheses why certain traits emerged in that context. Paleoenvironmental evidence can now link the emergence of Homo to a more open habitat, but older hominins are still associated with a more closed one. We have gotten more cautious (sophisticated?) about stating everything as either or forest or savanna, recognizing that habitats are more complex. I can show you pictures I took in Kenya in 1980 on a savanna showing greatly different levels of tree cover with a few miles of each other. I know of one study site of chimps living on a savanna in West Africa.
>
> AK: I'm not distorting that your JHE paper made the astonishing claim that a 60-70 year long paradigm established in paleoanthropology was, somehow, a straw man invention of Elaine Morgan, John. I'm not distorting that practically every argument you make seems to be a straw man exaggeration yourself and that you seem to be avoiding discussing the fact that many people (on both sides of the 'aquatic' divide) made a very different (and less extreme) assumption about the idea than you did.


JL4: I will repeat this point as long at it takes, I did not attempt to critique or respond to a wading hypothesis. That was not my intention. I am not avoiding a discussion of it. In fact, I am trying to engage you in a discussion of it by asking you to lay it on the table so I can see it out of the context of Morgan's very different scenario.
I argued at one point in my paper that Morgan was inconsistent in her own mind about how aquatic our ancestor was:

"The second problem is an ambivalence regarding the extent of specialization for aquatic life experienced by our ancestors. The greater the hypothesized specialization, the more improbable the rapid return to land. Many specific interpretations point to extensive committment to the sea — e.g., respiratory adaptations, reduced olfaction, mating (loss of pheromones, reproductive system alterations), and child care (long hair, breasts) in the water. Many other reasonable specializations, such as streamlining of the torso and repositioning the nostrils, are not present in our species. The typical quadrupedal head form with an elongated face that is directed forward while swimming would have been adaptive, but hominids more than any other primate have eliminated this. Much has been made of behavioral parallels with species such as the proboscis monkey that show little, if any, morphological adaptation (Ellis, 1986). If human ancestors were no more adapted to water than Nasalis, as Morgan’s discussion sometimes implies, the entire list of anatomical traits would be irrelevant."

Perhaps since such ambiguity was present in the original argument it should not be surprising that we read it differently.

Algis wrote:> JH3: You listed 6 specific traits (I will overlook "pretty much all of them".) Again, to avoid putting Morgan's words in your mouth, what are your hypotheses for how/why those traits evolved and your arguments supporting the hypotheses?
> From your paper I assume your bipedalism hypothesis is that our ancestors (which and when?) found it necessary to wade (for foraging?) and that bipedal locomotion increased their efficiency in doing so. Is that correct? (If so, is that really better than "they found it necessary to forage more on the ground and since they were poor quadrupeds increased their efficiency by being bipedal?")
> How about the others? I would like to see them all so I can get a better understanding of how you reconstruct our ancestors and their relationship to water. But I also don't think they will make a coherent model.
>
> AK: In a nutshell...
> Bipedal origins through wading/climbing very early (pre- LCA). Since the split, Pan/Gorilla climbed more, waded less - reverted to the large primate 'norm' of quadruepdalism on land. Human ancestors climbed less, waded more - became obligate bipeds.


JL4: I will note this as evidence for your model, though I am not convinced by it.
> Human body hair pattern - as an adaptation to reduce drag whilst swimming (usually face down looking for food) in coastal shallows.
JH4: Loss of hair comes at a significant cost. How did hominins survive on land without a pelt to insulate them against chill and sun? Other semi-aquatic animals do not lose their fur. Don't you see just how critical swimming would have had to be to compensate for this loss of function?
If this is evidence for your model, it is most unconvincing.
> Infant (and mother) adipocity - to reduce the risk of drowning in coastal shallows.
JL4: I will note this as evidence for your model, though I am not convinced by it.
> Respiratory changes (all of them - e.g. hooded nose, descended larynx, improved voluntary breath control) as simple adaptations for better swimming and diving.
JH4: Is a hooded nose really a trait? Or is it just an artifact of maintaining a nasal chamber while the rest of the face is reduced in size?
Since we would have to have fine breath control for speech anyway (much finer than for diving), is there any evidence that this was not simply a recent speech adaptation?

Likewise for the larynx, which increases risk of choking and has no parallel among aquatic mammals except cetaceans. How is this an adaptation for diving -- either in cetaceans or us?
I see these features as predicted by selection for facial reduction and speech and not offering independent support for your model.

John Langdon wrote:So: bipedalism for wading, fat infants, and hair loss that leaves them vulnerable to hypothermia. Anything else?

JL4: You stated that the aquatic adaptations have been accumulating since the LCA. Elsewhere you were clear that the semiaquatic phase (I don't know how else to put it) continues to the present. I think we are coming to the crux of the matter: After 6 Mya of adapting to a semiaquatic niche, why aren't we semiaquatic mammals? I believe we are not, though I suspect you will disagree, and the common image that humanity has of itself does not link us to a watery niche. The image of a modern human being you invoke does not align with my image of a human being, any more than if you had argued we are currently well adapted to climb in the trees, or live in the Arctic. We can do all of the above, but none characterize us as a species. Why should I pay any attention to such a model of our evolution? Why should anybody?
Waterside hypotheses of human evolution assert that selection from wading, swimming and diving and procurement of food from aquatic habitats have significantly affected the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens as distinct from that leading to Pan. (p118)
Kuliukas, A., Morgan, E. (2011). Aquatic scenarios in the thinking on human evolution: What are they and how do they compare?. In: Vaneechoutte, M., Verhaegen, M., Kuliukas, A. (2011). Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?
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Re: Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

Postby AlgisKuliukas » Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:30 am

John Langdon wrote:JL4: Yes, and where have these studies gotten us? They just generated more hypotheses or recycled old ones. They are unable to evaluate the hypotheses they put forward or even compare them with one another. (Crompton's study was qualitatively different from the approach we are discussing here and I would not put it in the same category.)


AK: John, that is not a very logical argument. "These studies" I should point out, do NOT include even the most perfunctory assessment of the wading hypothesis. If the idea hasn't even been considered, it's not surprise it has not got us anywhere. This is the very point I'm making. If one looks at the wading idea objectively and dispassionately, it's very strong. Much stronger than the others. It's not just ideas based on extant ape behaviour that suffer from a lack of evaluative rigour and inability to make comparisons. All of them do. This is why I wrote my wading paper - the evaluation shows wading to be clearly one of the strongest models. Perhaps you are not aware of this, but Robin Crompton's been suggesting orang-utans be used as a model for early bipedalism for years, long before his latest studies were contrived (perhaps that is a bit harsh) to support it.

John Langdon wrote:JL4: I have see only one model of bipedalism cited repeatedly with any favor in textbooks of the last 15 years, and that is also one I present dismissively in class -- Lovejoy's provisioning hypothesis. His 1980 article had some good arguments that reminded us to think about life history and reproductive rates; but his "explanatory" scenario was an embarrassment, in my opinion -- both factually and politically incorrect. I don't know why textbooks like to repeat it, but nearly all the other models, terrestrial or aquatic, get short shrift.
The textbook I am using this semester, by Conroy, mentions five models in one sentence (carrying, hunting, better vision, seed-eating, feeding from bushes) and dismisses them all in the next. It does explore the energy efficiency argument at length before concluding that the evidence for it is "somewhat equivocal." I suppose Conroy could have mentioned the aquatic model and dismissed it in the same sentence with the other 5. Would that have made you happy?
The main problem here is that most anthropologists find selection scenarios of limited value except amusement because they simply are not testable. They are certainly not lining up to argue that any one is correct.

AK: I'd be happier is the idea was treated with as much respect as others, yes. How do you explain why it isn't, other than through an ignorant over-reaction to an association with ideas that have been deliberately put in the same box, by some, as Von Daniken and Creationism? I agree with you about the provisioning hypothesis but I notice that you ducked the argument I gave in favour of the wading hypothesis. Perhaps if they had seriously considered it, instead of distorting it to make it sound as silly as possible, even they might start lining up behind it.

AK: Can you please enlighten me as to when, exactly, the idea of Darwinian natural selection was abandoned as a vehicle to explain the human phenotype among physical anthropologists, and why? It is something Elaine and I feel very strongly about as neo-Darwinists. So, if not natural selection, what then? Drift? If it was drift, please explain why it was Homo sapiens that miraculously ended up with all the odd traits. I refute the "testability" criticism. These ideas are as testable, or otherwise, as any other hypothesis of historical science.

John Langdon wrote:JL4: My paper stated that the individual elements of the AAH cannot be disproven, but that the broader scenario is unparsimonious. I did not attempt to refute the individual elements; but the weakness of the umbrella, in my opinion, renders them highly unlikely. I guess you could say that is a refutation of the AAH.

AK: Ok so you stand behind it being a refutation - good. I was beginning to wonder even if it was that much. I do agree that it is an attempt at such a refutation, it's just a very poor one. It's based on a straw man caricature of the idea, it's not scholarly and it makes ludicrous comparisons with ideas that are in a different league. The idea is only unparsimonoius in one sense - the U-turn idea. I agree that postulating a life on land (near water, of course) throughout human evolution is more parsimonious than an exaggerated "aquatic" phase followed by a return to land. However, not all of us think that way. Derek Ellis published several papers supporting his wetland ape idea long before your refutation. You hardly mentioned him and did not mention his ideas.

AK: As for the rest, simply listing that there are other possible explanations for each of the traits does nothing to make waterside hypotheses less parsimonious. It actually emphasises that they are more parsimonious. You listed 26 traits, all of them more or less explained by wading, swimming and diving by Morgan - and how many alternatives did you come up with? More than 3, right? Please explain how explaining an animal's phenotype by invoking three shifts in locomotor pattern (all potentially grouped as one: "moving though water") is less parsimonious than explaining them with a dozen?

John Langdon wrote:JL: JL4: I didn't need to. But I find Morris' Naked Ape equally naive and unsupportable. In the present time it is risible, but I acknowledge the ground-breaking value of it historically.

AK: You say you didn't need to give alternatives [to the drag reduction argument for hair loss] in one breath and that the whole point of your paper was to do so, in the next. Lots of people, other than Morris, support the sexual selection argument. It's always an easy option when adaptive reasons are a little unpalatable. That and drift, of course.

John Langdon wrote:JL4: Wow. We really do see her model differently. How can relatively and only slightly more aquatic explain such a major transformation in body design in a relatively short period of time (in an evolutionary scale)? Nasalis and M. fascicularis are relatively and only slightly more aquatic than other monkeys, but you would be hard put to detect that in their anatomy


AK: You are aware, I suppose, of the principle of population that for selection to overcome drift it only need be greater than the reciprocal of twice the effective population size. In reasonably sized populations, this is tiny. Try it yourself with a population genetics simulator like popG.exe. I always find it amusing how aquaskeptics are quick to wheel out the proboscis monkey etc as examples of why the "aquatic ape" cannot be right, but accuse us of cherry picking when we do this kind of thing in support of the idea.

AK: How did you put it? We shouldn't look for simple plots all the time. Clearly humans are unique and so this isn't going to be so simple. If humans had flipper-like arms and a paddle like tail I think even you'd have to accept that we might have had a more aquatic past. It's just subtler that's all. As I keep saying, you guys always have to exaggerate the idea to breaking point. Either we we "full on" aquatics, like dolphins (and clearly we weren't, so that idea can be safely and easily dismissed) or there is no "aquatic ape" theory to think about. It's the classic straw man argument, John.

AK: The material point is this: How do large primates move in water? Bipedally. Pretty much all the time, as long as the water is not ankle depth and they're foraging on the underside of leaves for invertebrates or something like that. Where do we find mammals that have lost their body hair? In elephant-sized ones, one subterranean one, in bat wings and in some aquatics. Which of those is most likely to apply to us? As we swim and dive better than chimps, again, it's a no-brainer. To Hardy's original question "Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?" we should add "... and if so, how much more?" The answer, from population genetics is clearly "only a little bit more will do".

John Langdon wrote:JL4: Can I conceive of it? Yes, easily. But that image of a mixed economy is not generating much selective pressure on the species -- certainly not enough to produce the kind of results cited by any version of the AAH.


AK: You say "certainly not enough" - but how do you know that? Has anyone ever studied this? No. We do know, from population genetics studies of modern humans that even moving a few degrees away from the equator in 50Ka, moving to a higher latitude, or even consuming more lactose or alcohol is enough to change allele frequencies dramatically. If such slight changes clearly have changed human phenotype in tens of thousands of years, why wouldn't more wading, swimming and diving be expected to do so over 5 million years. I would say it certainly WOULD be EASILY enough, John.

AK: It's gross misconceptions like this exhibited by authorities such as you that encourage me to think that the entire field have just badly goofed on this idea.

John Langdon wrote:JL4: We have not forgotten about microhabitats -- paleoanthropologists have only recently discovered them. The problem is, modern humans don't live in them and the fossil record seems to indicate that Homo never did. We range freely across many micro- and macrohabitats, exploiting whatever resources we find in any of them and dependent on none. We do need a source of standing water for drinking on a regular basis, but that is it. (Though a few modern peoples have found a way to do without that.) If some populations of our ancestors specialized in collecting shellfish or water plants, that is not going to shape the entire species.


AK: John, almost all the fossil evidence of hominins is associated with waterside habitats. The recent ardipithecus find included.

e.g.

Gani, M., Gani, N. River-margin habitat of Ardipithecus ramidus at Aramis, Ethiopia 4.4 million years ago. Nature Communications :1-5, (2011).

I am frankly astonished that you would say such a thing. How many fossils have been found attributed to human ancestors - thousands, how many to chimps? - one/two. Almost all in waterside habitats. Of course you will say that this is taphonomic bias - just because they died by the waters edge doesn't mean they lived there. But it undeniably consistent with that view.

John Langdon wrote:JL4: I will repeat this point as long at it takes, I did not attempt to critique or respond to a wading hypothesis. That was not my intention. I am not avoiding a discussion of it. In fact, I am trying to engage you in a discussion of it by asking you to lay it on the table so I can see it out of the context of Morgan's very different scenario.
I argued at one point in my paper that Morgan was inconsistent in her own mind about how aquatic our ancestor was:

JL4: "The second problem is an ambivalence regarding the extent of specialization for aquatic life experienced by our ancestors. The greater the hypothesized specialization, the more improbable the rapid return to land. Many specific interpretations point to extensive committment to the sea — e.g., respiratory adaptations, reduced olfaction, mating (loss of pheromones, reproductive system alterations), and child care (long hair, breasts) in the water. Many other reasonable specializations, such as streamlining of the torso and repositioning the nostrils, are not present in our species. The typical quadrupedal head form with an elongated face that is directed forward while swimming would have been adaptive, but hominids more than any other primate have eliminated this. Much has been made of behavioural parallels with species such as the proboscis monkey that show little, if any, morphological adaptation (Ellis, 1986). If human ancestors were no more adapted to water than Nasalis, as Morgan’s discussion sometimes implies, the entire list of anatomical traits would be irrelevant."

JL4: Perhaps since such ambiguity was present in the original argument it should not be surprising that we read it differently.

Algis wrote:AK: I am very impressed that you are engaging in this discussion with me, John. I really appreciate it. Ok, so I will start claiming that there is simply not one single "refutation" (or even an evaluation) of the wading hypothesis in the 1st class anthro literature, then. Nothing whatsoever. This hardly makes the aquaskeptic position stronger.


AK: I grant you that Hardy/Morgan contained some ambiguities. That is a fair criticism. But surely, then, the critique should have considered a full range of possibilities. It should have critiqued the "low end" of the spectrum too, instead of just the "high end". This was the approach Preuschoft & Preuschoft took in Roede et al in the one proper "critique" of the wading hypothesis in the literature generally. But even then they contrived that a lack of convergence with wading birds (in terms of tibia length) was a show stopper (they ignored the fact that early hominins were almost certainly still somewhat arboreal.)

John Langdon wrote:
Algis wrote:AKprev: Bipedal origins through wading/climbing very early (pre- LCA). Since the split, Pan/Gorilla climbed more, waded less - reverted to the large primate 'norm' of quadrupedalism on land. Human ancestors climbed less, waded more - became obligate bipeds.


JL4: I will note this as evidence for your model, though I am not convinced by it.

AK: I don't expect anyone to be convinced - not yet anyway. Taking it seriously and not pretending it's in the same ball park as the idea that some omnipotent god created the entire universe in sex days, just for us - would be progress.

John Langdon wrote:
Algis wrote:AKprev: Human body hair pattern - as an adaptation to reduce drag whilst swimming (usually face down looking for food) in coastal shallows.


JH4: Loss of hair comes at a significant cost. How did hominins survive on land without a pelt to insulate them against chill and sun? Other semi-aquatic animals do not lose their fur. Don't you see just how critical swimming would have had to be to compensate for this loss of function?
If this is evidence for your model, it is most unconvincing.

AK: How indeed? Presumably you have some alternative idea where this cost is explicable. Why does introducing a swimming component suddenly render that idea (whatever it is) irrelevant? Jim, as someone who lives in a hot country (it's already 30C outside and it's only 9am) I appreciate going for dip to keep cool. Other semi-aquatics are exposed to greater risk of abrasion. A fully obligate, beach-combing, hominin would not be. Again, you're welcome to be unconvinced but please explain why ideas such as the Provisioning hypothesis are deemed more respectable? This is one idea that could easily be tested. Take the Sharp & Costil protocol and add to it a quantitative analysis of how much body hair was shaved off and specifically looking at individuals who are very hairy. They found up to 9% drag reduction simply by shaving relatively little body hair off men. 9%, in evolutionary terms, is massive, John.

John Langdon wrote:
Algis wrote:AKprev: Infant (and mother) adipocity - to reduce the risk of drowning in coastal shallows.


JL4: I will note this as evidence for your model, though I am not convinced by it.

AK: Ditto above.

John Langdon wrote:
Algis wrote:AKprev: Respiratory changes (all of them - e.g. hooded nose, descended larynx, improved voluntary breath control) as simple adaptations for better swimming and diving.


JH4: Is a hooded nose really a trait? Or is it just an artifact of maintaining a nasal chamber while the rest of the face is reduced in size?
Since we would have to have fine breath control for speech anyway (much finer than for diving), is there any evidence that this was not simply a recent speech adaptation?

AK: Teasing out cause and effect is always tricky but it's a reasonable hypothesis. If there were no evolutionary pressure for downward pointing nostril I think it is special pleading to argue that it evolved, universally, simply because of an ontogenetic fluke.

AK: Same with speech. Did speech cause improved breath-controll or did swimming improve it first and that then enable speech? Swimming, note, requires much finer breath control than diving too. You have to admit, chimps show amazing abilities in terms of understanding symbolic non-verbal language. The key difference is verbal. Swimming is another no-brainer explanation that helps. Why are you so opposed to simple things helping explain problems in human evolution?

All the best

Algis
Waterside hypotheses of human evolution assert that selection from wading, swimming and diving and procurement of food from aquatic habitats have significantly affected the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens as distinct from that leading to Pan. (p118)
Kuliukas, A., Morgan, E. (2011). Aquatic scenarios in the thinking on human evolution: What are they and how do they compare?. In: Vaneechoutte, M., Verhaegen, M., Kuliukas, A. (2011). Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?
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Re: Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

Postby AlgisKuliukas » Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:52 pm

John's reply [25 Jan 2011]

John Langdon wrote:On 1/24/12 8:30 PM, Algis Kuliukas wrote:
Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:JL4: Yes, and where have these studies gotten us? They just generated more hypotheses or recycled old ones. They are unable to evaluate the hypotheses they put forward or even compare them with one another. (Crompton's study was qualitatively different from the approach we are discussing here and I would not put it in the same category.)

> AK: John, that is not a very logical argument. "These studies" I should point out, do NOT include even the most perfunctory assessment of the wading hypothesis. If the idea hasn't even been considered, it's not surprise it has not got us anywhere. This is the very point I'm making. If one looks at the wading idea objectively and dispassionately, it's very strong. Much stronger than the others. It's not just ideas based on extant ape behaviour that suffer from a lack of evaluative rigour and inability to make comparisons. All of them do. This is why I wrote my wadding paper - the evaluation shows wading to be clearly one of the strongest models. Perhaps you are not aware of this, but Robin Crompton's been suggesting orang-utans be used as a model for early bipedalism for years, long before his latest studies were contrived (perhaps that is a bit harsh) to support it.


JL5: "These studies," if you go back to the original context, refer to
approaches that look at living primates to see in what contexts they are
bipedal. You can make many observations that way, but cannot evaluate
them. (The same goes for looking to see what humans do with their hand.)

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:JL4: I have see only one model of bipedalism cited repeatedly with any favor in textbooks of the last 15 years, and that is also one I present dismissively in class -- Lovejoy's provisioning hypothesis. His 1980 article had some good arguments that reminded us to think about life history and reproductive rates; but his "explanatory" scenario was an embarrassment, in my opinion -- both factually and politically incorrect. I don't know why textbooks like to repeat it, but nearly all the other models, terrestrial or aquatic, get short shrift.
> The textbook I am using this semester, by Conroy, mentions five models in one sentence (carrying, hunting, better vision, seed-eating, feeding from bushes) and dismisses them all in the next. It does explore the energy efficiency argument at length before concluding that the evidence for it is "somewhat equivocal." I suppose Conroy could have mentioned the aquatic model and dismissed it in the same sentence with the other 5. Would that have made you happy?
> The main problem here is that most anthropologists find selection scenarios of limited value except amusement because they simply are not testable. They are certainly not lining up to argue that any one is correct.
>
> AK: I'd be happier is the idea was treated with as much respect as others, yes. How do you explain why it isn't, other than through an ignorant over-reaction to an association with ideas that have been deliberately put in the same box, by some, as Von Daniken and Creationism? I agree with you about the provisioning hypothesis but I notice that you ducked the argument I gave in favour of the wading hypothesis. Perhaps if they had seriously considered it, instead of distorting it to make it sound as silly as possible, even they might start lining up behind it.


JL5: I won't pretend to speak for them. I will speak for myself: I
simply don't find an aquatic scenario plausible or the specific
hypotheses persuasive. We are not an aquatic species.
>
Algis wrote:AK: Can you please enlighten me as to when, exactly, the idea of Darwinian natural selection was abandoned as a vehicle to explain the human phenotype among physical anthropologists, and why? It is something Elaine and I feel very strongly about as neo-Darwinists. So, if not natural selection, what then? Drift? If it was drift, please explain why it was Homo sapiens that miraculously ended up with all the odd traits. I refute the "testability" criticism. These ideas are as testable, or otherwise, as any other hypothesis of historical science.
It was not abandoned. But historical scenarios, that happened once in
history cannot be tested. They become historical science, not natural
science. We are not talking about demonstrating laws or repeatable
phenomena. One can gather evidence to argue about historical events, but
something like evolutionary events are not subject to proof or
disproof. And they are probably far more complex that we usually
imagine. Evolution of traits such as we have been discussing takes place
over long periods of time. Environments change. Behaviors change. There
are a great many selective factors at work and those change over time. I
can't believe any one behavior is going to explain the evolution of
something like bipedalism. All of these models are just child's play.
>
John Langdon wrote:> JL4: My paper stated that the individual elements of the AAH cannot be disproven, but that the broader scenario is unparsimonious. I did not attempt to refute the individual elements; but the weakness of the umbrella, in my opinion, renders them highly unlikely. I guess you could say that is a refutation of the AAH.
>
> AK: Ok so you stand behind it being a refutation - good. I was beginning to wonder even if it was that much. I do agree that it is an attempt at such a refutation, it's just a very poor one. It's based on a straw man caricature of the idea, it's not scholarly and it makes ludicrous comparisons with ideas that are in a different league.


JL5: This is very offensive language from someone who refuses to
acknowledge what my argument was.

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:JL4: We have not forgotten about microhabitats -- paleoanthropologists have only recently discovered them. The problem is, modern humans don't live in them and the fossil record seems to indicate that Homo never did. We range freely across many micro- and macrohabitats, exploiting whatever resources we find in any of them and dependent on none. We do need a source of standing water for drinking on a regular basis, but that is it. (Though a few modern peoples have found a way to do without that.) If some populations of our ancestors specialized in collecting shellfish or water plants, that is not going to shape the entire species.

> AK: John, almost all the fossil evidence of hominins is associated with waterside habitats. The recent ardipithecus find included.
>
> e.g.
>
> Gani, M., Gani, N. River-margin habitat of Ardipithecus ramidus at Aramis, Ethiopia 4.4 million years ago. Nature Communications :1-5, (2011).
>
> I am frankly astonished that you would say such a thing.


JL5: What thing?

Algis wrote:> How many fossils have been found attributed to human ancestors - thousands, how many to chimps? - one/two. Almost all in waterside habitats. Of course you will say that this is taphonomic bias - just because they died by the waters edge doesn't mean they lived there. But it undeniably consistent with that view.


JL5: Tell me what environments are conducive to preserving bones so that
they can fossilize? Most but not all involve watery habitats. But there
are also wet and dry caves, sinkholes, etc. Human fossils are found in
all of them. Furthermore, I challenge you to pick any taxon that you
regard as non-aquatic and look at the fossil record for it. I believe it
will appear no different than that for Homo. (I had a student do that
years ago for Miocene hominoids.) Finally, pick any taxon you think is
aquatic and look at the record. I content you will find a differnce.
Homo is pretty consistently found associated with terrestrial mammals.
Early Homo commonly with animals living in open country. Then talk to me
about taphonomic habitats.

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:JL4: Perhaps since such ambiguity was present in the original argument it should not be surprising that we read it differently.
>
> AK: I grant you that Hardy/Morgan contained some ambiguities. That is a fair criticism. But surely, then, the critique should have considered a full range of possibilities. It should have critiqued the "low end" of the spectrum too, instead of just the "high end".


JL5: Why? I made my point by addressing Morgan. But you haven't gotten
my point yet.

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:JH4: Loss of hair comes at a significant cost. How did hominins survive on land without a pelt to insulate them against chill and sun? Other semi-aquatic animals do not lose their fur. Don't you see just how critical swimming would have had to be to compensate for this loss of function?
> If this is evidence for your model, it is most unconvincing.
>
> AK: How indeed? Presumably you have some alternative idea where this cost is explicable.


JH5: Yes. Where the cost of overheating outwieghs the cost of
overcooling. That's not in water. Humans are capable to two things that
separate them from most tropical mammals -- activity in the peak of the
daytime and sustaining high levels of activity for long periods of time.
Only a radically different thermoregulatory system, along with some
other adaptations can explain that.


--
John H. Langdon
Waterside hypotheses of human evolution assert that selection from wading, swimming and diving and procurement of food from aquatic habitats have significantly affected the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens as distinct from that leading to Pan. (p118)
Kuliukas, A., Morgan, E. (2011). Aquatic scenarios in the thinking on human evolution: What are they and how do they compare?. In: Vaneechoutte, M., Verhaegen, M., Kuliukas, A. (2011). Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?
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Re: Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

Postby AlgisKuliukas » Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:52 pm

John Langdon wrote:JL5: "These studies," if you go back to the original context, refer to
approaches that look at living primates to see in what contexts they are
bipedal. You can make many observations that way, but cannot evaluate
them. (The same goes for looking to see what humans do with their hand.)

AK: But, John, what method can be evaluated? Please can you site one piece of literature (other than my own chapter on this) where different models (any will do) of bipedalism are evaluated. At least looking at extant ape analogues for bipedal locomotion cannot be argued to be anthropocentric.

John Langdon wrote:JL5: I won't pretend to speak for them. I will speak for myself: I
simply don't find an aquatic scenario plausible or the specific
hypotheses persuasive. We are not an aquatic species.


AK: You are exaggerating again. Why do you keep doing this? Hardy asked "Was Man MORE Aquatic in the Past?" (note that word there - "more") Every single person who has ever taken this idea seriously understands - even better than you do, it seems - you seem almost surprised about it - that we are not an aquatic species and never were in any meaningful sense of the word. The simple observation that we ARE better able to swim and dive than chimps is about as clear cut evidence as one could possibly expect that our ancestors were exposed to MORE selection from this than chimps. If you choose to pick the "aquatic scenario" that you find easy to dismiss as implausible, instead of considering those that simply cannot be dismissed this way - no wonder you have the beliefs you hold. You're entitled to believe whatever you want to believe but what I think is totally inexcusable is that you has such views published in JHE and it has remained, for 18 years, the "official" position on this idea. It's an absolute scandal, John.

John Langdon wrote:JL5: It [Darwinism] was not abandoned. But historical scenarios, that happened once in
history cannot be tested. They become historical science, not natural
science. We are not talking about demonstrating laws or repeatable
phenomena. One can gather evidence to argue about historical events, but
something like evolutionary events are not subject to proof or
disproof. And they are probably far more complex that we usually
imagine. Evolution of traits such as we have been discussing takes place
over long periods of time. Environments change. Behaviors change. There
are a great many selective factors at work and those change over time. I
can't believe any one behavior is going to explain the evolution of
something like bipedalism. All of these models are just child's play.

AK: You are espousing a very defeatist, negative and I think completely invalid view on evolutionary science. It's taking Popper to extremes. I'd argue that evolutionary scenarios can be tested - by looking for examples of convergence an for coming up with falsifiable predictions about them. You didn't answer my question anyway: when and why did this defeatist state of affairs become de rigeur? Darwin and the early evolutionary biologists certainly didn't think that way. Dart, Tobias and many paleoanthropologists followed in those footsteps. When and why did this approach get rejected? Can you cite the paper please.
Your "shrug our shoulders and say it was really, really complicated" approach is just not helpful. I expect not one proponent of the several bipedalism models would claim exclusivity for their idea. This doesn't mean that such models are not helpful and did not play a big part in the idea. This reminds me of the French Linguistic Society's infamous decision to stop debating the origin of language because they decided it was not worth while.

John Langdon wrote:JL5: This is very offensive language from someone who refuses to
acknowledge what my argument was

AK: I am sorry you find my language offensive. It is not my intention. I am only critiquing your paper, which has gone without a word of criticism for 18 years. I have nothing against you personally, John, just this paper which, I repeat, I think is exceptionally poor. It is a terrible indictment on the field that it passed through peer review for a journal of the status of JHE. I have written a scholarly critique of your paper - more scholarly than your original - and your response is to keep repeating a pretence that I somehow haven't understood your argument. I find this a little offensive, actually. Clearly, you must think that anyone who takes Hardy's idea seriously must be so ignorant of paleoanthropology (or just so stupid) that they see things in simple terms that are "child's play". This kind of patronising response is a very hollow response to my valid criticisms.

John Langdon wrote:JL5: What thing [are you astonished about]?

AK: That you said Homo never did live in microhabitats. Early hominins certainly did and, as you must realise, they are the grade being argued to be "more aquatic".

John Langdon wrote:JL5: Tell me what environments are conducive to preserving bones so that
they can fossilize? Most but not all involve watery habitats. But there
are also wet and dry caves, sinkholes, etc. Human fossils are found in
all of them.

AK: Depositional ones, near the water's edge. Sure hominins are found away from waterside niches too. No-one is claiming that they only ever lived in water. Again, it is yet another straw man argument to argue against that.

John Langdon wrote:JL5: Furthermore, I challenge you to pick any taxon that you
regard as non-aquatic and look at the fossil record for it. I believe it
will appear no different than that for Homo. (I had a student do that
years ago for Miocene hominoids.) Finally, pick any taxon you think is
aquatic and look at the record. I content you will find a differnce.
Homo is pretty consistently found associated with terrestrial mammals.
Early Homo commonly with animals living in open country. Then talk to me
about taphonomic habitats.

AK: This is just another straw man argument - as usual. It's a black and white to talk in terms of "aquatic" versus "non-aquatic". The idea, I remind, is that humans were exposed to more wading, swimming and diving than apes - not that we became aquatic. You keep saying that I've misunderstood your paper, John, but I'd argue that you've completely misunderstood - and hence misrepresented this idea. You avoided my specific point again: How do you explain the increadible discrepancy between fossils attributed to humans and those attributes to chimps? Thousands of times more. Let's use that term "parsimony" again - surely the simplest explanation is that our ancestors lived in the places most likely to fossilise - the water's edge.

John Langdon wrote:JL5: Why? I made my point by addressing Morgan. But you haven't gotten
my point yet.

AK: Yes, so you keep saying. Listen, John: I got your point. But even then you only cherry picked the bits of Morgan's writings that you interpreted in a "full on" aquatic sense, not the parts (that I picked up on) that seemed to indicate a much milder level of selection. A scholarly critique of the "Aquatic Ape Hypothesis" should have reviewed the most plausible ideas (and most scholarly proponents, such as Derek Ellis) not just the weakest ones - this, John, is called a straw man - the very thing you accused Elaine Morgan of doing about the "savannah hypothesis"! To say that your paper was hypocritical in this regard is the understatement of the last century in the paleoanthropological literature.

John Langdon wrote:JH5: Yes. Where the cost of overheating outwieghs the cost of
overcooling. That's not in water. Humans are capable to two things that
separate them from most tropical mammals -- activity in the peak of the
daytime and sustaining high levels of activity for long periods of time.
Only a radically different thermoregulatory system, along with some
other adaptations can explain that.

AK: You are espousing the savannah theory - full on. Funny, I thought you claimed it was a straw man invention of Elaine Morgan.
I notice that you snipped away my answer to this. Going for a dip solves the cost of overheating at a stroke. Compared to chimps, we swim and dive better than they do and we have lost our body hair - as you are most likely to find in aquatic mammals. Where are you examples of convergence for high activity/duration mammals loosing their body hair? If we argued like this, you'd call it a "just so" story or argue that it wasn't testable. Suddenly, the bar is lowered when you offer your own speculations.

AK: As one of my opponents on various newsgroups would say (but for the opposite camp) The best arguments I've read to suggest that Hardy might have been right are the ones espoused by those who are convinced he must have been wrong.

Algis
Waterside hypotheses of human evolution assert that selection from wading, swimming and diving and procurement of food from aquatic habitats have significantly affected the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens as distinct from that leading to Pan. (p118)
Kuliukas, A., Morgan, E. (2011). Aquatic scenarios in the thinking on human evolution: What are they and how do they compare?. In: Vaneechoutte, M., Verhaegen, M., Kuliukas, A. (2011). Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?
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Re: Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

Postby AlgisKuliukas » Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:24 am

John's reply [27th Jan 2012]

John Langdon wrote:
Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:> JL5: "These studies," if you go back to the original context, refer to
> approaches that look at living primates to see in what contexts they are
> bipedal. You can make many observations that way, but cannot evaluate
> them. (The same goes for looking to see what humans do with their hand.)
>
> AK: But, John, what method can be evaluated? Please can you site one piece of literature (other than my own chapter on this) where different models (any will do) of bipedalism are evaluated. At least looking at extant ape analogues for bipedal locomotion cannot be argued to be anthropocentric.


JL6: If I understand you correctly, we are making the same point. We can't evaluate them. We can hypothesize that our ancestors became bipedal because of wading, provisioning food, vigilance, display, carrying babies, following migrating bovids, etc. In rare cases we can point to evidence, such as microwear on teeth, to rule a hypothesis out. Some provide comic relief (my favorites are arboreal ambush predation and grain collecting). But what do you do with the others except say "This does/does not make sense to me?" Ergo, anthropologists simply don't spend much time discussing them in print.

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:> JL5: I won't pretend to speak for them. I will speak for myself: I
> simply don't find an aquatic scenario plausible or the specific
> hypotheses persuasive. We are not an aquatic species.
>
> AK: You are exaggerating again.

John Langdon wrote:JL5: OK. We are not a species that is or was dependent on aquatic resources such that there was selective pressure that shaped the entire species population. Humans are not very good in the water. It is much easier to write "aquatic species" for that idea.
I've gotten the message that you don't like the Hardy/Morgan model, but that is what I chose to write about 18 years ago and I can't change that fact if I wanted. I chose it as an illustration for my argument about umbrella hypotheses; it served that purpose. In fact, it was better for discussion purposes than your version or most other Umbrella models because it was more thoroughly articulated in three books at the time.

> JL5: It [Darwinism] was not abandoned. But historical scenarios, that happened once in
> history cannot be tested. They become historical science, not natural
> science. We are not talking about demonstrating laws or repeatable
> phenomena. One can gather evidence to argue about historical events, but
> something like evolutionary events are not subject to proof or
> disproof. And they are probably far more complex that we usually
> imagine. Evolution of traits such as we have been discussing takes place
> over long periods of time. Environments change. Behaviors change. There
> are a great many selective factors at work and those change over time. I
> can't believe any one behavior is going to explain the evolution of
> something like bipedalism. All of these models are just child's play.


> AK: You are espousing a very defeatist, negative and I think completely invalid view on evolutionary science. It's taking Popper to extremes. I'd argue that evolutionary scenarios can be tested - by looking for examples of convergence an for coming up with falsifiable predictions about them. You didn't answer my question anyway: when and why did this defeatist state of affairs become de rigeur? Darwin and the early evolutionary biologists certainly didn't think that way. Dart, Tobias and many paleoanthropologists followed in those footsteps. When and why did this approach get rejected? Can you cite the paper please.


JL6: I am trying to be realistic. There are two different arguments here. First, while natural science studies laws, patterns, and other repeatable phenomena, it is limited in what it can do with unique past events. Fossils tell us who, where and when. They cannot say much about what happened. We can collect evidence and perform experiments about what can create fossil and modern species, but we cannot repeat the past to see if we get the same results.
I spend much time in my teaching demonstrating how the models we create are more reflections on society's view of what people are/should be than they are about any evidence.

Algis wrote:> Your "shrug our shoulders and say it was really, really complicated" approach is just not helpful. I expect not one proponent of the several bipedalism models would claim exclusivity for their idea. This doesn't mean that such models are not helpful and did not play a big part in the idea. This reminds me of the French Linguistic Society's infamous decision to stop debating the origin of language because they decided it was not worth while.


JL6: The second argument is the complexity of selection. Genes do not evolve in a vacuum. Interesting traits aren't determined by one or a few genes and I doubt if they are by single behavior patterns. As a though exercise, I sometimes ask my students what questions about evolution they could investigate if they had a time machine. They cannot ask about selection for major adaptive traits. We can hardly identify selection occurring now.
I agree we should NOT stop talking about and exploring models -- I merely want us to be appropriately cautious about investing strongly in simplistic ones. As H.L Mencken wrote "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." I think this applies to all single-cause models of complex behaviors such as bipedalism.

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:> JL5: What thing [are you astonished about]?

>
> AK: That you said Homo never did live in microhabitats. Early hominins certainly did and, as you must realise, they are the grade being argued to be "more aquatic".


JL6: Sorry. I meant Homo was never restricted to specific microhabitats. It is a characteristic of our species to be ecologically and geographically very broad. I am attaching an exercise I put together with some students about 6 years ago. It is a culmulative representation of hominin sites over time to illustrate the astonishing rate of population spread. We currently have a latitudinal distribution, a habitat breadth, and a dietary breadth greater than any medium-sized genus of mammal (that was my comparison group.)

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:> JL5: Tell me what environments are conducive to preserving bones so that
> they can fossilize? Most but not all involve watery habitats. But there
> are also wet and dry caves, sinkholes, etc. Human fossils are found in
> all of them.
>
> AK: Depositional ones, near the water's edge. Sure hominins are found away from waterside niches too. No-one is claiming that they only ever lived in water. Again, it is yet another straw man argument to argue against that.


JL6: But you are the one who has brought the taphonomic argument up several times.

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:> JL5: Furthermore, I challenge you to pick any taxon that you
> regard as non-aquatic and look at the fossil record for it. I believe it
> will appear no different than that for Homo. (I had a student do that
> years ago for Miocene hominoids.) Finally, pick any taxon you think is
> aquatic and look at the record. I content you will find a differnce.
> Homo is pretty consistently found associated with terrestrial mammals.
> Early Homo commonly with animals living in open country. Then talk to me
> about taphonomic habitats.
>
> AK: This is just another straw man argument - as usual. It's a black and white to talk in terms of "aquatic" versus "non-aquatic". The idea, I remind, is that humans were exposed to more wading, swimming and diving than apes - not that we became aquatic. You keep saying that I've misunderstood your paper, John, but I'd argue that you've completely misunderstood - and hence misrepresented this idea. You avoided my specific point again: How do you explain the increadible discrepancy between fossils attributed to humans and those attributes to chimps?


JL6: The usual interpretation is that our African Pleistocene sample of fossils is almost exclusively limited to the Rift Valley, South African caves, and later in North Africa. We also have a good sampling of open-country bovids and equids from those sites. Apparently chimps did not live in those regions. Do you think there is another explanation? I expect that when more fossils are found in other parts of Africa, australopiths and Homo will be found in many of those also. Humans may not have ventured into the tropical forest until recently (based on the archaeological record) and there may not have been much overlap with chimp ranges; but so far we cannot say much about chimp habitats and ranges except where they are not.

Algis wrote:> Thousands of times more. Let's use that term "parsimony" again - surely the simplest explanation is that our ancestors lived in the places most likely to fossilise - the water's edge.


JL6: And all the zebras and antelope, too? You just dismissed my counterargument as a straw man without reading it.

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:> JL5: Why? I made my point by addressing Morgan. But you haven't gotten
> my point yet.
>
> AK: Yes, so you keep saying. Listen, John: I got your point. But even then you only cherry picked the bits of Morgan's writings that you interpreted in a "full on" aquatic sense,


JL6: Nonsense. I looked at every trait to which she referred and tried to reconstruct the most sensible argument she was making ABOUT THAT TRAIT. In the direct conversations I had with her, she never said I misrepresented her. The problem is, when you put the traits together, either in her model or yours, the models only make sense when the species as a whole has a vital connection with water -- not "weak selection" with some populations inland and some along the lakes, not some dependent of aquatic foods and some not. Her argument by analogy used many fully aquatic species, including cetaceans and sireneans. It makes no sense without them. In her book, The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (the one that came out after I wrote my paper) a central argument was that the transformation of the hominin body was so radical that standard models were insufficient and only a radical evolutionary history can explain it.
I think you misremember what she wrote. You have borrowed some of her trait analogies with fully aquatic species and deny the analogies; you bought into a need for a radical explanation long enough to dismiss the rest of the discipline and then back away from it saying "we weren't so aquatic."

Algis wrote:
John Langdon wrote:> JH5: Yes. Where the cost of overheating outwieghs the cost of
> overcooling. That's not in water. Humans are capable to two things that
> separate them from most tropical mammals -- activity in the peak of the
> daytime and sustaining high levels of activity for long periods of time.
> Only a radically different thermoregulatory system, along with some
> other adaptations can explain that.
>
> AK: You are espousing the savannah theory - full on. Funny, I thought you claimed it was a straw man invention of Elaine Morgan.


JL6: No. I am espousing a behavior pattern that probably took place on the savanna and other habitats. In previous emails I distinguished between the Savanna Theory and reference to the savanna as a context of evolution. Very different. Why do you keep confusing the two?

Algis wrote:> I notice that you snipped away my answer to this. Going for a dip solves the cost of overheating at a stroke.

JH6: Going for a dip makes sweating unnecessary and risks hypothermia.

--
John H. Langdon
Waterside hypotheses of human evolution assert that selection from wading, swimming and diving and procurement of food from aquatic habitats have significantly affected the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens as distinct from that leading to Pan. (p118)
Kuliukas, A., Morgan, E. (2011). Aquatic scenarios in the thinking on human evolution: What are they and how do they compare?. In: Vaneechoutte, M., Verhaegen, M., Kuliukas, A. (2011). Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?
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Re: Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

Postby AlgisKuliukas » Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:26 pm

John Langdon wrote:JL6: If I understand you correctly, we are making the same point. We can't evaluate them. We can hypothesize that our ancestors became bipedal because of wading, provisioning food, vigilance, display, carrying babies, following migrating bovids, etc. In rare cases we can point to evidence, such as microwear on teeth, to rule a hypothesis out. Some provide comic relief (my favorites are arboreal ambush predation and grain collecting). But what do you do with the others except say "This does/does not make sense to me?" Ergo, anthropologists simply don't spend much time discussing them in print.


AK: Only inasmuch as I agree with you that no-one has tried to evaluate them to date. I have, in my bipedalism chapter. I think it's as valid a way of evaluating them as the standard method used everywhere in academia for decades - the marking rubric. I think where we are at odds on this point is that you seem to have decided that the entire field no longer see behavioural contexts of bipedalism in extant apes as having any importance. I doubt that. Isn't Kevin Hunt still a proponent of such models? If not, if you are right and the entire field have now abandoned this approach, I repeat my question - when did this happen, and why? Because clearly it didn't used to be the case.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: I am trying to be realistic. There are two different arguments here. First, while natural science studies laws, patterns, and other repeatable phenomena, it is limited in what it can do with unique past events. Fossils tell us who, where and when. They cannot say much about what happened. We can collect evidence and perform experiments about what can create fossil and modern species, but we cannot repeat the past to see if we get the same results.
I spend much time in my teaching demonstrating how the models we create are more reflections on society's view of what people are/should be than they are about any evidence.


AK: I have no dispute there about the need to be skeptical and cautious but surely it is better to have some kind of coherent idea about what might have happened (with caveats about probability) rather than to shrug our shoulders and say "we just don't know". You seem not to like the beauty that some waterside hypotheses have in coming up with such models. I just find that unhelpful. The savannah paradigm has been de rigeur for decades and, I expect, for good reason. It seemed to make sense. It seemed to fit most of the facts. It was a simple narrative that was easy to communicate. It is still repeated even today through the lay media and by many authorities too. I'm sure there were voices around that were skeptical about the apparent confidence in that model over the decades it was "in" but you can't argue they held sway. Now, when some of us think we have a better model you seem to be trying to argue that no-one ever believed in the savannah paradigm anyway and even trying to have such models is pointless.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: The second argument is the complexity of selection. Genes do not evolve in a vacuum. Interesting traits aren't determined by one or a few genes and I doubt if they are by single behavior patterns. As a though exercise, I sometimes ask my students what questions about evolution they could investigate if they had a time machine. They cannot ask about selection for major adaptive traits. We can hardly identify selection occurring now.
I agree we should NOT stop talking about and exploring models -- I merely want us to be appropriately cautious about investing strongly in simplistic ones. As H.L Mencken wrote "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." I think this applies to all single-cause models of complex behaviors such as bipedalism.

AK: We seem to be talking past each other here. I agree 100% that no single idea on bipedalism is likely to be exclusively right, rendering all others absolutely wrong. I even included this in my evaluation criteria (compatibility). But that doesn't mean that we should just shrug our shoulders and say "who knows?" I think a serious critical analysis of the 30+ models shows that a number of them are clearly better than the others. Carrying, feeding, energy efficiency, vertical climbing and wading are clearly stronger ideas than provisioning, sexual display, woodland stalking and Dawkins' trendy behavioural meme idea, for example.

AK: If you're going to invoke Mencken, please don't then accuse us of moving the goalposts when we argue for models that are not as simple as you pretend they are.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: Sorry. I meant Homo was never restricted to specific microhabitats. It is a characteristic of our species to be ecologically and geographically very broad. I am attaching an exercise I put together with some students about 6 years ago. It is a culmulative representation of hominin sites over time to illustrate the astonishing rate of population spread. We currently have a latitudinal distribution, a habitat breadth, and a dietary breadth greater than any medium-sized genus of mammal (that was my comparison group.)


AK: Illustrating the human diaspora on a world map like this is lovely, of course, but it is of insufficient detail to show that practically all of these paleohabitats were close to permanent water courses. The myth that the fossil evidence is against the so-called "aquatic ape" theory relies on a gross exaggeration of it - that it postulates our ancestors were dolphin-like marine creatures. If one posits a watered down view - that we lived in waterside habitats more than chimps - then the evidence is overwhelmingly supportive. It is one of my greatest frustrations, with your paper and people like you, that you continue to try to foist this myth on people, even today. At least Nina Jablonski seems to have moved on from this these days.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: But you are the one who has brought the taphonomic argument up several times.

AK: I did so to pre-empt the usual (facile) objection of taphonomic bias. The real bias is the thousands-to-one ratio of fossils attributed to human ancestors versus those attributed to chimps. The parsimonious explanation is simply that our ancestors lived (and therefore died) by the water's edge more than theirs. But when something supports the damned "aquatic theory" suddenly parsimony is not sought. Then, Mencken's famous quote is trotted out.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: The usual interpretation is that our African Pleistocene sample of fossils is almost exclusively limited to the Rift Valley, South African caves, and later in North Africa. We also have a good sampling of open-country bovids and equids from those sites. Apparently chimps did not live in those regions. Do you think there is another explanation? I expect that when more fossils are found in other parts of Africa, australopiths and Homo will be found in many of those also. Humans may not have ventured into the tropical forest until recently (based on the archaeological record) and there may not have been much overlap with chimp ranges; but so far we cannot say much about chimp habitats and ranges except where they are not
.

AK: Of course it's possible that it's just a coincidence that the places we've been looking for human fossils were never inhabited by chimp ancestors. I just think that the argument above is more parsimonious and should at least be considered.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: And all the zebras and antelope, too? You just dismissed my counterargument as a straw man without reading it.


AK: I read it, thanks. And what about all the crocs and hippos? I think you're being selective. Why is a zebra in the same faunal assemblage as a hominin seen as more significant than a croc?

John Langdon wrote:JL6: Nonsense. I looked at every trait to which she referred and tried to reconstruct the most sensible argument she was making ABOUT THAT TRAIT.


AK: Nonsense, yourself. If I made a point like this, my main critic - the unqualified ex-car mechanic who Birx regards as world expert on the "aquatic ape" idea, Jim Moore - would have called me a liar. Please note that I am not doing so. I think it was just a mistake.

AK: John, I refer you to your "discussion" of the "AAT explanation" for bipedalism. This is what you wrote (in full)...

John Langdon in his full account of bipedalism in the JHE critique wrote:Bipedalism
Morgan argues the transition to bipedalism would have been improbable without a transitional aquatic phase to counter the effects of gravity, because of the numerous health costs associated with it, including increased lumbar weight-bearing and associated lower-back problems; the necessity of supporting the visceral mass and its associated risk of herniation; and an increased variability of cerebral blood pressure and associated risks of fainting and varicose veins (Morgan, 1990: pp. 24–35). As Morgan notes, these costs are not intolerable, since they are borne by modern humans. However, they would create a serious hurdle for a quadrupedal species under selection to become bipedal. Morgan argues that an aquatic habitat would be a good transition zone since immersion in water would counteract many of the effects of gravity, while wading would have favored bipedal posture and locomotion.
Authors who wish to recite the many disadvantages of bipedalism commonly do so by comparing humans to medium-sized terrestrial quadrupedal mammals. However, hominoid ancestry has probably never included medium-sized terrestrial quadrupedal mammals. A comparative anatomy of living hominoids reveals a pattern of climbing and/or suspensory
specializations across the taxon. This pattern includes relative lengthening of the upper limb
and its use in suspension, increasing use of upright posture supported by the lower trunk and
lower limbs, and increasing use of bipedal posture and gait (Fleagle et al., 1981; Temerin &
Cant, 1983). Morgan wrongly dismisses these specializations on the grounds that brachiation
is irrelevant (1990: p. 27). The climbing/suspensory complex both removes our ancestry from conventional terrestrial quadrupedalism and helps to bridge the gap toward human bipedalism.

AK: Where, in that 264-word rebuttal did you mention the most sensible argument she was making about bipedal origins and the wading idea? You think the varicose veins idea was the most sensible she's ever made on this? Really? I know Elaine would disagree and I certainly do. In fact I can't imagine anyone who has read her books would agree with you on that, John.

AK: The most sensible idea on the wading hypothesis is this:

In waist deep water being bipedal allows you to keep breathing easier.

Duh. It's a no brainer!

All extant great apes that are quadrupedal on dry land switch to bipedalism in shallow water. One couldn't wish for a simpler, more clear-cut, blatantly predictable demonstration of this idea and yet you missed it. Instead you cherry picked the varicose veins thing. Even then you didn't provide the obvious retort: this this problem might just be a by product of increased human longevity. The only counter you made was some confusing point about Elaine Morgan comparing humans with "medium-sized terrestrial quadrupedal mammals" - when actually all her books compare us with the one species that matters - the species aquaskeptcs would rather not compare us to - chimpanzees.

AK: So, far from being the "most sensible" argument, i think it was one of the weaker ones - in other words, yet again, it was a straw man, cherry picked out of all of her many arguments because it was the one you thought you could knock down. And even then, you failed to do so.

AK: Your bipedalism counter-argument was the very worst of a poor set of counter arguments. It was the classic straw man - again - (this is getting a bit repetitive, sorry, but it needs to be said) as it absolutely DID NOT answer the "most sensible" part of her argument. I do not think any of them did that.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: In the direct conversations I had with her, she never said I misrepresented her.

AK: I think she was probably just being her very polite and modest self. Straw man arguments aren't necessarily misrepresentations of what was argued, but they are the weakest parts. This is what you did with the bipedalism point and most, if not all, the others.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: The problem is, when you put the traits together, either in her model or yours, the models only make sense when the species as a whole has a vital connection with water -- not "weak selection" with some populations inland and some along the lakes, not some dependent of aquatic foods and some not.


AK: "only make sense"? Who says? the person that then dismisses them completely on that specific basis? They make far more sense on the water's edge. More wading, more swimming and more diving than chimps explains the divergence better than anything else. This also just happens to be most consistent with the evidence.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: Her argument by analogy used many fully aquatic species, including cetaceans and sireneans. It makes no sense without them. In her book, The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (the one that came out after I wrote my paper) a central argument was that the transformation of the hominin body was so radical that standard models were insufficient and only a radical evolutionary history can explain it.

AK: Just because she pointed out that it is mainly aquatic mammals that have lost their body hair in order to raise the possibility that more aquatic adaptations in humans could have been responsible for our relative hair loss it does not mean she was arguing our ancestors lived like dolphins. I am astonished that I have to make this point to the author of the one paper published in a 1st class anthro journal about this idea.

AK: At most, the Hardy/Morgan "U-Turn" idea postulates that our ancestors were, at one point, amphibious like the very first proto-cetaceans, long before they became fully aquatic. Again John, I think you are showing your true colours here by repeatedly needing to exaggerate the idea to breaking point in order to try to defeat it.

AK: A fairer, more scientific, approach is to say "obviously humans were never that aquatic otherwise we'd see evidence of limb reduction (like flippers) in the fossil record. But could it work at lower levels of selection?" Hardy asked "Was Man More Aquatic In the Past?" but nobody seems to have added "... and if so, how much?" Everyone's gone on to make their own personal interpretation about how aquatic they think he was thinking of. Unsurprisingly those who have assumed it means something more - like you - reject the idea. Those who think it might have meant something less - like me - think it's perfectly plausible and potentially helpful.

John Langdon wrote:JL6: I think you misremember what she wrote. You have borrowed some of her trait analogies with fully aquatic species and deny the analogies; you bought into a need for a radical explanation long enough to dismiss the rest of the discipline and then back away from it saying "we weren't so aquatic."

AK: I find that a very patronising thing to say, John. Elaine will tell you even today, if you ask her, that she is agnostic about how aquatic our ancestors were. She keeps coming back to the point - why are we so different from chimps? Something must have happened - so what was it? Your critique completely missed that, the most fundamental point of all of her work.

You also seem to have missed this key point she made in her very first book about the idea...

"At the highest point of their period of aquatic adaptation the ancestral hominids, though never as fully marine as the dolphins or sirenians, would probably have been capable of crossing wide stretches of water under their own steam; and without postulating that at such an early stage of their evolution they became boat builders, it is highly possible that they would have been aware of some of the uses of a floating log." Descent... (1972:133)

This is hardly an argument for a merman, is it John?

Algis
Waterside hypotheses of human evolution assert that selection from wading, swimming and diving and procurement of food from aquatic habitats have significantly affected the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens as distinct from that leading to Pan. (p118)
Kuliukas, A., Morgan, E. (2011). Aquatic scenarios in the thinking on human evolution: What are they and how do they compare?. In: Vaneechoutte, M., Verhaegen, M., Kuliukas, A. (2011). Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?
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Re: Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

Postby AlgisKuliukas » Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:28 pm

John wrote again (missing my reply above) with this on [28 Jan 2012]...

Algis,
Our conversation is going in circles with each of us feeling
misunderstood. I have tried to step back and look at the main themes and
they don't make sense. Here is what I see.

1. Way back when, I wrote an article about the structure of evolutionary
models in anthropology for which I selected Morgan's AAH as an example.
I argued that the appearance of parsimony is false and the underlying
assumptions (the U-turn) weak. I deliberately chose not to engage with
variant models of the AAH, but to respect the integrity of her ideas as
well as I could understand them.

2. You have criticized me as unscholarly for not discussing other
models, including ones that deemphasized the "aquatic" aspects of the
AAH and focused on wading and swimming throughout the human evolution.
You object to having been criticized by my article.

3. At the same time, you declare that your wading model is separate from
the more fully aquatic model of Morgan and object to my discussing them
together in the emails. You object to not having been criticized in my
article.

4. You have declared you model akin to those of Ellis and Verhaegan
(whom we both recognize as extreme). While you warn and accuse me of
cherry-picking from multiple authors, expect me to perceive a model that
represents your views, even though I have only seen two of your writings
-- including the one whose purpose was to attack me.

It seems to me that if your model is really distinct from Morgan's, then
my paper is irrelevant to your wading model and it should not concern
you. However, you clearly identify yourself and your ideas with the AAH
or we wouldn't be having this discussion. If you don't want me to link
and confuse your two models, then you shouldn't link and confuse them
yourself. Yet you have consistently, starting in the manuscript where I
first saw your name. My advice as a reviewer was that you present your
data about wading kinesiology without muddying the waters by connecting
it with the AAH.

Do you see why I am confused and feel falsely attacked whichever way I
try to direct the discussion?

--
John H. Langdon
Waterside hypotheses of human evolution assert that selection from wading, swimming and diving and procurement of food from aquatic habitats have significantly affected the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens as distinct from that leading to Pan. (p118)
Kuliukas, A., Morgan, E. (2011). Aquatic scenarios in the thinking on human evolution: What are they and how do they compare?. In: Vaneechoutte, M., Verhaegen, M., Kuliukas, A. (2011). Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?
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Re: Kuliukas 2011 - Langdon's AAH Critique

Postby AlgisKuliukas » Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:45 pm

John Langdon wrote:Algis,
Our conversation is going in circles with each of us feeling
misunderstood. I have tried to step back and look at the main themes and
they don't make sense. Here is what I see.

1. Way back when, I wrote an article about the structure of evolutionary
models in anthropology for which I selected Morgan's AAH as an example.


No dispute there.

John Langdon wrote:I argued that the appearance of parsimony is false and the underlying
assumptions (the U-turn) weak. I deliberately chose not to engage with
variant models of the AAH, but to respect the integrity of her ideas as
well as I could understand them.


You claimed that in the paper, yes, but I dispute it. I have asked you to explain how it can be less parsimonious to explain 26 traits in one way (three related ways at most - wading, swimming and diving) than a dozen at least but you have not attempted an answer. I agree that the U-turn (terrestrial-more aquatic-terrestrial) idea could be argued to be less parsimonious than a terrestrial only one but only if one exaggerates it.

Even excusing that you only evaluated Morgan's work and no-one else's (and so not really a fair assessment of the "AAH"), even then you cherry picked straw man arguments to summarily dismiss. The bipedalism treatment is by far the worst example of this, but far from the only one.

John Langdon wrote:2. You have criticized me as unscholarly for not discussing other
models, including ones that deemphasized the "aquatic" aspects of the
AAH and focused on wading and swimming throughout the human evolution.
You object to having been criticized by my article.


Even excusing you for only reviewing Elaine's work and ignoring all others', that still does not excuse the omission of her two contributions to Roede et al - certainly the most scholarly work on the AAT before your paper, so I cannot withdraw my "unscholarly" criticism.

However, John, I am not sure that you should be excused this so lightly. It might well have been you intention to only review Elaine's books on the subject but you did not make this clear in your paper.

In fact, if anything, you make it clear that the "AAT" is quite broad and multi-authored. So, then, why only review Elaine's contribution.

You wrote...
John Langdon, in the JHE paper (p 480) wrote:The AAH was the subject of a published symposium that represented both favorable and
opposing views in Roede et al. (1991). The AAH has been reiterated by Morgan (1982, 1990)
and received contributions by Cuanne (1980), Ellis (1986), Evans (1992), Verhaegen (1985,
1987), and LaLumiere (1981). Nonetheless, it remains in limbo, neither dead to its adherents
nor acknowledged by the mainstream academic community. It is worth re-examining, so that
we may better understand how we evaluate models of evolution and how rejected models
thrive even within the broader scientific community.


That seems to me to set the scene that the critique we are about to read is a full critique of its broad totality, not the parts you personally intended to review.

John Langdon wrote:3. At the same time, you declare that your wading model is separate from
the more fully aquatic model of Morgan and object to my discussing them
together in the emails. You object to not having been criticized in my
article.


John, this is a misrepresentation. Where did I "declare" any such thing? "My wading model" is pretty much "Elaine's wading model". She wrote several chapters on this in her books. That work inspired me to do some science on the subject. What's this "more fully aquatic model"? I have tried to make the point that interpreting Hardy's and her ideas is largely a matter of personal choice. I have quoted her where she makes it clear that she's not espousing anything as "fully aquatic" as you seem to imagine. But you seem impervious to reason on this despite me citing other authorities, such as Tobias, Attenborough, Dennett, Groves and Cameron, who clearly see this more like I do than you.

How on earth can you imagine that I "object" to not being criticised in your paper when I had never even heard of the "AAT" when you wrote it? It's a little patronising.

John Langdon wrote:4. You have declared you model akin to those of Ellis and Verhaegan
(whom we both recognize as extreme). While you warn and accuse me of
cherry-picking from multiple authors, expect me to perceive a model that
represents your views, even though I have only seen two of your writings
-- including the one whose purpose was to attack me.


That is a bit of a worrying statement. Do you even know what Derek Ellis has written on this subject? If so, on what grounds can you imagine that his ideas are "extreme", let alone that I might agree with you about that? Ellis espouses the mildest of waterside models - and that the "aquatic ape" should be thought of as the "wetland ape" - a view I agree with and one that is totally at odds with the usual straw man portrayal of this idea, one that also happens to be very consistent with the fossil record.

I happen to agree with you to some extent about some of Verhaegen's ideas, but then again, I do agree with him on many of his ideas, most notably the early (pre-LCA) "wading-climbing" bipedal origins - contrary to Morgan.

John, you do not seem to accept the possibility that "my views" are pretty much the same as, or at least overlap considerably with, those of other "AAT" proponents. They really only differ from some others' in terms of timescale and the minimum degree of selection required. You want to conveniently pretend that my ideas are radically different from the one you critiqued so that you get let off the hook in your criticisms of your own personal interpretation of Morgan's ideas.

I'm not attacking you, John, I'm criticising your JHE paper. Isn't this the way the scientific method is supposed to work? Why should your work be beyond criticism? You've had 15 years without the slightest comment against it. Any student researching the "AAH" might come across it and, seeing that there has been no counter-critique, assume that yours was the last word on the subject. Can you seriously defend that? Is this the sort of "science" that you teach to your students, or are you going to point them to the discussion we've been having on the web?

John Langdon wrote:It seems to me that if your model is really distinct from Morgan's, then
my paper is irrelevant to your wading model and it should not concern
you. However, you clearly identify yourself and your ideas with the AAH
or we wouldn't be having this discussion. If you don't want me to link
and confuse your two models, then you shouldn't link and confuse them
yourself. Yet you have consistently, starting in the manuscript where I
first saw your name. My advice as a reviewer was that you present your
data about wading kinesiology without muddying the waters by connecting
it with the AAH.


I think this is wishful thinking. My ideas are not really distinct from Elaine's. Certainly, her work on wading has inspired mine.

John, there is not one "aquatic ape hypothesis", there are several waterside hypotheses of human evolution. They are all united in one regard - in suggesting that all the major phenotypic differences between humans and chimps are explained by greater selection from wading, swimming and diving.

The wading hypothesis of bipedal origins is one I think is very useful. I see Elaine and I as being two proponents of the same basic idea here. Supporting this idea is is independent of others but if one does support it, it hardly "muddies the waters" of any other.

I have published a paper about the energy efficiency of wading at different depths and gaits but I think you are clutching at straws to pretend that this study was wholly different from Morgan's work on the "AAH".

John Langdon wrote:Do you see why I am confused and feel falsely attacked whichever way I
try to direct the discussion?
--
John H. Langdon


I think you are confused because you have not properly understood that other people, who read Hardy and Morgan, did not come to the same, more extreme, interpretations as you did. I think you should have understood that because she made it pretty clear what the upper bounds were to the level of aquatic adaptation and several others (e.g. Ellis) have written several papers which espouse a much milder view.

Your paper has remained unchallenged in the slightest in 15 years. I think have given a fair, balanced and valid critique of it. I think it is deserving of that criticism.

Algis
Waterside hypotheses of human evolution assert that selection from wading, swimming and diving and procurement of food from aquatic habitats have significantly affected the evolution of the lineage leading to Homo sapiens as distinct from that leading to Pan. (p118)
Kuliukas, A., Morgan, E. (2011). Aquatic scenarios in the thinking on human evolution: What are they and how do they compare?. In: Vaneechoutte, M., Verhaegen, M., Kuliukas, A. (2011). Was Man More Aquatic in the Past?
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