Darwin-L Message Log 3:16 (November 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<3:16>From hantuo@utu.fi  Tue Nov  2 16:28:29 1993

To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: hantuo@utu.fi (Hanna Tuomisto)
Subject: Re: scientific and popular explanations / human evolution
Date: 	Wed, 3 Nov 1993 00:31:43 +0200

John Langdon wrote:

>In what I hope is a final word, let me repeat (since obviously you missed it):
>We will never prove the AAT wrong and never can. Nor can we disprove Chariot
>of the Gods or Killer Apes or Elvis Sighted in Outer Space. This does not mean
>that we must or should accept them. You have a mistaken perception of the
>nature and capability of science.

Sorry if I disappoint you, but I'm adding my final word too. When I wrote
"prove wrong" I was thinking in terms of hypothesis testing, which is a
normal procedure in science: take the available facts and evaluate which of
the available hypothesis explains them best. The "right" hypothesis
explains more facts with less ad hoc assumptions than the "wrong"

Elvis Sighted in Outer Space is not a hypothesis, it's a claim. Of course
you cannot prove that it never happened, but you can show that such an
incidence would contradict quite a few natural laws. But AAT does not
contradict any natural laws. It just explains the available facts in a new

>It has been rejected as unlikely (certainly more unlikely than the accepted
>models) for good reasons, given the broadest picture.

I still have not seen a generally accepted terrestrial theory. There's a
dozen or so different models for how bipedalism could have evolved. There's
another dozen for hairlessness. There's another dozen for big brains.
There's another dozen for speech. Most of them contradict each other, and
there's little data to support any of them, so it's difficult to choose
among the alternatives. The only generally accepted thing seems to be that
the hominids never went into the water, and for that claim there is no
evidence at all.

I've now got access to The Aquatic Ape: Fact or Fiction. Thanks for
everyone who sent me the reference. It is not quite what I was looking for,
though. Those chapters in the book that are critical towards AAT do present
arguments against it, and that is of course very well. But I was really
looking for a comparison of the explanatory power of the (semi)aquatic vs.
the terrestrial models. You can always scrutinize a hypothesis and claim
that it has weaknesses, but if the alternative hypothesis is not subjected
to a similar scrutiny the excercise does not help much in choosing among

>I suggest you take a couple of courses in human evolution with an open mind
>and figure it out for yourself.

I had accepted the savanna theory before I was 15. That's what we were
tought at school, and that's what we were tought later at university. I
never found the scenario really obvious or logical, but I believed someone
must have proved that it was correct, and anyway it was better than
admitting that humans never evolved at all. When I first read about AAT I
was really astonished because it just made so much sense. Then I started to
study the scientific papers about the savanna theories and was astonished
again, because they made much less sense. And now I'm desperately trying to
find a book or article or anything that would weight the two models against
each other. But all I'm getting is comments like "The savanna theory is
better than AAT. I can't give you the reasons but you just believe when I
say so." If savanna can't do better than that, I prefer aquatic.

Hanna Tuomisto      e-mail  hantuo@utu.fi
Department of Biology     Fax   +358-21-6335564
University of Turku     Phone +358-21-6335634
FIN-20500 Turku, FINLAND

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