When the Obvious Isn't Enough
    By Gerhard Adam | December 24th 2012 06:28 PM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    A recent article entitled "Fluctuating Environment May Have Driven Human Evolution", proceeded to take something that is obvious and attempt to create even more significance from it.  It is obvious, that environmental changes [yes, including fluctuations] have driven ALL of evolution, so to even qualify it as "human" indicates some attempt to make the results more significant than they are.

    However, the intent of this article in trying to assign relevance was exemplified by this quote:
    According to Magill, many anthropologists believe that variability of experience can trigger cognitive development.
    In short, given all the other variables and correlations that exist, let's simply speculate that this also affected human cognitive development.  Of course, humans are the only species that have ever been subject to fluctuating environmental changes, and watching food sources change, and having to respond to different social interactions.  Oh wait ... there are actually other creatures on this planet.

    So, for such a statement to have any meaning, then we must first answer why such changes, which have occurred throughout life's history should only have affected humans.  There's little doubt that variability of experience can trigger cognitive development.  So what? 

    It's simply another case of sloppy correlations, restating the obvious and explaining nothing.


    It's simply another case of sloppy correlations, restating the obvious and explaining nothing.
    So, it's just anthropology, that is what you are saying? Invoking climate change from 2 million years ago is certain to be popular, I just am unsure why a geologist is wading into that. 

    Poor biologists. Everyone is hijacking evolution.
    Gerhard Adam
    No, it's simply another case of anthropocentricism, as if humans are the only species to have ever experienced such environmental changes.

    Evolution is hardly unique to biology, since even biologists didn't agree with what the term meant until Darwin described a mechanism; natural selection.  So, the concept of things evolving or changing isn't particularly unique to biology alone.  That's precisely why languages can evolve, as can societies, etc. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    It is even simpler than that:  Nonsense!  Since all the others around any one system of whatever type constitute its environment, there is no evolution without changing environment by definition!
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, now the article has been picked up on Real Clear Science as "Erratic Environment May Be Key To Human Evolution".  It is filled with such scientific gems as:
    "The research points to the importance of water in an arid landscape like Africa," Magill said in a statement. "The plants are so intimately tied to the water that if you have water shortages, they usually lead to food insecurity."

    These findings now shed light on the environmental shifts the ancestors of modern humans might have had to adapt to in order to survive and thrive.
    Might have?  The insights are truly mind-boggling.  Well, I guess what other choice did our ancestors have if the air-conditioning wasn't working.
    Mundus vult decipi