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Another anthropologist theorizes through his hat

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  • Another anthropologist theorizes through his hat

    One Professor (sic) Alan Mann of Princeton (sic) University addressing the American Association for the Advancement of Science (sic) is reported by the Times of London as having said that (direct quote):

    "Evolution acts to produce function not perfection"
    That's as may be, BUT he says so on the basis that people have impacted wisdom teeth.

    Now, I'm sorry, but I have to say it: don't these people ever read the f***ing literature?

    Weston Price showed the reason for the occurrence of impacted wisdom teeth in the 1930s and this "professional" anthropologist still doesn't know! This "professor" -- does he actially have a chair in anthropology? -- says it's on account of rapid brain-growth in early humans. Has he actually looked at the skulls of any "early humans"?

    This is what annoys me about academics. They like to theorize; and if you theorize without informing yourself you just produce garbage. This really requires someone like Taubes to write about, not me. But this is just it: these people want to make large and airy statements about the nature of evolution (or whatever) not do the legwork involved in reading, and thinking about, concrete data in hundreds and hundreds of texts and in physical evidence (such as skeletal remains in anthropology).

    It is unconscionable.

    The professor also mistakenly cites flat feet and "bad backs" as a supposed proof of what he takes to be the nature of evolution.

    Shame on you, Princeton.

    The Times of London has a paywall, but the Irish Times has put the story online:

    Bad back? Flat feet? Blame it on evolution - The Irish Times - Sat, Feb 16, 2013
    Last edited by Lewis; 02-16-2013, 02:53 AM. Reason: typos caused by using a BlackBerry to post!

  • #2
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    • #3
      What a joke! All of the things he cites as "evolutionary" problems are simply physiological, and can be changed within a person's lifetime if addressed early enough and treated properly. Besides, you can't compare gorillas living in their natural habitat with humans living in an unnatural one. The hypothesis itself has merit, but the situations he chose to illustrate it aren't doing it any favors.


      • #4
        I guess I lost my cool a bit.

        But the professor might equally well have pointed to rickets and said that misshapen legs were a proof that "evolution acts to produce function not perfection" !

        Stefansson, who actualluy went and looked at medieval Icelandic skulls for Harvard, would have known this was nonsense. He would also have had a fair idea that the problem was connected to diet even if he didn't know the mechanism.

        When it comes to actually understanding human interaction, as opposed to something physical, I suspect current anthropologists would be even more likely to go astray. An intelligent anthropologist (or traveller for the matter of that) a hundred years ago who had a sensitive understanding of people would be likely to understand a new form of human life better, and would be less likely to interpose pseudo-science.