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33069Re: [evol-psych] Re: The evolution of domestic (and domesticable) animals

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  • Robert Karl Stonjek
    Nov 1, 2004
      In response to my intervention, recommending a couple of informative books, Robert Stonejek wrote:
      "Being well versed in this area, and clearly having read the books you recommend, it would not be inappropriate for you to share your wisdom with those of a lesser insight into the nature and history of the domestication of animals and plants by humans."
      I have two problems - first, I cannot now remember what the original question was, and, second, I cannot persuade Yahoo! groups that I really am a subscriber to this list, so I cannot check back in the archives.Further than that, I know only about southwest Asia - for other parts of the world, I rely on books like those I recommended.
      ...and Professor Trevor Watkins went on to put us in the picture and wet the appetite of many of us for more information on this fascinating subject (see his references in earlier notes in this thread).  But there is a difference between Archaeo-zoology or Paleo-archaeology (and related disciplines) and Evolutionary Psychology, particularly with regard to the Evolutionary Biology element of Evolutionary Psychology.
      Let's take a simple hypothetical researcher, sometime in the not too distant future, and a computer program she uses to model the evolutionary theories of the day.  Knowing the mechanisms of Evolution as intimately as future science will, and having a desktop computer that makes current super computers appear like laughable old dinosaurs by comparison, our Professor presses the final button, having loaded all the known conditions of early Earth, and watches evolution happen.
      But on the first try nothing more complex than bacteria evolve.  Another running of the program produces nothing past a range of odd looking Trilobites.  After a hundred trials, nothing like humans emerge.  What went wrong?
      Nothing went wrong!!  In our part of the universe the 'program' has run many thousands of times on Earth-like planets and as far as we can tell humans only evolved on one of them.  The problem is that the 'events' which resulted in the formation of humans most probably have to be exactly as it was in the history of Earth.  For instance, Carboniferous meteors carrying a rich load of complex organic molecules including amino acids must strike the right spot in the ocean at the right time in our early history.
      What we develop in Evolution theory is the 'generic' underlying mechanism that could produce any of many outcomes and not just the outcome we are familiar with.  Thus the mechanism, when speculated upon, produces outcomes which were never observed along with those that were.
      The observers of our actual evolutionary history work from a different paradigm.  Primarily, the actual sequence of events as evidenced from remains visible today can be catalogued, but the underlying mechanism that caused these events or the effect that these events had upon evolution are secondary (though still important).  Thus a set of actual events can be catalogued by the diggers, whereas a set of possible outcomes, including those discovered by the diggers, are what the Evolutionist discovers.
      Thus if we look prospectively to the future, the evolutionist can say that the same rules of nature will apply to the future as they did in the past - natural and sexual selection for instance, and given a range of hypothetical environmental changes the evolutionist can give a range of possible outcomes.  What do the Archaeo-zoologists or Paleo-archaeologists (and related disciplines) have to say about the future?  Here we see the difference in approach.
      So, friends and colleagues, don't be too alarmed when what appears to be wild speculation hits upon a range of possible outcomes - this evolution of ideas need only place actual outcomes into the range of possible outcomes that a model can produce, and so actual historical development of, say, humans and their actual relationship with domesticated plants and animals is only one possible outcome - the one that actually occurred - from a range of possible outcomes, most of which didn't occur and probably never will.
      Kind Regards
      Robert Karl Stonjek
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