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Re: [Fwd: Calvin's new book, throwing, etc..]

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  • Norman K. McPhail
    Thanks for the timely and forthright response. Do you expand on your climate pump hypothesis in this book? I skimmed through the table of contents, but could
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2002
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      Thanks for the timely and forthright response. Do you expand on your
      climate pump hypothesis in this book? I skimmed through the table of
      contents, but could have missed it.

      Hope you don't mind if I forward this to Ralph and the
      evolutionary-psychology list.

      Norm McPhail

      "William H. Calvin" wrote:
      >
      > That's a nice statement about how handy throwing is in general, and (though
      > I do not immediately recall any correspondence) I like the way Holloway puts
      > it into the context of symbolic stuff. P. J. Darlington had a couple of
      > PNAS articles in the mid-70s about throwing too, as I recall. I certainly
      > cannot claim any originality about the potential importance of throwing for
      > hominid evolution; I wouldn't be surprized if the basic idea is older than
      > anthropology.
      > The more specific connection that I made in the J. Theoret. Biology article
      > in 1983 was simply that accurate throwing had a long growth curve (even more
      > accurate always meant even more payoff) and that every step along the way
      > made unusual demands on the brain, given the way that the launch window
      > shrank to widths that were well below the feedback loop duration, meaning
      > perfect plans during Get Set were needed. I also stressed that, unlike set
      > pieces like dart throws or free throws, hunting throws were a different
      > target situation almost every time, needing a novel plan each time. It's
      > harder than creativity in general: making a novel motor plan has a real
      > premium on being right the first time, as the target tends to run away when
      > you miss. I also pointed out that there was a lot of overlap in premotor
      > and prefrontal in hand-arm and oral-facial representation, that ballistic
      > movement planning neural circuitry might have important spare-time secondary
      > uses.
      > My other contribution was an elaboration about 1990 of that older notion
      > (1965, 1979 refs in the paper) that handaxes were thrown; I suggested that
      > they represent an entry-level job in the throwing hierarchy because they
      > were aimed at whole herds visiting waterholes (a "side of the barn" throw
      > requiring no real accuracy because it didn't matter which animal was hit).
      > Because the herd will stampede past it, an animal knocked down will have a
      > difficult time regaining its feet before hunters arrive to grab it. Broken
      > or tumbled handaxes have many secondary uses (those "Swiss Army knife"
      > theories) but I claim that the use that controlled their shape and
      > all-around sharpening was the ambush at the waterhole application.
      > The hunting aspect that's new in A BRAIN FOR ALL SEASONS (out next month
      > from U of Chicago Press, but already on the web at
      > http://faculty.washington.edu/wcalvin/BrainForAllSeasons/) concerns the role
      > of abrupt climate changes in replacing brush and forests with grasslands
      > after the drought-related fires. The grazing animals get a population boom,
      > and so might their predators, especially ones that could live outside the
      > tropics. The droughts produce hominid advantages in three ways for
      > predators on large grazing animals: 1) during the drought, the shrinking
      > lakes produce an annulus of excellent grass on the mud flats, attracting
      > even desert-adapted antelope who don't require the daily drink. 2) After
      > the fires, grass replaces bush and forest for awhile over wide denuded
      > areas. And 3) when the climate abruptly flips back from cooler-and-drier
      > into warm-and-wet, a lot of deserts get grass. While hominids undoubtedly
      > suffered population crashes like most other land mammals during the first
      > flip into cool-dry-windy-dusty and its associated fires and droughts, they
      > were somewhat insulated by being waterhole predators. Then the next year
      > after the fires, there was a lot more grass. And a century or two later
      > after the flip back into the warm-and-wet mode, there was another surge in
      > grasslands.
      > About a third of the book is paleoclimate per se, together with the
      > oceanography of it, an extension of the cover story that I wrote for The
      > Atlantic Monthly in 1998. Unlike the excellent 1996 books by Steve Stanley
      > and by Rick Potts on climate and hominids, my book stresses the abrupt
      > (within several years) large shifts that are seen worldwide; their
      > mechanisms and their evolutionary roles. There were 23 down-and-up flip
      > pairs in the last ice age alone.
      >
      > Best wishes,
      > Bill
      >
      > William H. Calvin
      > WCalvin@... <mailto:WCalvin@...>
      > http://faculty.washington.edu/wcalvin
      >
      > OK to post.
      >
      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: Norman K. McPhail [mailto:norm@...]
      > Sent: Thursday, January 31, 2002 4:09 PM
      > To: WCalvin@...
      > Subject: [Fwd: Calvin's new book, throwing, etc..]
      >
      > How about this Bill; did anyone ever mention Ralph's throwing ideas to
      > you as he claims below?
      >
      > Norm McPhail
      >
      > Ralph L Holloway wrote:
      > >
      > > I haven't read Calvin's new book, but I do recall once suggesting that
      > > throwing was important. It was brought to calvin's attention, but I don't
      > > think he ever mentioned it. I think he should have referred to my ideas,
      > > but he did expand them in important ways in his J. Theoretical Biology
      > > article. Judge for yourself.
      > >
      > > Ralph L. Holloway
      > > Dept. Anthropology
      > > Columbia University
      > > NY, NY 10027
      > > 212-854-4570
      > > Fax= 212-854-7347
      > > Web Page www.columbia.edu/~rlh2
      > >
      > > ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      > >
      > > "Not only are hand-eye and left-right hand coordination mechanisms, as
      > > used in making a hand axe for example...but also the ability to compute
      > > trajectories for throwing objects at moving animals (prey and predators)
      > > and for traversing the savannah econiche to find water sources, feeding
      > > areas, home bases, shelters, and spoors. Both humans and apes may...be
      > > capable of...underarm and overhead throwing motions, but only the human
      > > animal is capable of delivering great power, accuracy, and distance with
      > > overhead throwing and thrusting...The archaeological record...shows a
      > > large number of sperhoidal stone objects...that were most likely used as
      > > projectiles. Indeed, throwing objects with considerable force and accuracy
      > > over a significant distance must have been an important component of early
      > > hominid scavaging, hunting, and predator protection from the
      > > beginning...As far as I am aware, only the human brain is capable of
      > > complex computations and coordinations involving accurate and forceful
      > > throwing of objects at both moving and stationary targets. Indeed, is
      > > there any culture existing in which object-throwing is not a considerable
      > > component of both child and adult play, in which symbols, fantasies, and
      > > social control are operative?" pps. 409-410, in RL Holloway, 1975 Early
      > > hominid endocasts: volumes, morphology, and significance for hominid
      > > evolution. In: Tuttle, R (Ed.) Primate Functional Morphology and
      > > Evolution. Mouton, The Hague.
      > >
      > > I said essentially similar things in "Paleoneurological evidence for
      > > Language Origins, NY Acad. Sci.. 280:330-348 in 1976.
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