Friday, May 20, 2011

Dear Scientific reporting: You suck.

No wonder so many people have trouble accepting evolution. The standard of scientific reporting in the media is absolutely appalling.
Take this article for instance from the SMH.

If you were not convinced that evolution was fact, you would read this article and say "What a load of crap!" and still not accept evolution.
And guess what? You'd be absolutely correct.
This idea from Professor David Carrier, from the University of Utah is 100% bullshit. It is brain-numbingly stupid. If there was a statue to "Today's Irredeemably Moronic Idea with Regard to Human Evolution" it would be of David Carrier wearing his own arse as a hat and this article would be rolled up and inserted in the anus.

"Tall men attract the ladies because they remind them of our violent ape-like ancestors, according to a new theory.

A study shows men hit harder when they stand on two legs than when they kneel down, and when directing punches downwards.

This might explain why early humans began walking upright, and also why women prefer tall men, say US researchers."

1) 'violent ape-like ancestors'. What violent ape-like ancestors? No respected human evolutionist or primatologist says anything like this any more. It is an out-moded and completely disproved idea.

2) Do ape-like ancestors punch? Do extant apes punch? No they fucking don't. They hammer down with their hands and arms, they stomp and they bite. All of these are easy to do when your opponent is cowering/writhing on the ground, as what happens when you look at how apes fight and how humans fight.

3) This study shows that *fully trained boxers and martial arts experts* hit harder when they stand on two legs than kneeling. How is that relevant to how (a) untrained humans actually fight? and (b) how untrained apes actually fight?

4) For something to exert a selection pressure stong enough to change how an animal walks it has to be common, constant, generationally repeated. So, how long do you think our non-bipedal ancestors spent punching each other in a downwards direction? Answer: Absolutely fuck all.

"Standing up on their hind legs allowed our ancestors to fight with the strength of their forelimbs, making punching much more dangerous."
5) Who is stronger in the forearms? A chimp or a human? Non-bipedal Chimp. So, becoming bipedal made us LESS strong in the forearms.
6) What is stronger? A human kick or a human punch? How about a child's kick or a child's punch? Kick. So this dickhead should actually be saying "We became bipedal so we could develop better kicking abilities" but he's so fucking stupid that he can't even get the internal logic of his own idiotic theory correct.

""From the perspective of sexual selection theory, women are attracted to powerful males, not because powerful males can beat them up, but because powerful males can protect them and their children from other males," Professor Carrier said."

7) What other males? What males are attacking women and children? Maybe this douchebag thinks that proto-humans set off into the unknown future as a father, a mother and their children. In fact, he HAS to think this for this quote above to make sense. Trouble is, we didn't move around in nuclear family groups but in big tribes/clans of up to 150 individuals. And, I don't care if you are slightly more bipedal than me and can punch me 24% harder. I have another male in my group who will help me fight you. Two dudes beats one dude every time. And fifty dudes will hold their own against a pride of lions. And a big show of strength from fifty dudes will make the group of thirty dudes move to another part of the savannah.


Oh, I wonder why we became bipedal?

David Carrier, you are a pedlar of utter twaddle.
SMH, you are a joke for publishing this piece of shit.


anti ob said...

Dear Blogger comments; you suck too.

I wrote a big long comment linking the the original paper and mocking Carrier and the SMH even more, but Blogger appears to have eaten it. Unless it suddenly turns up later, but its been nearly half an hour...

harry said...

I have taken to writing blogger replies in notebook first. Then copy and pasting. Learned the hard way just like you did just now.

Fyodor said...

I wrote the wittiest, most astute and concise epigram ever to have graced a screen...but the blog ate my homework, thus am I reduced to making do with the following crapola.

The thing I found hilarious about this "research" is that the entire hypothesis relies upon the assumption that unarmed combat is determined by punching. It's a ridiculous assumption for two reasons: first is that the human hand has small fragile bones that are optimised for manipulation, e.g. tools [weapons, anyone?], not hitting things. The bones in the human head, for instance, are stronger than those in the hand. For that reason alone there is very little historical evidence of a successful martial art built around bareknuckle punching. Boxing/pugilism has only evolved where fighters were allowed to protect their hands, which rules out an evolutionary explanation.

The second, and probably more important issue, is that wrestling/grappling forms of combat are historically far more prevalent and successful than those built solely around punching, as the last two decades of mixed martial arts shows. The idea that punching effectiveness due to height has anything to do with evolutionary success is just bollocks.

A better explanation is that height correlates better with general health and social standing.

anti ob said...

Well a "better" explanation would be that the height faeries exude magic pheromones that float downward and are diluted into a homeopathic love potion in the tear ducts of shorter women.

At least that wouldn't be pretending to be science.

(I also like the various assumptions that: 1) you always punch your opponent in the head, 2) you always aim a downward blow at someone shorter than you, and an upward blow at someone taller, and 3) the fact that he's collected some data about punch force in any way proves a correlation between punch force and... anything.)

Fyodor said...

Yah. The whole thing stinks of a biased preconception desperately seeking a supporting theory.

WV: "bingfu" - getting that last dollar off the washing machine at Bing Lee.

harry said...

Well, quite. Also, looking at the fossil record you see a trend for homonids to get taller from, say, four feet to over six feet. Also, robust forms give way to gracile forms. There is no skeletal trend to suggest any sort of hand-to-hand combat selection pressure. So, why he should suddenly think that punching was important is a mystery - even before you start thinking about how stupid an idea it is, the complete lack of evidence to start with makes the theory even more baffling.

Tallness = good nutrition = better disease fighting when young = better chance of producing viable offspring etc is easy to find evidence for.
Even as late as the 1940s you can read accounts of British troops from industrial cities meeting Antipodean troops and marvelling at how tall and fit they are. These men are extremely closely related - perhaps even only by one generation or so - and the effect of good nutrition is evident. And this was before the science of nutrition really got started, so this is much more applicable evidence than using highly trained boxers to provide data.

Interestingly the UFC underwent a rapid selection process that now sees almost all fighters using a combination of Brazilian Jujitsu and Muy Thai. Now how much of that, do you reckon, is downward directed punches? Almost none. And how much is non-punch fighting ie grappling, wrestling and kicking? Most of it.
If you want an analogue to hominid fighting then UFC is closer than highly formalised boxing: and you can see it in chimp fighting which looks much more like UFC than it does boxing.

Fyodor said...

*nods, nods, gets distracted by busty barmaid*

Ampersand Duck said...

And what is this thing about kneeling? Who the fuck fights when kneeling? Do animals kneel? Many of them don't even have knees, just weird ankley joint thingies (using my large brain capacity for vocabulary again)...

Fyodor said...

"Who the fuck fights when kneeling?"

Cue: discussion of SCA playfighting rules.

*runs away*
*runs back*

The "knee" of most quadrupeds is called a "stifle".

Cue: discussion of Stifler's Mom [fully sic] kneeling.

*runs away again*

Ampersand Duck said...


Wow, I love the concept of a 'stifle'.

[runs away before any discussion begins]

Fresh Garden said...

True, very true.