Evolutionary Anthropologists Finding Answers

on January 23, 2010

BBC News: “Feet Hold the Key to Human Hand EvolutionTwo perennial questions for evolutionary anthropologists are how humans began walking upright and how humans began to make and use stone tools. For one team of scientists, the answers are intertwined.

The team, led by University of Calgary anatomist Campbell Rolian, measured the hands and feet of both chimpanzees and humans, then mathematically modeled how the hands and feet of our supposed chimp-like ancestors would have evolved into what we have today. The result, which was published in the journal Evolution, is that changes in the shape of the foot would have led to changes in hand shape—allegedly allowing greater dexterity for tool manufacture.

Changes in the shape of the foot would have led to changes in hand shape.

“One reason fingers and toes may be so strongly correlated is that they share a similar genetic and developmental ‘blueprint,’ and small changes to this blueprint can affect the hand and foot in parallel,” Rolian said. “What we showed was that the changes in the hand and foot are similar developments . . . and changes in one would have side-effects manifesting in the other.”

Other anatomists, such as Liverpool University’s Robin Crompton, have questioned the work. “I am not personally convinced that the foot and hand of chimpanzees are a good model [of human ancestors’ hands and feet].” Crompton also told the BBC that more than proportion matters in the biomechanics of the foot.

Rolian’s idea is thought-provoking, but it fails to answer the sort of questions and criticisms creationists raise of evolutionary ideas. For instance, even if a human hand could evolve from a chimp-like hand in stepwise fashion, evolutionists cannot account for the added intelligence required for the tool-making and artistic behavior “early” humans showed. Moreover, mathematically modeling the evolution of a chimp-like hand (or foot) into a human hand (or foot) no more proves such a transmutation happened than mathematically modeling the opposite (a human hand into a chimp-like hand), which, of course, evolutionists would reject as staunchly as creationists.

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