Professor of Public Engagement, Birmingham
image Forest Avon Trust
The Incredible Human Journey (2009-2010) is an excellent BBC science documentary; it is today available as a DVD.
Usually you wait to hear a pleasant voice and to see interesting footage but in this case it is a pleasure also to watch the narrator. The captivating way now Professor Alice Roberts shares her own enthusiasm on the subject and the elegance of her presence greatly help in making the difficult scientific subjects understandable to the viewer.
For example, she is walking and running in a treadmill in a laboratory as gracefully as in the midday heat of African savanna to explain the significance of the skeletal structure and the Turkana boy.
Evolution of human hand - total nonsense!
I think that future History of Science will consider the 20th century evolutionism as something comparable to ether of the 19th century.
Ether was a widely accepted theory, an attempt to explain something that evolving science did not really understand. It was a kind of "Dark energy" of modern Cosmology with the exception that scientists did not acknowledge its darkness, our lack of knowledge.
Roberts explains in the excellent science documentary how human hand evolved as the result of using tools. She underlines the significance of the contribution of revolutionary human innovation - tool making - in the evolution of the anatomy of hand. Support for this view she brings from Washington University scholars doing experimental work on the physiology of human hand.
It was quite incredible to watch this and other similar explanations of "evolutionary ether", view of evolution in action that totally lacks scientific backing. Her narration of current views reminded me of the early 20th century controversy of the inheritance of acquired traits.
In 1928, Trofim Lysenko, a previously unknown agronomist, claimed to have developed an agricultural technique, termed vernalization, which tripled or quadrupled crop yield by exposing wheat seed to high humidity and low temperature. While cold and moisture exposure are a normal part of the life cycle of fall-seeded winter cereals, the vernalization technique claimed to increase yields by increasing the intensity of exposure, in some cases planting soaked seeds directly into the snow cover of frozen fields. In reality, the technique was neither new (it had been known since 1854, and was extensively studied during the previous twenty years), nor did it produce the yields he promised, although some increase in production did occur.As Alice Roberts rightly says in the Incredible Human Journey, sweating gives advantage to running humans over lions that can only pant and must rest during the day. She correctly underlines the magnificence of human hand, the counter grip of thumb and the other four fingers, the flexibility of fingers in comparison to apes and so on.
But to claim that sweating evolved as a result of humans running?
But to claim that the exceptional fine mechanics of human hand is a result of using flint knives?
Incredible claims of evolutionism in action presented in a concise, clear and interesting manner!
Update December 17, 2013
Evolution of human hand - the Kaitio bone
|Styloid bone - Acheulian burial site Kaitio, Western Turkana, Kenya|
Image BBC News Health
BBC News Health
The discovery of an ancient bone at a burial site in Kenya puts the origin of human hand dexterity more than half a million years earlier than previously thought.Read the entire article BBC News Health
In all ways, the bone - a well-preserved metacarpal that connects to the index finger - resembles that of modern man, PNAS journal reports.
It is the earliest fossilised evidence of when humans developed a strong enough grip to start using tools.
Apes lack the same anatomical features.