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Laziness Extinction

17 August 2018

From the edge of credulity comes this offering – laziness helped lead to the extinction of Homo erectus (see www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-08/anu-lhl080918.php … or is this a bad press release. Researchers at the Australian National University claim Homo erectus went extinct, in part, out of laziness. This is based on archaeological findings from the Early Stone Age. Basically, the claim is they failed to advance tool techniques – which remained pretty basic. In fact, it is mainly random stones that represent all we know of Homo erectus culture. Anything made of wood, fibres, or any other kind of organic material would not have survived. An argument perhaps from a tiny sample – built into a mountain. Not only that, the idea Homo erectus had a backward culture is derived from the evolutionary concept and is in fact old hat, found in any text book on the subject. Homo erectus is judged as inferior to Neanderthals and the latter inferior to modern humans. It is based on ideology as much as facts and unless a fully preserved Homo erectus village is found it is all pie in the sky – and yes, they did live in communal groups.

So much for the projection. The assertion is made on the basis they found Homo erectus used 'least effects strategies' for tool making and collecting resources (mainly stone to make tools). They were little more than couch potatoes it would seem. Instead of investigating the landscape for the best stone they were content to use whatever stone happened to be hanging around close to where they lived, or camped. The additional claim is that they 'likely' failed to adapt to climate change – or a changing environment. Now that is a projection out of very little evidence. The researchers don't know what caused the climate change – if it was slow or rapid (or catastrophic). If it was the latter they clearly would not have been able to adapt – from the evidence that might survive from a camp site. They don't know if Homo erectus had the presence of mind to flee – or otherwise. Hence the use of the term 'likely' – which is only likely from the perspective of the researchers world view of gradual climate change fueled by CAGW alarmism.

The theory seems quite bizarre at face value as it is based on extremely limited evidence (worked stones). However, it is an idea that has been extent for a long time and the researchers are simply confirming what they were taught at university. It is recommended a reading of the full article for a true perspective on the research. Press releases can often trivialise research.

The dismissal of the worked stone they found caught my eye. Does that really show Homo erectus was any lazier than other groups of humans. Their basic tool kit is inferior to later tool kits and remained unchanged for a very long period of time – a million years have been aired. If so it is remarkable their stone repertoire did not evolve. However, even modern humans used odd pieces of flint, roughly flaked, which were cast away after skinning an animal, cleaning a hide, or cutting out some joints of meat. They often used what was close to the kill site – or made quiclky as a throwaway tool which they did not wish to carry back home. This is of course quite different to the time and energy they expended on ceremonial stone axes – which used stone that could be transported over long distances (in both the Old and the New worlds). Homo erectus do not seem to have matched this obsession but green stone has a link with lightning and meteorites. Did they live in a period of a less active sky? On the other hand all their skill may have been given in to items made of wood and more easily carved. I'm inclined to take the idea they were lazy with a pinch of salt. Innovation comes with adversity – and a shortage of material. Homo erectus clearly made use of all kinds of stone – and they were able to hunt and survive with what they had at hand. Instead of the word lazy it might have been better to say they were 'content' with their lot – as clearly hunting animals with a rudimentary stone repertoire must have been more difficult than with a bow and arrow. Innovations in the modern age are usually about using less energy and time – such as the vacuum cleaner. Transport by horse and carraige was more comfortable and took less time than walking. Are modern humans lazy? No, they are innovative and use technology to their advantage – just as the bow and arrow saved a lot of bother when hunting for a meal. Perhaps this is what they are criticising – the inability of Homo erectus to improve his lot by inventing better ways of hunting animals or preparing their meals. Skills were passed down from generation to generation and it is a human trait to resist change – unless the benefits are obvious. Nowadays change is mixed up with fashion. New fashions are not always better and new materials are not always an improvement (take plastic for example). Homo erectus clearly preserved their culture over a long period of time and were therefore proud of it and saw no reason to improvise. Are factory made chairs better than those made by bodgers?


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