Walking and Thinking

I’ve been thinking a lot about human origins as we walk this trail. On the plane I read The Scars of Evolution: What Our Bodies Tell Us About Human Origins by Elaine Morgan, a book exploring the hypothesis that humans evolved from primates that became adapted to life mostly in the water when an isolated population was cut off from the rest of the African continent by an inland sea. The idea is that they then stayed bi-pedal after the climate changed and the sea that had surrounded them dried up. The book explores a lot of curiosities of human anatomy which stand us apart from our closest primate relatives, our hairless bodies, the fat layer under our skin and other anomalies which a period of water adaptation would explain, not to mention that the only time chimpanzees and gorillas consistently walk on two feet (which they are capable of doing any time) is when they are crossing bodies of water.

Still, the question for me is, if our early ancestors did spend a period of time adapting to a watery existence, why did we stay bi-pedal when the water dried up. What advantage did bipedalism give us on land? Whether or not we evolved from “sea-apes,” I have not really heard a satisfying theory concerning why standing erect and walking on two legs would give us an evolutionary advantage, especially before our brains developed to the point of using tools and language.

One of the most “primitive” methods of hunting is to run down an antelope or other ungulate. Humans are good long distance runners and ungulates are not. They are awesome sprinters and leapers but their bodies overheat when forced to run long distances. In an open grassland or desert setting where tracks can be followed while running, many aboriginal people use running as an effective method of hunting. But still the transition is a weak link. We didn’t just stand up and run well, nor did we emerge from the water as skillful tracker/runners . . . .

The sea monkey hypothesis explains more about us than the stand up and run theory but neither really completes the picture. In addition here is still a gap in the bone record between our ape ancestors and our early erect primate ancestors. It is clear from the archeological record that our erect posture preceded our brain development. So walking is older than thinking, in a manner of speaking. But there is likely a very strong connection between a walking existence and a thinking existence. This is interesting to think about while walking so much. Though I think Linden and Daisy my tire of my ponderings.

We also got to visit a cave art museum and replica cave at the site of the Altamira Cave.

This area in Northern Spain has many caves with cave art and a lot of artifacts from early human inhabitants. So that has kind of put the questions about our origins in my head as well. Anyone know of any resources that shed light on this question?

Questions about our origins are fascinating to me, I think because I believe that our history as a species is etched inside our genes, our form, our patterns of social behavior, our perceptive capacities. I believe that somehow solving the riddle of the present state of human affairs can be helped by understanding the forces that shaped our origins. How we responded to those ancient forces and evolved the capacities with which we are now struggling as a species can perhaps shed important light upon the paradoxes of ingenuity. How can such advanced intellect lead to
catastrophic short-sightedness?

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