Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Human Apes and Chicken Teeth

It's not every day you see a news headline like "Human quadrupeds discovered in Turkey." It turns out that five siblings out of nineteen in one family (nineteen!) in Turkey walk on all fours. If that's not odd enough, the discovery of these people has led to a debate in the scientific community over whether the behaviour is a product of "backwards evolution" or "a combination of unusual factors - genetic, physiological, psychological and social." It seems they also have an unusual form of mental and physical retardation and have been raised in an isolated and poor setting, which means it's hard to tell how much of what they do is purely instinctual vs. not ever being thoroughly taught how not to do it. What's more, some scientists are excited, because observing them might help resolve the debate whether early human ancestors walked using their knuckles, like modern apes, or their wrists, like these siblings do.

Now, I'm no scientist, but although I find the concept of reverse evolution interesting and a little unsettling (who knew researchers were going around making chicken with teeth?), I can't see how this one familial group can definitively prove anything, even if they do all have a defect in one particular genome. I mean, it might lead to something, but is it definitive proof of either unmanipulated reverse evolution or how bipedal walking evolved, especially when you consider all the other contributing factors in their case?

Most of all, I really that out of all of the people that are studying this family, making a documentary and debating them, somebody is helping to improve their living conditions. I mean, the discovery of their behaviour might be freaky, but that doesn't mean they should be treated like modern-day freaks. Even if we may be going through some reversals, it is theorized that we're still evolving. Let's hope we're at least that evolved.


Helen said...

I'm gonna refrain from making New Jersey jokes in response to this post. How's that for evolved?

Da Nator said...

Watch it, sister. I'll have you know I haven't walked on my knuckles for at least a couple years.