Human evolution Intelligent Design

Yet another myth about how humans came to walk upright

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Masters of the Planet

It’s a myth in the sense of a tale that sounds plausible to the tellers. The teller, in this case, is Ian Tattersall, curator in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History, and author of Masters of the Planet, in which he tells the story:

Well, according to Tattersall, humans learned to walk upright because it helped them better regulate body temperature. And just maybe being taller helped them intimidate predators. Or, just like Darwin speculated, learning to walk upright may have had a lot of social benefits which led to monogamy. But if you are really looking for some deep scientific myth-making, Tattersall even offers this explanation:

Male bipedality allowed for genital display to keep the females attracted; while at the same time, by hiding their genitalia between the thighs, female bipedality concealed ovulation so that males needed to be continuously attentive to their mates, reinforcing their Fidelity

This, of course, is the stuff of science.

J. R. Miller, “The Science of Myth-Making: How Humans Learned to Walk” at More Than Cake

Sure it is. And here is a selection of other “stuff of science” tales of how humans came to walk upright (bipedality):

Researchers: Supernova prompted humans to walk upright Funny, if bipedalism originated in a global catastrophe, that it never occurred to any other primate to resolve the problem by becoming fully bipedal. But keep thinking. Resist groupthink.

Bipedalism: Regulatory area” target=”another”>missing in humans

Researcher: To Understand Human Bipedalism, Stop Assuming “A Chimpanzee Starting Point”

Rough terrain caused humans to start walking upright

Early bipedalism walked no straight line

Paleontologist: Humans walked on two legs from the beginning Carol Ward: It seems to be a behavior that was present in some of the earliest members of our branch of the family tree. It represented what was really the initial major adaptive change from any apelike creature that came before us.

We’ve also heard that bipedalism developed so we could hit each other. Or carry infants. Or scarce resources. Or save energy. Or cool down. But mainly so we could have our hands free for whatever. (Saving energy and cooling down don’t really count here because lots of other methods would have worked; they just wouldn’t have freed the hands at the same time.)

See also “I’m Walkin’, Yes Indeed I’m Walkin’” But Not Because It’s Necessarily a Better Way to Get Around

Also, Design perspectives and the physiology of walking

2 Replies to “Yet another myth about how humans came to walk upright

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    A theory should work for every instance of the phenomenon it tries to explain. Ohm, Newton and Carnot work for every instance of energy transferred between bodies of different potential.

    A theory of uprightness should work for everything that walks upright. Who walks upright? Birds and humans. Birds and humans also share several other unique qualities like language and music and tool use. A theory should explain why those qualities are constant between humans and birds but variable between humans and other mammals.

  2. 2
    martin_r says:


    i like this part (from Matti Leisola’s book Heretic)

    “Evolution is slow and gradual except when it is fast. It is dynamic and creates huge changes over time, except when it keeps everything the same for millions of years. It explains both extreme complexity and elegant simplicity. It tells us how birds learned to fly and yet also lost that ability. Evolution made cheetahs fast and turtles slow. Some creatures it made big and others small; some gloriously beautiful and others boringly grey. It forced fish to walk and walking animals to return to the sea. It diverges except when it converges; it produces exquisitely fine-tuned designs except when it produces junk. Evolution is random and without direction except when it moves toward a target. Life under evolution is a cruel battlefield except when it displays altruism. Evolution explains virtues and vice, love and hate, religion and atheism. And it does all this with a growing number of ancillary hypotheses. Modern evolutionary theory is the Rube Goldberg of theoretical constructs. And what is the result of all this speculative ingenuity? Like the defunct theory of phlogiston, it explains everything while explaining nothing well” (p. 199).

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