Essays and Theories
Sex -- The Fountainhead of
William A. Spriggs
In the July 23rd, 2001 issue of Time magazine, evolution was once again treated to a cover story: Cover Title: How Apes Became Human; article title: One Giant Step for Mankind by Micheal D. Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman, p. 54. In the article, it describes the latest and oldest fossil discovery of our ancestral past found by University of California, Berkeley graduate student Yohannes Haile-Selassie (no relation to the Emperor), which he has labeled Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba (The name comes from the local Afar language. Ardi means ground or floor; ramid means root; and kadabba means basal family ancestor). Dating techniques have placed the fossil remains at 5.2 to 5.8 years ago; very, very close to the suspected date that many scientists view when the split between human and apes occurred. The remains are of a chimp-sized creature that was found in the famous Ethiopian Rift Valley which flows south into Kenya and Tanzania where many fossil remains of our earliest ancestors have been found. What convinces the scientists of the human-like separation from the chimpanzee is the inch-long toe bone found. The structure of the toe clearly determines the gait that the early humanoid was upright on two feet.
But the interesting part of the article goes into the debate about exactly how and why our ancestors became upright walkers as opposed to the four-legged, knuckled amble of the chimpanzee. Convention wisdom up to now has held that our ancestors evolved in a grassland-like savanna and that they began to stand upright to peer over the tall grass to search for possible prey or predator. Along this line, standing would give protection against the searing noon-day sun as an upright body absorbs less heat from the sun. It appears that this theory has fallen from grace very quickly. A companion paper in Nature argues that fossilized flora and fauna, as well as the chemical makeup of the ancient soil, that Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba lived in a well-forested environment. Since the previous bi-pedal theory has been pushed aside, and walking bipedal would be slower than walking on all fours for a chimpanzee, what evolutionary force was so strong as to override the chimpanzee’s evolutionary development of quadpeddaling? Well, Anthropologist Henry McHenry, of the University of California, Davis theory says that climate change was part of the force as lush forests clumps disappeared with savanna grassland replacing them, learning to walk upright helped them to walk long distances with more food. The second theory being pondered is from Meave Leakey, head of paleontology at the National Museums of Kenya who argues that moving into grasslands it would help in eating fruits and berries to be able to reach as high as one could.
And, as they say about sections in a dull book that suddenly "gets to the good part," an interesting point was brought out by anthropologist C. Owen Lovejoy of Ohio’s Kent State University, the answer was sex. Walking upright allowed males to carry home more goodies from the hunt or harvest than our four-legged ambling ancestors. Those who came home with more "goodies" were most likely treated to more sex by females who became convinced that this was the best why to ensure nourishment for themselves and their children. Hence the theory goes, the nuclear family evolved, and civilization was born. Although since will and desire leave no physical evidence behind as a fossil, we have to test this theory by posing this question to all young males on the planet between 18 – 34 on the planet. Have you ever done anything out of the "abnormal" (like standing on two feet), to get sex? I am sure that every male scientist already knows the answer to that one.
But the creation of the "nuclear family" also leaves the male brain with a problem. Where do you put all that desire for sex to use when all the females are occupied? For too many of the wrong reasons, the sex drive has been blamed for the destructiveness of war by nations (Freud), rape as a reproductive mechanism, (Thornhill), domestic violence, and sexual harassment.
If you are interested, I attempt to find solutions to some of these problems by suggesting a sex trade profession (controlled and run only by females), based on an evolutionary argument. Read the last three chapters of my book, Man in the Mist, by clicking on the link.
Copyright, Evolution's Voyage, 1995 - 2011