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Re: A critique of the BBC aquatic ape programme and the transcript.

Subject: Re: A critique of the BBC aquatic ape programme and the transcript.
From: "Algis Kuliukas"
Date: 30 Jun 2005 04:40:10 -0700
Newsgroups: sci.anthropology.paleo
JAE wrote:
> Algis Kuliukas wrote:
> > You were trying to excuse the fact no-one had looked at the AAH because
> > it didn't have a robust hypothesis to define it. That. clearly, is just
> > lame. Now, it seems, you've just dumped that argument and have now
> > flipped to the opposite one, but still against the AAH. Another example
> > of your ad hoc reasoning: 'The AAH is wrong (de facto) but I'm just not
> > sure why.'
> I didn't "dump" any argument.  I was trying to figure out what the hell
> you were talking about because you are not making the least amount of
> sense.  You claim that because Hardy mentioned it, someone should have
> studied it.  You then note that other studies were designed and started
> by the people who did the studies.  Why do you expect that AAX gets
> dealt with differently than other ideas?  Why, when you've noted that
> most research isn't inspired by the pronouncements of others, but is a
> product of the inspiration of the scientists doing the research
> themselves, do you you expect that AAX would be an exception to this?

When I argue that it is reasonable that Hardy's request for comments
should have been taken up at least one worker in the field in 45 years,
or at least one of their students, then, your claim is that it was too
nebulous an idea to have been taken seriously. Hardy should have
defined his hypothesis more rigorously. When I point out that many
others have studied ideas which were even more nebulous previous to the
study (even non-existant in the literature) then you cite this as a
argument justifying the silence too. If Lovejoy et al could do the
studies without help, why not the AAH proponents?

But you can't have it both ways. The fact that these studies were done
without a carefully defined hypothesis being published counters your
claim that no-one looked at Hardy's ideas because they weren't rigorous
enough. The opposite argument: that as Lovejoy et al did studies
without any inspiration from elsewhere then so should some AAH
proponents, is a fairer one. But the problem there is: There *were* no
AAH propoents other than Hardy at the time and he was otherwise
engaged. That's the point of his call for help.

> > Hardy was an FRS late in his career. He thought (mistakenly, as it
> > turns out) he had bigger fish to fry. He did the right thing to publish
> > the idea and call on his peers to do some research on it. Nobody did.
> > Apparently, not one teacher of paleoanthropology in the world in 45
> > years thought 'hey, that's interesting, why don't we look at it'. Why?
> Perhaps, as you've noted, because people come up with their own ideas
> and research them.

Sometimes they have ideas which are relatively novel but no idea is a
pure creation out of nowhere. They all are based on earlier work to
some degree. More often, I'd say, people do studies because they were
inspired by someone to do so. My point is that a whole generation of
paleoanthropology students could have been inspired by Hardy's call, if
it had not been so grossly misunderstood and then ridiculed. What a
wasted opportunity for some progress to have been made - but you have
no sense of that, do you?

> > Because the boo boys (people like you, I suspect) with their bigotted
> > seering had already put off anybody who might have done so on the basis
> > of five minutes perusal and knee-jerk reaction to the mention of whales
> > followed by staffroom jokes. That is a shocking indictment on a whole
> > body of science.
> Again with the "shocking indictment."  It's not quite McGinnian, but is
> there a Kuliukan death spiral?  You seem to be headed into one.  The
> charge of bigotry is both weak and offensive.  You got offended when I
> called you a pathetic little prick, but charging bigotry diminishes and
> cheapens real bigotry where it exists.  Using this charge makes you
> look like a real prick.

I think it is shocking. I don't think that language is too strong. A
simple, plausible idea was completely overlooked for two generations
because of a gross misunderstanding followed by ignorant sneering. We
could have made so much more progress if it had happenned differently.

When you, even though you're a professional academic, continually
describe AAH proponents as "wet apes" and describe Hardy's paper as
"horseshit" I think that shows you're bigotted. It hardly shows
tolerance and open mindedness, does it? If your language appeared to be
respectful of others' opinions on this matter your annoyance at the
label might have some justification.

> [snip]
> > It's *not* "wet ape work", it's called the study of human evolution.
> > You know, on this planet, that humans evolved on, there are terrestrial
> > substrates, arboreal ones, subterranean ones and aerial ones. Oh... and
> > one more, aquatic ones. This Blue planet does have a fair bit of water.
> > Why is it that the study of effects of moving through water and the
> > study of human evolution are considered to be at opposite ends of the
> > universe? And those imaginary (but not real, of course, that would be
> > silly) places where they might overlap - why's it called pseudoscience?
> > Why? When was that decided?
> You get hung up, so erroneously, on the notion that there's a rejection
> of the concept of moving through water.  You head down this path
> repeatedly though over and over again many of us have said that this is
> not the case.  It isn't the subject.  It is the methodology you employ
> that you claim addresses the issue.

BZZZT!!! Wrong.

That's the point you keep missing. It's not *my/our* methodology I'm
talking about. I'm asking why didn't any of these *good* scientists
look at this? If, as you keep claiming, it has nothing to do with
water, then what *has* it got to do with? ... since it is *their* (not
my) curiosity, *their* scientific objectivity and *their* open
mindedness I'm questioning.

> THAT is the pseudoscience and so
> long as you continue to employ it, you are continuing to do
> pseudoscience.  It is pseudoscience to take a superficial analogy and
> present it as something other than superficial.  It is pseudoscience to
> declare investigating the analogy off-limits (as you've done) before
> you can determine if it's superficial or not.  It is pseudoscience to
> declare that selection as you've proposed it must have happened because
> of an imaginary "rule" or "law" of biology.  It is pseudoscience to
> make leaps of reasoning that evidence of a flash flood must have meant
> more floods of lesser degree and that being found in aquatic deposits
> means that the fossil progenitors must have both lived at the waterside
> and were regularly getting in the water.  These are your methods.
> These are your errors of reasoning that make what you're presenting
> here pseudoscience.  You will, I suspect, continue to believe that it's
> just that you're mentioning water and everyone's a bigot because that.
> You  are deluding yourself.  The water part isn't even secondary. It's
> the methodological stretches, the errors of inference and the special
> declaration of rules that get you tarred as you have been.

Even if all of that were true (and I strongly disagree about that, of
course) you still miss my point: Why didn't someone who was *not* a
pseudoscientist take an interest in this thing and so some science
which would have met with your approval? Why was the study of moving
through water 'off limits' for *them*? It is my belief that the reason
is they thought it *was* pseudoscience to even look at it.

> > Now my academic achievements pale into insignificance compared to your
> > and Su's but if someone would have called either of you a
> > pseudoscientist before your PhD, would it have hurt any less than it
> > would today? I doubt it.
> Once upon a time, someone informed me that the simplification of "The
> Blind Watchmaker" that I then confused with evolutionary theory was
> insignificant.  I didn't like his style and at the time, I didn't
> really agree with him.  I resisted, called him rude, did everything I
> could in my mind to put off the criticism.  Eventually, I also decided
> to actually learn something, to consider that I didn't really know all
> that much about evolution and I read, I took courses, I studied and
> came to the conclusion that it was more complex and that I had been
> wrong.  His criticism of my limitations had been right on the money.
> The principle difference between the way I dealt with him and the way
> you deal with criticism is that you appear to have no ability to let
> new information alter your thinking.

You didn't answer my question (and tried to turn it into another
lecture): If someone would have called either of you a pseudoscientist
before your PhD, would it have hurt any less than it would today?

> > I'm trying very hard to do some science in an area where very little
> > science has been done. I'm frankly completely amazed that no-one has
> > persued such a simple and obvious line of enquiry before. I'm embarssed
> > to find myself in this situation because I am well aware that I'm under
> > qualified to be doing it. But I'm doing it anyway, because no-one else
> > seems to be interested. I would have thought that alone would deserve
> > some credit and support. Instead, all I seem to get is hostility and a
> > never ending stream of ad hoc, negative, criticisms. Like I say, it's
> > as if you somehow just *know* it's wrong but haven't worked out why
> > yet. That's not what I thought science was all about.
> No, Algis.  What we know is that a bad analogy doesn't get good just
> because you don't look at it.  What we know is that you can't proceed
> from bad theory to good science.

You keep going on about this 'bad analogy' - What bad analogy? Humans
swim better than chimps - the analogy is our ancestors did so too. Oh,
really bad, that!! It's just rubbish all of this pretence of how bad it
is. What was and is bad is the response to Hardy's idea. That was and
is *really* bad. That's why you have to spend so long here spinning
yarns to try to justify it. The alternative is to admit the whole field
committed one of the the biggest goof ups in scientific history.

Algis Kuliukas

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