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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V


Part III: Convergence and the Origin of Man

Chapter 3

The Implication of Convergence on Human Origin

     IT IS well known that the human skull is plastic enough that it may, in the adult stage, be modified towards a more ape-like form if the eating habits of the ape are simulated in one way or another by man. The question bears examination because many of the skulls of early man have undoubtedly been deformed in the direction of the ape skull for what Portmann (59) would have termed "historical" (as opposed to genetic) reasons. Such deformation can occur within a single lifetime. It is, of course, not inherited by the offspring, but if the conditions of life persist over several generations, chances are that a few skulls will be preserved as fossils whose configuration might give the impression that their owners were not far removed by descent from an ape-like sub-human ancestor, whereas, in point of fact, no such relationship need be postulated.
Wilson D. Wallis observed years ago: (60)

     The evidence of prehistoric human remains does not in itself justify the inference of a common ancestry with the apes. We base this conclusion on the fact . . . that practically all the changes in man's structure traceable through prehistoric remains are the result of changes in food and habit.
     The most notable changes are found in the skull. Briefly the story of changes is to: a higher frontal region, increased bregmatic height, smaller superciliary ridges, increased head width, less facial projection, decreased height of orbits and a shifting of the transverse diameter downward laterally, a more ovoid palate, smaller teeth, diminished relative size of the third molar, shorter, wider and more ovoid mandible, decrease in size of condyles, decrease in distance between condylar and coronoid processes, and in general greater smoothness, less prominent bony protuberances, less of the

59. Portmann, A., "Das Ursprungsproblem," Eranos-Jahrbuch, 1947, p.19: "One and the same piece of evidence will assume totally different aspects according to the angle -- palaeontological or historical -- from which we view it. We shall see it either as a link in one of the many evolutionary series that the paleontologist seeks to establish, or as something connected with remote historical action. . . . Let me state clearly that for my part, I have not the slightest doubt that the remains of early man known to us should be judged historically."
60. Wallis, Wilson D., "The Structure of Prehistoric Man" in The Making of Man, edited by V. F. Calverton, Modern Library, Random House, New York, 1931, pp.69ff.

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angularity and "savageness" of appearance which characterizes the apes. This is evolution in type, but the evolution is result rather than cause, . . .
     Practically all of these features of the skull are intimately linked together so that scarcely can one change without the change being reflected in the others, some features, of course, reflecting the change more immediately and more markedly than do others. If we suppose that man's diet and his manner of preparing food have changed, we have an index to most of the skull changes, provided that the dietary change has been from uncooked or poorly cooked to better cooked food, and from more stringent to less stringent diet. Development of stronger muscles concerned with chewing will bring about the type of changes which we find as we push human history further back into the remote past.
     Change is most marked in the region in which chewing muscles function. With tough food and large chewing muscles is associated a large mandible with broad ramus, large condyles, heavy bony tissue. . . . Larger teeth demand more alveolar space and there results a more prognathous and more angular mandible. The more forward projection of the teeth in both upper and lower alveolar regions is in accordance with the characteristics of animals which use the teeth for the mastication of tough food, and no doubt is a function of vigorous mastication.
     The adjacent walls of the skull are flattened and forced inward as well as downward, producing the elongation of the skull. The temporal muscles reach far up on the skull, giving rise to a high temporal ridge: they extend forward as well as backward, giving a more prominent occipital region, and a more constricted forward region, resulting on the forehead region of the skull in the elevation of the superciliary ridges and intervening glabellar region. Projecting brow ridges are associated with stout temporal and masseter muscles and large canines.
     The facial region is constricted laterally and responds in a greater forward projection, one result being that the transverse diameter of the orbits is thrust upward outwardly, giving the horizontal transverse diameter which characterizes the apes and which is approximated in pre-historic men and in some contemporary dolichocephalic (long headed) people. In young anthropoid apes, when chewing muscles are little developed and there is little constriction in the lateral region posterior and inferior to the orbits, the transverse diameter of orbits is oblique as in man, being elevated to the horizontal, when temporal muscles develop and function more vigorously, thrusting in and upward the outer margin of the orbits. Constriction of outer margins of orbits produces the high orbits which we find in apes, and to a less marked degree in prehistoric human remains.

     One issue of the Ciba Symposia was devoted to a study of Eskimo life. The subject is particularly apropos in the present context because these extraordinary people are often considered rather precise "models" of paleolithic man. Writing in this issue, Erwin Ackerknecht pointed out: (61)

     The cheekbones and jaws of the Eskimo are very massive, possibly under the influence of the intense chewing he has to practice, which also results in a

61. Ackerknecht, Erwin, Ciba Symposia, vol.10, no.1, 1948, p.912.

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tremendous development of the chewing muscles. Eskimo teeth are often worn down to the gums, like animal teeth, from excessive use.

     Fig. 7 shows a characteristic Eskimo male face, with the skull form outlined to show that the greatest width is at the jowls and not in the temple region. The head of Gainsborough's Blue Boy in Fig. 8 however, shows how a refined diet tends to produce a head form of another kind with the greatest width in the temporal region. It has been also pointed out that the Eskimo skull occasionally shows a "keel" along the top, which results directly from the need for a stronger attachment or anchorage for the jaw muscles, which are used much more extensively. This will be noted in Fig. 7, and should be compared with the keel indicated in the skulls of three supposedly human fossils in Fig. 9. It is very clearly marked in the case of the gorilla skull in this illustration.
William Howells pointed out: (62)

     Gorillas have a heavy and very powerful lower jaw, and the muscles which shut it (which in man make a thin layer on and above the temple, where you can feel them when you chew) are so large that they lie thick on the top of the head, about two inches deep, practically obscuring the heavy brow ridge over the eyes which is so prominent on the skull, and giving rise to a bony crest in the middle merely to separate and afford attachment to the muscles of the two sides.

     In the Eskimo skull and in the gorilla skull, there is therefore sometimes a certain parallelism, which is in no way any indication of genetic relationship. The explanation of the Eskimo keel is a historical (i.e., cultural) one. Again, we quote Howells on this subject: (63)

     The powerful jaw of these animals in chewing, gives rise to a terrific pressure upwards against the face, and the brow ridges make a strong upper border which absorbs it.

     If man is subjected to uncooked food, and forced in the absence of knives to tear it from the bone, the developing muscles will find a way of strengthening their anchorage along these bony ridges. Moreover, if there is not in the diet that which will harden the bone in the earlier years of life when such strains are first encountered, it is inevitable that the skull will be depressed while still in a comparatively plastic state, and the forepart of the brain case will be low and sloping so that it lacks the high vault we tend to associate with cultured man. Thus the massive brow ridges of Sinanthropus, so similar to those of Pithecanthropus, are, as Ales Hrdlicka pointed

62. Howells, William, Mankind So Far, Doubleday, New York, 1945, p.68.
63. Ibid., p.131.

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Fig. 7. Contrast the form of this Eskimo head with the head of "Blue Boy" in Fig. 8. This drawing is based on a photo reproduced on the cover of Ciba Symposia (vol.10, No.1) and is quite exact in its proportions: (A) a simplified outline; (B) an ancient Eskimo skull, showing the keel (slightly exaggerated) on the top and the front of the head.

Fig. 8. This head is based on Gainsborough's painting, "Blue Boy," and is drawn to exact scale. It shows clearly the influence of what may be termed a cultured diet. The wide part of the head is at the temples. (A) Cranial outline for comparison with Eskimo head in Fig. 7. (B) Modern European skull.

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out some years ago, "a feature to be correlated with a powerful jaw mechanism." (64)
Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that early man was subsequently forced to eat tough food, after an initial family had multiplied and wandered apart; and that this food lacked that which would harden the skull in its formative period of development. Then the strengthening of the chewing and cervical muscles would go hand in hand with building a substructure of bone to provide the necessary anchorage in the form of crests as well as ridges in the front, at the rear, and on the top of the skull. But the skull itself would remain pliable enough that it would undergo considerable distortion. The "keel" which is so noticeable in the case of the gorilla, would naturally tend to appear in this early man, because the muscles would pull the sides of the skull in, under the increased tension (see Fig.10). When the jaw was used for cracking bones, etc., the chief point of stress would regularly occur at the chin, since the clamping action between the teeth would normally be one-sided. This again led to a certain degree of compensatory thickening. But unlike the apes, man is a talking creature and makes much more use of his tongue. There is reason to believe that the reinforcement of man's chin takes the form of a bony ridge outwards rather than inwards, on this account, and this gives the prominence which is characteristic of the human jaw. The apes and other anthropoids on the other hand have the reinforcement in the form of a ledge which reaches inward instead. This is known as the simian shelf. In some fossils of early man there is some evidence of a simian shelf, and presumably this is a reinforcement in addition to that which is normal for man's chin, by way of compensation for the added load placed upon the structure at this point. Tugging at flesh in the absence of satisfactory "cutlery," or maybe just bad table manners, possibly contributed to the alveolar prognathism which is found in these early remains. The increasing muscle development which rose up under the zygomatic arch naturally forced the latter outwards and it developed a stronger form.
It is quite likely therefore that the functioning of the jaw mechanism determines whether the skull will be depressed or not. The fossil human forms then show clearly that the entire series has been affected to a large degree by the same depressive and compressive forces. Thus if early man were to have been utterly deprived of culture it seems quite certain his fossil remains would have revealed

64. Hrdlicka, Ales, Skeletal Remains of Early Man, Smithsonian Institute, Miscellaneous Collection 83, 1930, p.367.

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Fig. 9. (A) Gorilla, showing marked keel and wide zygomatic arch. (B) Modern Man with high vault and widest dimension at the temples. (C) Pithecanthropus. (D) Rhodesian Man. (E) Sinanthropus.

Fig. 10. Skulls of a female gorilla (left), a Pithecanthropus (center), and a modern Papuan native (right), viewed from above. The marked formation of the supraorbital ridge and the postorbital narrowness are evident. Such marked differences can almost certainly be attributed to the development of powerful muscles for chewing and biting.

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an extreme primitiveness, which might easily be misinterpreted as evidence of a recent emergence from some anthropoid stock. Yet in point of fact, it could happen that individuals might become degenerate at any period in history and leave behind them a cemetery of the most deceptive fossil remains.
Humphrey Johnson remarked in this connection: (65)

     It seems likely that in very early times the human form possessed a high degree of plasticity which it has since lost, and that from time to time such exaggerations of certain racial characters, probably brought about by an unfavourable environment, have occurred. In the Pekin-Java branch of the human family, the exaggeration of the ape-like traits has occurred to a very high degree: it later took place, so it would seem, though not quite so pronouncedly in Neanderthal Man, and has occurred again though to a far lesser extent in the aborigines of Australia.
     Some of the low features of the Australians may, as Prof. Haddon thinks, be due to racial senility, and thus the resemblance to Neanderthal Man may be regarded as secondary or convergent. By a wider application of this principle we may consider that "convergence" has played a part in bringing about the resemblance of paleoanthropic men to the anthropoid apes.

     If this interpretation of the evidence is correct, it follows that a return to the conditions of diet and life which characterized prehistoric man would be followed by a tendency to move also towards his physical type. Such a resemblance to the ape as is borne sometimes by fossil man would in no way relate to phylogenetic descent. In a given group, the adult male would be more likely to resemble the ape than the infant does (and probably more than the female does, too), yet it could not be argued on this account that the adult was more nearly related to the simian ancestor than the infant or the female. Franz Boas pointed this out many years ago: (66)

     If we bring two organically different individuals into the same environment they may, therefore, become alike in their functional responses, and we may gain the impression of a functional likeness of distinct anatomical forms that is due to environment, not to heredity.

     I have said previously that we do not have unequivocal evidence that ape-like forms actually evolved into more man-like forms, but we do have evidence of man becoming physically more ape-like in cranial bone structure. Indeed, LeGros Clark admitted that this very point has been urged quite seriously and with some force: (67)

65. Johnson, Humphrey, The Bible and the Early History of Mankind, London, 1947, p 89.
66. Boas, Franz: quoted by Ralph Linton, The Study of Man, Appleton-Century, New York, 1936, p.26.
67. Clark, Sir Wilfrid LeGrow: quoted by Rendle Short, in The Transactions of the Royal Victoria Institute, vol.66, 1935, p.255.

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Prof. Wood Jones has pointed out that there are some anatomical features which make it easier to believe that the apes are descended from man rather than man from an extinct ape.

     He believed that evolution never retraces its steps however. Thus, he argued that such a retrogressive step would never occur. Perhaps, but in structural form and therefore to an uncritical eye, man may ''regress" part of the way, though the verb "degenerate" would be much more appropriate. Man has done this, even in comparatively recent times, as Robert Chambers pointed out when recounting the eventual fate of certain poor Irish peasants around 1600 who were dispossessed of their homes under particularly harsh circumstances: (68)

     The style of living is ascertained to have a powerful effect in modifying the human figure in the course of generations, and this even in its osseous structure. About 200 years ago, a number of people were driven by a barbarous policy from the counties of Antrim and Down in Ireland, towards the sea-coast: there they have ever since been settled, but in unusually miserable circumstances.
     And the consequence is that they now exhibit peculiar features of the most repulsive kind, projecting jaws with large open mouths, depressed noses, high cheek bones, and bow legs, together with an extremely diminutive stature. These, with an abnormal slenderness of limbs, are the marks of a low and barbarous condition all over the world.

      This is not a case of a single individual, for we have here a whole group of people whose "primitive" appearance resulted entirely from historical circumstance. Undoubtedly they were as far removed from the apes, by descent, as you and I, and were potentially as educable and as intelligent as their contemporaries. If we add cases of isolated individuals who have become "cast out" or lost to society and yet have survived somehow to old age, we have the ingredients of "fossil man." Since in the nature of the case, early man began in one spot, presumably he must have spread under some pressure as population multiplied. At the center, where a larger number of people would encourage the development of higher civilization, fragments would continually be breaking away like pioneers seeking more room and greater freedom. The first small migrant groups would tend to retreat further and further from the centre to the periphery as the pressures behind increased, and as they did so they would abandon the well-tried and more familiar accouterments of civilization with which they began and would culturally regress, just as pioneers almost always do at first. The higher their initial estate,

68. Chambers, Robert, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, Churchill, London, 1844.

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the lower would be their last. In time, the struggle would diminish their resources even further, wherever the band was too small or the environment too harsh. A few sole survivors might well perish in frightful isolation along the leading edge of the spreading waves, as old age rendered their continuance impossible. These, at the periphery, may be our "fossil men," descendants of civilized human beings, not their ancestors.
Arthur Koestler rightly observed, (69) indeed, that longevity might well degrade such individuals even more markedly, till, they were quite ape-like!
Disease can also play a part. As we know, the first Neanderthal representative was reconstructed as a club-carrying brute creature with ape-like stoop and a slouching gait. It is known now that this first specimen was actually a diseased individual. (70) Subsequent finds of Neanderthalers are known to have been quite erect in posture. (71) And there are those who believe Mr. Neanderthal could pass down the street quite unnoticed if he were only correctly dressed, with a suitable haircut (see Fig.11).
Of the effects of disease, Jesse Williams in his Textbook of Anatomy and Physiology said: (72)

     Degenerate types show characteristic markings that are known as stigmata of degeneration. Common stigmata are: (1) receding forehead, indicating incomplete development of frontal lobes of the brain; (2) prognathism, a prominence of the maxillae; (3) the Canine ear; (4) prominent superciliary ridges; (5) nipples placed too high; and (6) supernumerary nipples.

     Glandular disturbances can likewise have profound effects on the anatomy. Keith (73) attributed a tendency to strong brow ridges to

69. Koestler, Arthur, The Ghost in the Machine, Hutchinson, London, 1967, p.167: "Prolongation of the absolute lifespan of man might provide an opportunity for features of the adult primate to reappear in human oldsters: Methuselah would turn into a hairy ape."
70. The first Neanderthal specimen was evidently suffering from chronic osteoarthritis, an ailment which forced him to adopt a stooped posture. See C. S. Coon, The Story of Man, Knopf, New York, 1962, p.40. Coon said his "bones were rotten with arthritis." See also the report by A. J. E. Cave at the 15th lnternational Congress on Zoology, London, noted in Discovery, November, 1958, p.469.
71. On Neanderthals' normal erectness, Alberto Carl Blanc and Sergio Sergi, in Science (vol.90, supplement, 1939, p.13). These authors reported the finding of two further skulls, with the base of one skull "well preserved, enabling Prof. Sergi to establish for the first time that Neanderthal man walked erect and not with the ape-like posture with head thrust forward as previously believed. The horizontal plane of the opening in the skull shows that the bones of the neck were fitted perpendicular into the opening, showing the posture to be erect as in the present day man."
72. Williams, Jesse, Textbook on Anatomy and Physiology, 5th edition, Saunders, Philadelphia, 1935, p.49, footnote.
73. Keith, Sir Arthur: quoted by Sir John A. Thompson in The Outline of Science, vol. 4, Putnam, New York, 1922, p.1097.

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Fig. 11. This Neanderthal skull (A) from La Chapelle-aux-Saints was in due course reconstructed (B) for the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, to show how our primitive ancestor looked. It was reconstructed (C) by J. H. McGregor to show how "modern" he really might have been in appearance.

a hyperactive pituitary; whereas underdevelopment of the pituitary may account for a certain flatness of face observed in many European nationals. (74)
Cultural behaviour may effect marked changes in the structure of the skull and jaw. Tearing flesh from the bone in the absence of knives tends not.only to strengthen the masseter muscles and enlarge the zygomatic arch somewhat as a direct consequence, but also to give a forward lean to the front teeth, both of which features lend a more ape-like cast to the face. Indeed, we really have little precise information on the extent to which bone structure may be modified in the absence of a bone hardening diet during infancy.
There is much room for a fresh look at the whole question of the

74. Keith, Sir Arthur, "Evolution of Human Races in the Light of Hormone Theory," Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1922.

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interaction between form and function. Some of the time being spent rather fruitlessly in an obsession with the establishment of lines of evolutionary descent could perhaps be turned to better account in a new direction. In the interest of truth, it is time that a fresh look was taken at the whole question of the influence of environmental facts (climatic, dietetic, barometric, and culture) upon the structure of living organisms, especially man.
Most assuredly we live in an age when human wickedness finds many ways to express itself more destructively than ever before: We are probably not more wicked than in other ages, but our civilization has armed us in ways that greatly enlarge our power to do damage. It seems to me that evolutionary philosophy has encouraged violence by its very emphasis on the idea of survival at all costs as the supreme good, thus giving violent action a rationale which justifies it. This model for human behaviour is drawn from an erroneous view of animal behaviour and a false interpretation of the supposed pattern which is believed to have led to the upward evolution of all life.
Must we not be held responsible, those who know the facts, for failing to apply to this hypothesis the kind of checks which we apply readily enough to other hypotheses that can be much more securely established from the supporting evidence than evolutionary theory has ever been?
As we see man's origin, so we see his destiny. Evolutionary theory is not only bad science, as I see it, but an even worse philosophy.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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