Family May Provide Evolution Clue

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"Family May Provide Evolution Clue" is the headline of an article on BBC News, 7 Mar 2006, about a family in a remote part of Turkey where four sisters and one brother walk on all fours. One sister can walk on two feet sometimes, and another brother walks on two feet with difficulty. Medical tests indicate all were born with a brain disease called cerebellar ataxia, which affects the part of the brain that controls balance and co-ordination. The affected children use their hands to help them move around, putting the weight on their wrists and lifting their fingers off the ground. Prof Nicholas Humphrey of the London School of Economics (LSE) claims: "I think it's possible that what we are seeing in this family is something that does correspond to a time when we didn't walk like chimpanzees but was an important step between coming down from the trees and becoming fully bipedal." However, Humphreys notes that this palm down method of quadripedalism is not the way apes walk. Chimps and gorillas are knuckle walkers, i.e. they support their weight on the backs of curled up fingers. This means ape fingers are built for strength rather than dexterity. By keeping their fingers off the ground the Turkish children are still able to use them for skilled work like crochet and embroidery, as for other humans. Humphreys suggests that this was how our direct ancestors walked as it would have enabled the fingers to be used for manipulating tools, and the brain disease suffered by the Turkish children caused them to revert to an ancestral form of walking. He went on to say, "Because of the peculiar circumstances they were in, they kept walking as infants." A team of researchers at the Max Planck institute in Germany believes the family are suffering from a defect of a gene on chromosome 17 that was important in the evolution of two-legged walking.

Editorial Comment: This story is a bizarre mixture of medical facts and evolutionary imagination. The closest Humphreys gets to the truth is the claim that the affected children kept walking as infants. However, that has nothing to do with evolution. Human children crawl on all fours before they stand and walk because they must wait until their brains mature and they develop strength in their legs and trunk. Because of a genetic defect the Turkish children’s brains did not develop properly, so they continue to use their arms to compensate for their lack of balance and co-ordination in their legs. The idea that progression from crawling to walking represents an evolutionary transition is a belief in recapitulation, i.e. that human development from conception to adult is a repetition of evolution from amoeba to man. This is a totally discredited idea based on fraudulent claims made by the nineteenth century evolutionist Ernst Haeckel. Cerebellar ataxia is a rare genetic defect, but it is likely that in the remote part of Turkey where the family live there has been inbreeding, so genetic defects are more likely to be expressed. This is a sad reminder that the human race is degenerating downwards, not evolving upwards, and it is outrageous of evolutionists to exploit the misfortune of this family to falsely promote their beliefs. (Ref. bipedalism, gait)

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